The things that matter in fashion are the same things that matter in the rest of your life. And right now, those things are pretty straightforward. Getting through lockdown No 3 is about staying healthy and warm, enjoying the outdoors when you can, keeping chipper, looking after the people around you. It is not about party dresses or It bags or killer tailoring or must-have shoes. And with shops shut and economic anxiety rising, it is not about spending money either. I hereby present your four-step plan for pre-vaccine dressing.
The knit dress as the new nap dress
Comfort dressing is here to stay. Sartorial tolerance levels have been fundamentally recalibrated by the pandemic. To me, “comfortable” used to mean “shoes that I can walk in with the help of cushioned insoles and a couple of ibuprofen and maybe a gin later”. Now, my definition of comfortable is clothes in which I can curl up on the sofa for after-work Netflix with tea and chocolate without having to undo any buttons. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get reacquainted with the dress-up-to-have-fun bit of my wardrobe, but the smarter, stiffer kind of daywear I don’t miss at all. On the other side of all this, wearing Proper Work Clothes is going to feel as tiresome and antiquated as paying a bill by writing a cheque, stamping the envelope and walking to the postbox. The sweater dress is probably the easiest outfit for looking properly dressed while keeping maximum ease and cosiness. Think of it like the nap dress – those nightgown-like floaty dresses – you wore last summer, but with cheaper central heating bills. And in a midwinter lockdown, heating is the new hemline.
Optimism is my central belief system, but the past year has severely tested my faith. As the pandemic has unfolded, I have felt optimism being challenged, then discredited and sometimes almost debunked. As with homeopathy, or the Atkins diet, the latest science just doesn’t seem to support it. As a result, my once unfailing confidence in the ability of a sunshine yellow cardigan to turn my day around has faded a little this winter.
But! All is not lost. The essence of optimism is not a dogged certainty that things will get better, but rather the belief that it is always worth trying, because they just might. This can start with what you wear. Instead of wearing any old thing because it doesn’t matter, wear the clothes that you love the most. If your most beloved jeans are ripped to shreds, wear them every day – no one can see them on Zoom. Wear the necklace that reminds you of the kind friend who gave it to you and the silk blouse that makes you feel a tiny bit glamorous. Wear the clothes that remind you that life will get bigger and better again – and let them help you believe.
A duvet coat
The bad news is that, no, you can’t stay in bed until March; the good news is that, yes, you can wear a duvet. A duvet coat leans into the appeal of hiding under the covers. The latest iterations are a little longer and looser and less inflated than the puffer jacket – think long, loose waves, rather than bouncy castle ridges. Rick Owens’ ice-blue puffer cape was a Paris fashion week showstopper, but whatever one you have got on a peg somewhere already will work fine. A long puffer coat over a chunky sweater and trousers, worn with trainers, is about as close to an on-trend look for this season as it gets – since, as far as I am concerned, seasonality is mothballed, at least till after lockdown, and possibly for ever. Add a baseball cap and tuck your trousers into your sport socks and you are good to go: Tesco’s answer to Hailey Baldwin.
The seven-week sweater
We all have one particular jumper that we love over and above all others. Maybe it’s the one that’s chunky enough to keep you warm through a long day at a draughty kitchen-table office. Maybe it’s the one with the funnel neck you can pull up to cover most of your face when you really, really don’t want to watch another Downing Street broadcast even though you know you sort of have to (maybe that’s just me). Maybe it’s just really soft or a nice colour or maybe you got it for Christmas. Whatever your favourite sweater is, can we agree that it is absolutely fine to wear the very same said garment most days for the next seven weeks if we want to? And if anyone has the temerity to comment, I suggest we explain that the seven-week sweater is in fact a knitted performance artwork reflecting on the groundhog nature of lockdown life. That’ll learn them.