The Art of Dressing To Feel Good

When the pandemic started, I complained to anyone that’d listen that I just missed getting dressed. I craved to wake up in the morning with the possibility of my next great outfit. There was a high chance it’d be black and would be accessorized by some type of boot and a big tote bag. Although my style had become a uniform, I was completely happy to don it every single day on my way to work, modeling to myself past the shop windows and up the Subway stairs. 

I’m a Leo, so it comes as no surprise that the one thing I missed during lockdown was impressing others with one killer outfit after the next. But that quickly faded, and I moved on to the acceptance phase. 

In this reality, I had no one to impress and nowhere to go, just the mirror in front of me and the deep craving for comfort amid an unprecedented pandemic and the dismantling of our modern society. I quickly began to crave clothes that gave me a big, cuddly hug. 

It started swiftly. I switched the Zara knit sweaters, Uniqlo culottes, and high-heeled ankle boots for a casual version of office wear– maybe a white t-shirt and high-waisted shorts, paired with hoop earrings. It wasn’t long until I started dressing down even more to the point where there was no bridge between pajamas and real clothes anymore. They had become one.

Pandemic dressing is comfort, not expression. The items marketed to us on Instagram– matching loungewear sets, silk robes, and athleisure– are all meant to blur the lines between what we wear inside and outside our homes. The end game being that maybe what we’ve been wearing as our pre-pandemic selves wasn’t actually making us feel good, was it? 

I think about all the times I tried to squeeze myself into skinny jeans because they were on trend or wore body con dresses to feel sexy as a club. Or the times I tried to assemble my wardrobe into trendy outfits for the ‘Gram. All those times I wasn’t dressing for myself.. I was dressing for others. 

Fashion is changing because it needs to, and 2020 proved it. The excess mindset is no longer a choice, when the economy is collapsing, the deaths are on the rise, and the promise of a part in 2022 is the only thing making us hold on to those strappy sandals we bought on sale some time ago. Basics have replaced trends, according to The Washington Post, and what are basics if not clothes that, in the end, just make us feel good? 

During the pandemic, I’ve prioritized pajamas that make me feel like sitting on the couch is even better than ordering a $12 glass of wine in any Manhattan bar. I’ve also returned to those pieces that make me feel hugged– ie. the knit poncho my grandmother gifted me in 2015– or items that I know I’ll wear for the rest of my life– ie. the grey blazer I bought right before the pandemic started. 

This is a time when we’ve turned building our fashion personas and reconstructing our wardrobes while we are safely at home in the midst of chaos into a hobby. And I hope the creatures that emerge out of this years-long quarantine never put on heels just for the sake of others. 

Frances Solá-Santiago

Born in Puerto Rico, based in New York City. She is the editor-in-chief on Emperifollá. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Glamour Magazine, Numéro, Refinery29, Remezcla, and Bustle.

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