Marty Preciado regularly spends about 30 minutes getting ready. She styles her short bob, puts on gold bracelets, applies red lipstick, and her signature Chloé perfume. Her objective is to be minimal but look like the telenovela villains she grew up watching.
“In all honesty, telenovelas villanas are my constant source of style inspiration, so as long as I have red lipstick, I am good!”
But by early March 2020, Preciado found herself in Pennsylvania, across the country from her home in Los Angeles, when Covid-19 hit the United States in early March, escalating a death toll of more than 50,000 and forcing state-mandated social distancing rules.
Immediately, Preciado went to her closet, her lifelong therapy. She now plays dress-up once a week, channeling villanas by mixing all the jewelry in her drawer and donning red lipstick just to sit in the sala. “I dress up to feel great despite uncertain times, but it’s my choice, and a small act of empowerment,” she says. “As of right now, that’s all I have control of – myself.”
Social distancing has established a new normal for those privileged enough to work from home. Women are no longer rushing to the train in their finest fits or putting on a red lip to feel better on days when they’d rather stay in bed. The emperifollaera session before a night out has now become the entire jangueo.
Laleska García says she’s been getting dressed to parties and nights out, only to log into FaceTime or enjoy her time with her roommate. It’s a tactic that helps her get distracted from the harsh realities of a global pandemic from the comfort of her Madrid apartment. Every day, she gets dressed to take online classes. On Fridays, she and her roommate get ready as if they were going out to a bar in Malasaña. “I end up feeling as if I were going out and that makes me feel good,” she says.
This escapist mindset helps her overcome the distance between Madrid and her home in Puerto Rico and the reality that her semester abroad is not going as she dreamed. Last month, she celebrated her birthday at home with her roommate and called her family on video chat to celebrate. And, yes, she got dressed up for that too.
“It’s important to be conscious of how this pandemic affects our mental health and we should look for ways to distract ourselves,” García says. “Getting ready motivates me, and even when I don’t go out, that motivation is still there.”
Turning to emperifollaera for self-care is certainly not a new concept. But amid a global pandemic, it’s become essential to understand why we dress the way we do. Is it for ourselves? Or others?
Jessica Díaz-Hurtado has noticed she’s not quite herself without getting emperifollá. It’s been a part of her morning routine for a long time. She says she enjoys being creative with her outfit, while she keeps her makeup in a neutral scheme. But lipstick is where she has fun.
In quarantine, she’s been relying on this daily ritual to hold on to normalcy. Instead of her usual choices, she’s been enjoying loungewear, a practice she traces back to her abuela, who taught her to dress for herself. She says putting on clothes is how she takes care of herself right now. “Though other parts of my life have been uprooted, this is one thing that I know I can do to instill more sense of stability,” Díaz-Hurtado says.
One thing that recently changed for her was her first wedding anniversary. Díaz-Hurtado and her husband had an evening planned before Covid-19. But she says they kept their date at home, when she dressed up in an off-the-shoulder cream dress, matched with a winged eyeliner and tousled long hair.
Social distancing has also offered opportunities for women like Gretchen Núñez, a fashion and lifestyle influencer behind the Instagram account @titalowbudget. Her time at home has helped her create a new series called TitaRecycle, in which she redesigns clothes from her own closet. “I show how to give versatility to the clothes you already own. That idea of wearing the same thing just once, or having nothing to wear, is a problem I’m trying to solve,” she says.
Nuñez is an avid fashion fan. Before quarantine, she’d take her time deciding her outfit every day, asking herself questions like, “Will this yellow shirt give me what I need today?” She’d have her morning cafecito and play some salsa or reggaeton while getting dressed. But she’s now turned that routine virtual with her series, which she says is geared toward helping other people keep their sanity, as well as her own.
“I’m initiating a conversation of this throwaway culture, and I’m providing outfit options when the time comes for all of us to go out,” Nuñez says.
Life beyond Covid-19 will not go back to normal for a long time. And for women like Marty Preciado, this time at home is providing a space to reconsider the choices she’s made – both personal and sartorial. She misses her red nails and admits her eyebrows are now bushy. But is taking time to be kind to herself and not set any expectations. “In Spanish we say, que no se te cierre el mundo, that’s exactly what I am doing,” Preciado says.