Lockdown Fashion: Karen’s story

How are people dressing when in lockdown and isolation situations? How is this different to the way they dressed before? Has it affected their sense of self? This project aims to shine a light on those changes and reveal some of the many and varied personal stories relating to fashion and dress in 2020. Today’s interview is with Karen Hall. Karen is an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor adjusting to working online with antenatal groups and new mothers. Her latest project, Motherworldly, is a podcast on feminist issues in motherhood. Lockdown is allowing her to live her best fashion life.

1) Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown?

Eclectic. In that I generally wear what I feel good in and don’t really care if it’s fashionable or not, but for work purposes I need to look like a grown-up and I need to be relatable to a fairly broad demographic of clients, almost all of whom earn more money than I do. I’m not sure how successful I am at that. I can remember a colleague describing me as “earth-mothery” and feeling a bit offended; I guess my benchmark for what looks professional as opposed to earth-mothery is probably different from other people’s. I have raw memories from my teenage years when I noticeably didn’t have a clue how to dress, and did care what people thought a whole lot more than I do now. That really damaged my confidence, and I still suspect I’m missing something when I’m choosing clothing.

2) How would you describe your style now?

Only Just Not Pyjamas. Except when working, in which case pyjama bottoms and a smart top, because my work is all on Zoom in the evenings. I try not to think about the fact that half of them are seeing my face on their giant TV screen in their lounges. I’m also digging out favourite necklaces, as something for clients to focus on.

I can’t not wear a bra, but I am mainly wearing stretchy bra tops, which is a bit sad because I have three lovely new bras that are just sitting unused in the wardrobe.

3) What is your daily routine for getting dressed to remain at home? If you don’t have one, why is that?

The house rule is to be dressed before 9am. This made sense in the first weeks of the lockdown when I was still working and it was still term-time. Now it’s school holidays and I’ve been furloughed, I can see the rationale for continuing to keep up this standard, but my heart’s not in it. However it has been gloriously sunny the last few days and I’ve discovered my shorts.

4) Has your approach to fashion and style changed as a result of the current situation?

Sort of. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in the last year, and have been acquiring a new wardrobe, with the added fun challenge of not buying any new clothes for myself in 2020. I was looking forward to replacing my summer clothes in charity shops and on ebay, but now that’s not possible (well perhaps you can still buy on ebay, but I really wouldn’t), so I have to make do with what’s in my wardrobe. I do have a rarely-used sewing machine, and there’s a slim chance I might even do alterations if I get desperate.

5) What are the social situations you find yourself in now (even if remotely), and how do you dress for them?

The opportunity to socialise online has meant I’m seeing people in a social context far more than usual, and in a work context far less. I have to wear at least some make up for Zoom calls because I have acne rosacea and dislike the sight of my red face. Being able to see your own face when working or socialising is weird, like sitting opposite a massive mirror in the pub, it’s so distracting and makes me very self-conscious.

For some Zoom parties I’m dressing up more than I probably would if it had been a RL event, which is fun and I can wear less comfortable stuff knowing that I’ve got my dressing gown waiting for me in the next room.

If you’d like to take part in the project yourself, you can find all the information you need in the blog post entitled ‘Lockdown Fashion: an exploration of dressing at home in 2020‘ dated 9th April 2020.

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