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 Vanessa Jones. Vanessa is the assistant curator of dress and textiles at Leeds Museums and Galleries. She is lead curator of the Fast x Slow Fashion exhibition, which explores the consumption of fashion in Leeds from 1720 to 2020. Vanessa is membership secretary for the Association of Dress Historians and is conference organiser for the Dress and Textile Specialists. She is also a freelance historic dress and textile consultant and the project administrator for the ‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer’ AHRC funded project, at the University of Leeds.
1) Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown?
Before lockdown I think I would describe my style as oversized smart/casual. I am massively into 501s and would wear them to work, to the pub, to the flicks, with an oversized t-shirt or shirt, paired with DMs or converse. I’m a UK size 6 but I would frequently wear UK 12 – 14 dresses and shirts often found in charity shops.
2) How would you describe your style now?
Funnily enough I’m still into oversized clothes but now I’m taking oversized to extreme comfort levels. Slouch-wear, if you will. I seem to be wearing a lot of my partner’s jumpers at the moment too. Clothes I would ordinarily wear around the home, after work, during winter seem to be what I’m wearing all the time. And you know, I’m enjoying it! On one of those super-hot days last week (or this week?), I wore a cute gingham 1980s M&S dress because I thought why not! It’s a really tight dress at the waist and flares out a bit at the bottom. I do wear it on the odd occasion in the summer, but wouldn’t wear it to work because I don’t like people (men) staring at my body. This has been the only time I’ve done this since we’ve been in lockdown.
3) Has your approach to fashion and style changed as a result of the current situation?
I don’t think my approach to fashion and style has changed. I’m still into fashion and the way I style myself for others to see. But with less eyes on me, more time at the allotment, and less time socialising, I don’t really feel the need to dress in a particular way to maintain a particular image of myself.
4) What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?
I was hoping and praying this question would appear. We don’t wear shoes in the house, so I’m either barefoot, socks or in slippers. If we are sat in the front yard I’m wearing slip on sandals. I am so into not wearing shoes! I love the fact I am extending the life of my shoes by not wearing them. When I go to the allotment I’m wearing hiking boots or running trainers (which I don’t use for running…). If I go for a walk I’ll be in my ‘walking’ trainers (i.e. running trainers) and if I go to the shop I might be wearing converse/Adidas/running shoes. It’s interesting that I feel the need to ‘dress up’ my shoe game for my weekly shop to Aldi… But, my DMs are not getting touched. They are staying firmly on the shoe rack!
5) How much does the space you are in influence your choice of clothes? Do some clothes feel “unnatural” to wear at home because they require, say, a bigger space, or is this not a consideration at all?
This is a really interesting question and it’s something I’ve never considered or thought about. I would never not wear something in the house because it felt unnatural or because it required a certain space. I suppose the clothes I tend to wear are comfortable and so they fit into most times and spaces. It’s only the ‘fancy’ clothes I have which I would find unnatural to wear in the house, but I find them generally unnatural when I wear them anyway!
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.