Lockdown Clothing: Shamin’s story

Today’s interview for the ‘Lockdown Clothing’ project is with Shamin Vogel. Shamin is a fashion editor “who travels around the world for leading global fashion trade magazine WeAr to talk to brands, buyers, collect trends and visit shows. My base is in London but I decided to flee to Austria, where my family lives, when the lock-down started there (early March). I have not been home since and have no idea when I can return.” You can find WeAr on Instagram and Facebook.

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

I have been in a home office for a long time – mostly by choice – so working and staying at home was not forced on me. For me there has never been a reason to get dressed up which was imposed by my job on a daily level. Of course, if I went to fashion shows this is obligatory but then it is different to an office uniform: a fashion uniform always reflects your personal style and you are allowed to finally wear all your favorite items you usually would not dare to wear to the pub. I would pick out an outfit every morning from my beautiful wardrobe I would feel like wearing. There was never the urge to be in pajamas or sweat-pants all day. Much rather, I would see how my day was planned out and dress accordingly.

I live in Notting Hill and would always dress up a little bit as it would make me feel better, alive almost and I would celebrate going outside – even if it was just for grocery shopping. The Notting Hill vibe almost dictates doing so: it is either full of wanna-be influencers who pose in front of the beautiful colorful houses or of really stylish women who seem effortlessly dressed buying cauliflower at the market. You definitely want to join this style. When I travel it pains me to leave my wardrobe behind and be restricted to luggage. I have mastered it well over the years so that these days I only take a carry-on with me, which will always include sufficient amount of outfits that make me happy. Little did I know that when I departed early March I would actually be gone three months+ and never mind how well I can pack (not well this time as I expected this to be a max. two week adventure), I could not very well anticipate that my trip away from my wardrobe would span across 3 different seasons. When I arrived in Austria there was still one meter of snow – now it has 26°C.

2) Has your self-perception changed in isolation? How so?

I wouldn’t say my self-perception has changed much. I am the same person I was before. What I realise is that I miss the simple things: the environment of my flat and especially my clothes. I also left when it was still winter and my beautiful cashmere and silk items are now in the wardrobe without someone to look after them. I always leave everything in fairly good condition of course, but I do not trust old London victorian buildings and have seen the odd moth coming out especially in spring. The thought of not being able to protect my pretty things right now gave me nightmares. So much so that I send my friend equipped with anti-moth stuff to distribute it across the flat. Of course this sounds really silly in light of the terrible human loss and economic disaster we suffer right now. I discovered though, that these pieces of clothing, which I collected on my travels around the world mostly, represent home to me. I travel a lot so having them with me means I take some ‘home’ with me. Not having them now makes me sad. The thought of having them ruined by pesky little animals leaves me anxious, as each item represents a memory. Almost like a photo album, my shoes and clothes remind me of what I have done the last decade.

3) What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?

I left London, where I have about 60 pairs of shoes (this is a low estimate), with one pair of white sneakers I was wearing. I should not complain as I have a few pairs of shoes here, which I can wear once in a while (although if they did not make the cut to go to London, they were the emergency shoes – every woman has them and knows what I mean by this). And through a stroke of luck I left some of my summer clothes (probably cabin-luggage-related) with my parents last summer so at least I have a pair of nice ballerinas. But I miss my shoes so much. I miss this pair of Bottega Venetas, which I bought last year in Florence and which is just the perfect shoe to wear right now. They signal strength and toughness – something I could use right now. I also miss my running shoes dearly as I now need them. Of course I have others – but I like my running shoes. They give me a sense of home and belonging. When I am travelling I can never take many shoes with me, so when I get home I rejoice having access to all the variety. Even though I rarely wear some of them (a pair of light blue Nicholas Kirkwood heels is not your every-day choice) but when I do have the occasion, wearing these special shoes makes the day even more important. In Austria restaurants are open again and people are meeting again outside for a drink. I miss these Kirkwoods now – they would fit with the blue sky and the green lake…

4) 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?

I am fortunate enough to spend this time in a beautiful house – so the house would say: “Go ahead and dress in your best ballgown for all I care – I shall provide art, lighting and atmosphere.” It is not as much the house but much more the frustration of being here and separated from the place (and people) I actually would like to be in and with. I almost feel like a refugee. Of course nothing even comparable to what the word entails in daily news. But because I really didn’t take the situation seriously enough, or much rather: I was stubborn and annoyed that I felt the only option was leaving (I wanted to be close with my family in case of worst-case scenarios), so I didn’t think of practically moving my life. I just took one outfit change with me and that was it. So, for me, the non-dress-to-impress which I have practiced for the last months was more a protest against the current situation.

Of course, I would also dress for practicality as I am going hiking here and horse riding, so work-out clothes alongside old t-shirts which are suitable to clean dirty horses, would form the tip of my dressing pyramid. It then was almost a break-through when restaurants opened and I went for dinner that instead of jeans and t-shirt, I wore a Dirndl (Austrian traditional dress) and found some old heels and dressed up – I even looked in the mirror and thought I looked pretty versus the normal tired, and annoyed, and too-old-for-my-age appearance that I have kept throughout the last weeks. I then decided to enter a golf course a week after (again – not something I would ever do in London or really anywhere or anytime) and almost rejoiced in the prospect of dressing up: yes I did find a white polo and a Chanel short – if one digs deep enough through forgotten clothes one will be successful. I could also make use of those white trainers I brought from London – now almost a trophy item in my wardrobe.

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 Clothing: a project documenting how we dress at home‘ dated 17th May 2020.

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