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 Anna, who works as an archivist at a central London university. She has a life-long interest in fashion and has been making her own clothes for the last 7 years, as a response to the Rana Plaza disaster. She shares her home-made garments on Instagram as @fustian_garb
1) Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown?
I’m fortunate to work at a University and in a role where no-one really bats an eyelid at any of my clothing choices.
For work, during winter I tend to wear shirts and long skirts or trousers, and in the summer I wear very loose boxy dresses, mostly sewn from Japanese patterns. I wear a lot of colour but I use a lot of naturally dyed fabrics that gradually fade over time. One the weekends I dress fairly similar but I wear more jumpers (hand-knitted) and t-shirts (mostly nicked from my husband).
On a workday I’m usually out of the house for at least 12 hours each day and I like to wear clothes are going to ‘behave’ themselves during that time and not come unfastened, or feel too restrictive, or show skin that I don’t want to!
2) Is there anything you feel you can wear now that you couldn’t in ‘normal’ times? Why?
My house is a lot colder than my office so for the first few weeks I wore jumpers and tracksuit bottoms every day, mostly just to avoid enormous heating bills. As the weather warmed up, I went through my wardrobe systemically and worked out what I wanted to wear during lockdown and what I wanted to pack away until I returned to the office. Items to be packed away included anything that would need ironing, and things that I would feel sad about putting through the repeated stress of washing with no-one to see them, knowing that they would fade during that time.
I ended up constructing a ‘B’ wardrobe of clothes that I’d made fairly early on in my dressmaking/knitting journey that had since been relegated to the back of the cupboard. They included jumpers that had stretched out of shape, skirts that were too narrow to walk comfortably in, blouses that wouldn’t stay tucked in. Clothes that wouldn’t behave themselves, in other words. These garments had actually being weighing on my mind for some time. I felt odd about taking them to the charity shops but also wasn’t sure it was practical to try to correct the problems. Now their moment has finally come! The issues with them don’t matter so much when I’m only walking between rooms of my house, or only being seen as head and shoulders on a screen by my colleagues.
3) Has your approach to fashion and style changed as a result of the current situation?
A lot of the garments I’m wearing during lockdown don’t really fit into my current sense of style. When I first started sewing I was trying to replicate the clothes I could buy in the shops and so these garments tend to be more fitted and feminine than those I would wear now. I also knitted with some yarns that looked very attractive as hanks, but didn’t really fit into my aesthetic once made into garments. We have very few mirrors in our house though so I don’t tend to see myself during the day and I only need to think about whether the clothes are weather-appropriate and comfortable. In normal times I’d catch sight of myself multiple times each day in shop windows as I moved around central London, so I don’t have that constant visual feedback now.
4) And is there anything you miss wearing (and why do you not wear it)?
Being at home has given me more time to sew and knit and I have made a few new garments but, for the same reason as I packed away most of my wardrobe, I haven’t worn them yet. I can’t say I miss wearing those garments yet as such, but I miss that final stage of dressmaking when you flounce out of the house for the first time in your new garment. Sewing/knitting people tend to divide themselves into those who are more interested in the process or the product, depending on whether your focus is the activity itself or the final end garment. I definitely fall into the latter camp!
5) What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?
I was very pro-slippers even before lockdown, so I have 3 different pairs at home that I flit between, depending on mood. A few years ago I gave myself horrible foot problems from wearing thin slippers on hard wooden floors, so I take slipper purchasing quite seriously now. On warmer days I have been wearing socks and an old pair of Clarks sandals around the house instead of slippers. I have one pair of slippers that I’ve designated as ‘evening slippers’ and I change into them when I shut down my laptop for the day. I also change from my work glasses to my home ones at the same time, to try to let my brain know that work is over.
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.