Back at the start of April, Jana and I started a project to capture some of the many personal stories surrounding the human relationship with clothing during the coronavirus pandemic – especially those of us who are now confined to our homes due to lockdown restrictions. So far, we have now shared 28 stories on this blog and, judging by the feedback I’ve received on the project, every single one of them has reassured someone that they’re not alone, has inspired someone to put on clothes they haven’t worn in ages, or has simply made someone smile.
In recent weeks, I have been trying to explain to friends and contacts why they should get involved, even though they often insist that they are “not a fashionable person” or “not in any way stylish”. Having studied at London College of Fashion – where the word fashion is used to describe all kinds of ways of dressing the body (including hair styling, fragrance, and tattoos), rather than just the mainstream fashion industry and its associated trends – I had fallen into the habit of thinking of the word as a shortcut for talking about all types of clothing and all forms of getting dressed. That’s not a problem in academic circles, but it’s definitely not how the vast majority of people define fashion!
At the end of April, Jana wrote about our project for the Culture, Media & Creative Industries @ King’s blog, reflecting on the stories that have been shared so far and also on the types of people who have taken part. She summed up our little conundrum rather well at the end of that piece:
So far, our selection of respondents has been heavily skewed towards academics studying fashion, simply because these were the people in our immediate networks who were willing to respond. We are, however, looking for more participants from all walks of life as we want to capture a whole range of experiences and clothing behaviours. The title of our project, on reflection, is not entirely successful: what we are interested in is dress, not fashion. Whether you are dressing up or down, we want to know: all clothes stories are good stories.
So, how do we expand our reach to include more types of stories? How do we make sure that more people realise that this project is open to everyone who wears clothes? I’ve been asking Twitter and Facebook if anyone who’s living in pyjamas or sweats would consider taking part… or anyone who’s loving being freed from the need to dress up or dress smartly. I reassured my followers that “We don’t just want the ‘fashion’, we want all clothes stories!”, but that wasn’t quite enough. So, we’ve decided to re-name the project and rephrase a few of the questions which may have been putting people off. Hopefully this will ensure that I finally get my wish of a story from someone who is thoroughly enjoying wearing their favourite hoodie/t-shirt every single day of lockdown! If you want to take part, all the information you need is below the image.
What is the project about?
We are two London-based fashion scholars – Lorraine Smith (aka Lori) and Jana Melkumova-Reynolds – who have always been curious about how others dress, and how this relates to identity. Recent social changes (due to the coronavirus pandemic) have increased that curiosity. 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.
How do I take part?
Select 5 questions from the list below then email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org along with at least one photo, and a short bio (including links to your social media or website if you would like to share that). You can choose to remain anonymous or use a pseudonym if you wish.
Photos do not have to include your face, or even be of you wearing the clothes if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. A shot of a garment that you have written about laid flat or hanging on your wardrobe door is fine. One image should be in landscape format (which is, handily, the format of most video calls/meetings from a laptop!), to be used as the featured image for the blog post.
Where will my submission be published?
Submissions will be posted here on rarelywearslipstick.com, with the author’s permission. A link to the blog post will be shared with the author and with others on social media (Twitter, Instagram, and on the blog’s Facebook page).
- Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown – what did you wear most often?
- What types of clothing do you wear most often now?
- What is your daily routine for getting dressed to remain at home? If you don’t have one, why is that?
- Has your approach to clothes changed as a result of the current situation?
- Thinking back through what you have worn since you’ve been staying at home, what has been your favourite item of clothing and why?
- What were the social situations that you routinely found yourself in before the quarantine? And how did you dress for them?
- What are the social situations you find yourself in now (even if remotely), and how do you dress for them?
- What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?
- 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)?
- Has your self-perception changed in isolation? How so?
- 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?