A Case for Continuing to Wear Your Jewelry During Isolation
Outside of a semi-firm handshake and poor posture, my clothing is how I show you who I am when we first meet. It’s the most me part of me, as someone who has worked in (and cared about) fashion for a long time. To work, my go-to outfit is a pair of baggy slacks and a band T-shirt, topped with swingy mismatch earrings and a selection of layered necklaces. It says, I am serious about my job but also have illusions of being a punk anarchist from time to time. "Take me seriously but f–k the system," is what I believe I say when I walk into a room.
But not right now. Right now, like the rest of the world that is able to, I am social distancing because of coronavirus. I'm currently seeing only my husband in person, and my friends, family, and coworkers through FaceTime. Because of that, my outfits are telling a different story of who I am. My leggings say that I am someone who maybe works out (I don't), or that I like the feeling of stretchy fabric and say things like, "leggings are pants!" with vigor (wrong again). My Stussy sweatshirt is a little closer to the truth (Do you even skate, bro?) but still, not something I would ever pair with UGG slippers and leggings and call it an outfit. And yet, here I sit, wearing this look, knowing I'm about to spend my entire day — and probably the next five — in it.
Now, I'm fully aware that every #girlboss work-from-home tip says to get dressed as you normally would while enduring the coronavirus quarantine. ‘It will make you feel better,’ they say. And many of my favorite fashion people agree. Jessica Andrews, Deputy Fashion Director at Bustle, says, "On Monday, I pulled out a yellow slip dress to wear to work from home, mostly because I find them comfortable but also it's a mood booster for me. At a time when we're being bombarded with terrifying news updates, and I worry nonstop about my family (especially those in the medical field), a yellow slip dress gives me a moment of joy and reprieve, however fleeting."
Leah Faye Cooper, Editorial Director at Coveteur, reiterated the point. "While I'm not dressing as I would to go to the office, I'm not living in lounge clothes either. The other day I woke up and put on a tulle skirt and a knit top, but paired it with slippers. Yesterday, I wore the cropped sweater portion of a two-piece set, but with leggings instead of the matching skirt," she said.
Despite this sound and very good advice, I realized quickly that after day three of wearing jeans and doing my hair to walk from my couch to my cabinet, dressing like I usually would won't last. And so came the leggings and the Stussy sweatshirt because I don't think wearing my typical work uniform has the same self-identifying impact when I’m doing it in my living room. Still, in a moment when life is going to be upended for an undetermined amount of time, I need something to make myself feel like me.
I looked in the mirror this morning as a makeup-free face, and a crewneck-sweatshirt-wearing body stared back at me and felt different. So, I reached into my jewelry plate (yes, I keep my jewelry on a plate) and picked up the most extravagant pair of earrings I could find. I chose a pair of beaded, mismatched dangly earrings, put them on, and breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, hey friend," I thought as I reached for the pile of necklaces that I untangle daily to choose one or two. I layered them — all eight of them — and it looked ridiculous. I walked out of the bathroom, sat down on my couch, and got back to work, inspired to write about something for the first time in a week.
I consulted some other people to see if I was the only one who could only muster a necklace. InStyle's Fashion Editor, Samantha Sutton, agreed with me, "Last year, I was freelancing and working from home on a regular basis, so I'd gotten into the habit of changing out of PJs before starting my day. My one rule has been to style comfy clothes like I would a regular outfit. Does this top look good with this bottom? Should I add a headband? Can I spice it up with some funky socks? I agree that accessories make my look more 'me,' and help me feel a little less lazy — even if I haven't moved from my couch for hours."
Of course, an accessory designer seemed to think I was on the money with this assessment. Susan Korn, designer of her eponymous jewelry and handbag line Susan Alexandra said, "I wear jewelry every day. I sleep, shower, work out and apparently quarantine in jewelry. Jewelry is meant for the wearer. It's a talisman, a charm, a protector. I often find myself holding for my necklaces in times of distress (‘clutches pearls’). It's a biological response to reach for something that feels stable and protective, and in a time of uncertainty, we need all of our most soothing, comforting charms."
I may be biased, but Susan and Sam are very right. I do feel protected when I'm wearing my jewelry. I can feel like that woman who is professional yet a little rebellious as I sit alone at my laptop, and there is comfort in that. And, when the day comes when we can safely leave our homes, go back to our jobs, and gather in groups again, I don't think my style will change, but my relationship to my closet probably will. That purpose with which I wear my layered necklaces and my vintage T-shirts will mean that much more to me having had it removed in such an unexpected way. I understand that the clothes don't make the woman, but like I said before, they certainly help tell her story. And while I'm in quarantine mine says that I'm tired, and I'm scared, but I'm still going to show up for myself — just layered to the point of absurdity.