Pandemic Fashion: Anything Goes

I went to check in with one of my essential employees yesterday and as I drove away I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror.  My hair was still damp from the shower, sticking out in all directions on one side and plastered to my head on the other.

“Oh my god, I just realized I didn’t comb my wet hair before I came here,” I texted her.

I glanced down and realized my yoga pants were covered in dog hair and my shirt was wrinkled.  I was wearing ancient gym shoes with holes at the toes.  “Oh my god!” I thought.  “I can’t believe I’m leaving the house looking like this.”

Honestly, it had not even occurred to me to pay attention to how I looked before I left for work.

If this were an episode of What Not to Wear,  Stacy and Clinton would be forcing me to watch a video montage of how I have been dressing lately while they made funny comments, and it would not be pretty.

Unlike many of the women features on that old show, it’s not about me “giving up” or not caring about myself.  It’s the pandemic.  Suddenly we are all way less concerned about how we look.

When people are scared and dying all around us,  it reminds us about what is important.  The condition of your clothes is not that important in the scheme of things.

Normally the managers and admin staff at my workplace dress up – at least by Portland standards —  but now the handful of us who are still going into the office at my work are mostly down to athleisure and comfortable old clothes.

My boss showed up this week wearing a suit jacket and I did a double take.  “Why are you dressed up?” I asked in confusion.

“It’s what separates working time from nonworking time,” he answered.

I shrugged and continued on my way, completely unconcerned about the t-shirt and hoodie look I was rocking.  Later that day I went to Walgreens the other day and someone was wearing pajama bottoms and flip flops.  “That looks comfortable,” I thought, with no judgement.

Six months ago, that person likely would have been on one of those appearance shaming social media sites.

The pandemic has changed many things, but I would argue one of the most significant is our appearance.  I never realized that most people get their hair cut more than twice a year until about three weeks into lockdown when everyone on social media started bemoaning the fact that they could not get their hair done.

Kelly Rippa showing fans her grey roots made headlines around the world.   In a world obsessed with appearance, suddenly showing your natural hair color is an act of bravery.

I imagine the transition has been the hardest for those with money and privilege.  In a world where many people don’t have the money to change their hair color or hide their facial flaws, the lockdowns have been a great equalizer.

First we started seeing people’s real hair.  Then their natural eyebrows.  Make-up and fancy manicures went to the wayside.  Now we are all mostly wearing whatever is clean and most of us are sporting ponytails or messy buns.

I’m looking forward to the day when it’s acceptable to go out in public without a bra or shoes.  That is my dream scenario.

“We don’t care how we look anymore,” I said to my roommate today.

“It’s about time,” she answered.

She’s right.  It’s about time.

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