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 Dr Sophie Wood. Sophie has recently completed her PhD which examined conceptions of value in the wardrobe. You can find her on Twitter as @sophieannstyle.
1) Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown?
I love patterns, clashes and casual wear, items I like to refer to as ‘jazzy’. However with a job as a lecturer one day per week, another job interviewing members of the public and the fact I cycle everywhere meant that my clothing had become increasingly practical, safe and plain. I had unconsciously adopted a uniform for each situation, for lecturing it was a shirt and black trousers, for market research it was all black. Even my gym gear had felt the change, what was once a rotation of highly patterned leggings had become a rotation of 5 pairs of black leggings. In social situations I wore one of 2 – 3 outfits, I still had and wore some favourite pieces, like my denim jacket covered in badges, but I found myself wearing the same outfit over and over because it was easy. I had got into a bit of a style rut.
2) Has your approach to fashion and style changed as a result of the current situation?
As I’m used to working from home, one would imagine my approach to fashion and style hasn’t changed that much, but strangely it has. My style now feels like I have returned to my roots, I feel like I’ve rediscovered some of my slightly off beat ‘Sophie’ style. It’s more creative and less restricted, I haven’t worn black in weeks! The bright leggings I decided weren’t serious enough for the gym have been worn for most of my home workouts, my amazing patterned hero jackets have been worn for zoom calls and T-Shirts I never wore before have come back out as have my louder jumpers.
I have found myself gravitating to things that are comfortable but still bright, things that I love to wear, the things that bring me joy. It feels for me that the other rules of dress have been suspended, I am dressing for no one else other than myself and it has resulted in some weird and wonderful combinations. Many of the things I have been wearing recently are things I would have only previously worn at festivals or on holidays, both places where social norms and habits of dressing become disrupted. For example I’ve been wearing my baggy elephant print trousers and my patterned harem trousers, both purchased on holiday in Israel and never worn outdoors in the UK. They are light, comfortable to wear and hold the happy memories of travel and friendship.
Of course there are some days where I’m sat in my dressing gown, pants and vest until midday (like today) but my style is brighter, bolder, and less restricted than it was before the lockdown. I am wearing things that I have a greater emotional attachment to, I suppose because the other reasons you might wear clothes (to look presentable , fit into a social situation, look good for work) have been removed. I am left thinking, what am I drawn to wearing today? What resonates?
3) Thinking back through what you have worn since you’ve been staying at home, what has been your favourite item of clothing and why?
There have been a number of favourites I’ve worn since staying home, there’s the T-Shirt that was the last gift I got for my Dad when he was ill, I wore that almost everyday when I was sick with covid-19, it’s a big, grey baggy t-shirt with his initials on the front, those initials that are conveniently the same as Jack Wills initials, and a large white number 8 on the back. I wouldn’t wear out of the house because it’s too baggy, and, strangely, I didn’t wear it often when I worked from home before, I only found myself reaching for it in times of trouble, wearing it whenever I need comfort.
Another favourite has been my H&M x Moschino Chain Print bomber jacket, I had been struggling to wear it on ‘the outside’ because I felt a bit too old, thought it was too loud. Also for practical reasons, it was too warm for a jacket and too light to be a coat so needed a specific temperature to wear it. That has been worn more in lockdown than ever – it looks good on camera and keeps me warm in my cold house and on the terrace.
I would like to wear these and the other things I love wearing at home out in public once the lockdown ends.
4) What are the social situations you find yourself in now (even if remotely), and how do you dress for them?
The biggest revelation for me has been Zoom socials, they are so much more fun to dress for, I have lots of bold accessories and an extensive collection of hats, usually only reserved for festivals and fancy dress which are getting a lot more air time on Zoom.
Me and my husband also got the chance to dress up to stay in by taking part in Secret Cinema’s ‘Secret Sofa’, I was already a fan of Secret Cinema and love dressing up so it wasn’t so different to my pre-lockdown activity. As so many of us know, getting ready is often the best part of going out, and it didn’t feel weird not leaving the house. The theme was formal so it was an excuse for me to wear my wedding dress again – a gold brocaded figure hugging ivory number by the late L’Wren Scott. Unfortunately that dress is not, and never was a dress for sitting down. Seeing the stitching pull over the thigh prompted me to change into another party dress, this time a jewel green, strapless, ruched and dropped waist 80s satin party dress. This dress was one of my first ‘vintage’ purchases, bought in 2005 from Beyond Retro, I haven’t worn that dress in at least 10 years, probably closer to 15, and I’d forgotten how well it fitted, and how much fun it is to wear.
The people I interact with on video chats have all been good friends of mine, hats, accessories and fancy dress have been positively encouraged, even by people who don’t normally like ‘dressing up’. It has felt more expressive, open and accepting than I expected it to, perhaps because the fear of judgement of some unknown ‘other’ has been removed?
5) Is there anything you feel you can wear now that you couldn’t in ‘normal’ times? Why? And is there anything you miss wearing (and why do you not wear it)?
My collection of hats, once sat forlornly on the top of my wardrobe have all been worn in the last few weeks thanks to Zoom pub quizzes.
An item I’ve worn for the first time ever in a social situation is my pink Schiaparelli hat, it fits close to the head in a turban-esque way, features 3 different pinks and a large brooch at the front. I’ve never worn it outside the house for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s slightly too small for me, secondly, I’ve never been sure exactly how it is supposed to be worn, should it be pulled down tight or perched at a jaunty angle? Thirdly, I’ve been worried about losing it, I bought it from Old Spitalfields Market years ago, and I bought it because it was the most amazing hat I’d ever laid eyes on but have always been too scared to wear it in public. On zoom it’s different, I’m not worried about the hat falling off, or being looked at for wearing something odd, or having to carry it around if I get sick of wearing it. I would have worn it at a festival but was worried it would get damaged or lost or covered in beer.
There is nothing I miss wearing, because I’ve been wearing all the clothes I love. I don’t miss wearing shoes and surprisingly I don’t miss wearing bras (I’ve been wearing my gym crop tops everyday instead). If I missed wearing a garment, I would wear it round the house, I feel freer in my clothing choices now than before, and it has given me the opportunity to wear garments I don’t usually get the chance to wear.
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.