No bras, no heels, no runways: How the pandemic has changed our relationship with fashion

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The year 'smart casual' got a revamp. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
The year 'smart casual' got a revamp. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
  • From giving bras, heels and fancy frocks a break to wearing pillows in lieu of said dresses, the global health crisis has affected our approach to clothing and the shopping thereof.
  • The pandemic has also taken away major fashion calendar moments from enthusiasts of this industry - red carpets, fashion week as well as the Met Gala.
  • As loungewear's demand continues to spike, we take a look at how these changes have made us feel thus far. 

How we dress has changed almost drastically during the lockdown – swapping heels for slippers being just one of the make-unders we’ve undergone. The most notable change in dress, however, is that our boobs have finally ended their ever-so-binding contract with the bra. 

READ MORE: Will we ever wear bras on a full-time basis again? 6 local women share their bra-free experiences

In his book Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You’re Worth It, style expert George Brescia explains how clothes can actually affect the way we feel.

This is a phenomenon that was also investigated and confirmed by fashion writer Modupe Oloruntoba, who, in a W24 article, noted that details still matter, saying “they soften us, sharpen us, and punctuate expression. The feeling of being intentionally dressed for the day often boils down to a handful of key elements that vary from person to person.”  

READ MORE: How life in lockdown has changed the meaning of personal style for fashion writers

Speaking to Cheddar about his book, George expresses that everything has become casual, yet we’re seeing more people virtually.

So how do you dress to illuminate yourself in such lax attire in order to still somewhat impress those you're interacting with online? 

The author says “[we’re] wearing colours that illuminate [us], whether it’s a T-shirt or sweatshirt.” 

“And even if it’s cosy, it’s something that looks good on camera and makes you feel good,” he adds.  

Are there items in our wardrobes we should hold on to for better days? 

George says there definitely are, which is a relief because I mean, who was actually going to throw out their gently worn clothes like furniture on a New York sidewalk? Not I. Certainly not in this economy.

George Brescia says we should put aside our structured clothing for later, and this weaves into the conversation about officewear’s year on the bench. While it remains unclear as to when all professionals will be officially back in their work cubicles under fluorescent lights, George observes that those who have already returned to the office have adopted a more relaxed approach to work attire, some even incorporating T-shirts into their looks. Well, this is nothing new for us media folk, so I guess everybody’s finally taken a page out of our book (good – print media still needs you). 

But for those Zoom meetings, I had compiled a style guide in the very early stages of the lockdown, blissfully unaware that come July, the novelty of working from home would have entirely worn off the same way a dog stops chasing the imaginary frisbee when it realises you're just messing with it. The same way that dog wants to grip a real frisbee between it's teeth is the same way many of us now desire real in-person interactions.

But while we wait, I guess we can still make use of the Zoom/Teams guide I shared, highlighting that you don't have to suit up to go sit at your makeshift work-from-home office - you can cheat the system a bit with a style and grooming guide I've dubbed the FAB Method: Face, Accessories, and Blouse & Bouquet.

The pandemic has not only changed our individual relationships with clothing, but it has - without a doubt - changed the fashion industry. 

As an institution that acts both as a social mechanism and a system that places value on the average taste of the moment, fashion is inevitably influenced by politics, culture, movements, and even pandemics. 

And as no stranger to the face of a pandemic, fashion has always known how to tailor itself to the circumstances it finds itself in. Additionally, major historical events cannot be spoken of without referencing the accompanying sartorial visuals of a given era. 

Masks have penetrated their way into the offerings of major fashion labels and big events on the fashion calendar have been brought to a halt.

Fast fashion has had to reconsider its "fast" descriptor, high-end/luxury brands continue to face closure, there was no single LVMH Prize winner this year, and the biggest event on the fashion calendar - the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute's Met Gala - was postponed indefinitely until the official announcement of its cancellation was made in May. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has been closed since mid March, attributed the cancellation to the global health crisis. The museum was set to reopen for the About Time: Fashion and Duration exhibition this month. Vogue reports that "the museum updated its status on its planned reopening, saying it would now take place in mid August 'or perhaps a few weeks later'".

READ MORE: We take a retrospective marvel at 22 past looks in light of the 2020 Met Gala being cancelled

Also in May, Hanifa's Congolese U.S.-based designer and founder, Anifa Mvuemba, in an unprecedented move, presented a 3D fashion show on Instagram with ghost-like figures virtually clad in her garments.  

Dior then showcased a miniature haute couture collection in a film directed by Matteo Garrone – a far cry from its usual glitzy runway shows.  

A caption on an Instagram post made by Dior notes: "For the Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 Haute Couture, @MariaGraziaChiuri recaptured that sense of wonder with miniature dresses contained in a traveling trunk bearing the emblematic Paris facade." 

"I would like to use another way to approach the couture project, with the idea to represent this dream with a different media. And for that I need to thank Matteo, who helped me realise my dream. I realised the collection, he realised the film, but it was a very close collaboration with only one message: that creativity gives, in any case, hope for the future," said Maria Grazi Chiuri, Dior artistic director.  

READ MORE: Dior's miniature haute couture collection is another peek into what the future of fashion looks like

However, as intrigued and excited as we may be about the 'digitisation and miniaturisation' of shows and collections, it begs a question about a potential problem for a part of the fashion vehicle. Models. You see, this new fashion week model and magazine editorial structure may soon require no models, as digital innovations render them almost obsolete. Although, New York Fashion Week is set to make a return - albeit without an audience - and shoots are back in session... so there's hope.

And of course, the introduction of new trend staples is still a part of the game that's giving us much-needed bursts of sartorial verve.

But even so, the move to e-adapting several industries has already cost many their jobs, as we've seen with the gradual collapse of print media and retail respectively. Will fashion also shed more jobs as we pack less new threads into our wardrobes?

I guess we just have to keep watching as we grow our mask collections and dust off our now ornamental shoes.

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