As a lot of people are working from home, we’re in the strange position of being indoors, all the time. I’m also in the new situation of not going back to school in September. In light of these different circumstances, I have no idea what to wear.
Like school uniform, the rules about what is considered ‘professional’ have stopped me from having to think too hard about what I put on my body when I go to work. Now it’s as if every day is mufti day (non-school uniform day, for those unfamiliar with the UK school system). I’m not sure if it’s liberating, annoying or terrifying.
What to wear has always been a tricky subject for many women. I catch myself doing it in public places – looking at women and what they wear. But I’m not really looking at their clothes. I’m looking at the body beneath. Can I see their stomach? Is the shape of their bum flattered by those jeans? Is that the ridge of a bra strap on their back? It infuriates me. I judge and objectify other women in a way I never do with men. I suspect it’s all a reflection of how I see myself – the product of an entire lifetime where I’m made to feel that how I look is the most interesting thing about me. I also hated non-uniform day at school because it was a humiliating reminder that I didn’t own any of the cool, branded stuff. We couldn’t afford that.
It’s also something I’m hyper-aware of with my little girl. I noticed at the park how limiting clothes and hair could be. The majority of boys didn’t have hair in their faces they had to brush back before they got on the slide. Skirts to rearrange while swinging. Slippy, unsteady shoes that looked pretty but limited what they could climb. I notice this and and am baffled when I’m told things like, ‘oh boys just run around more.’ The choices we make in clothing them have the ability to limit their physicality. No wonder the gender binary persists.
For me, I’ve always felt as if clothing myself was like playing dress-up. Teacher Barbie, Causal Barbie, Emo Sindy, Hipster Sindy. I’m not even sure I know what I want to wear, what suits me.
Although a pandemic is hardly a time to shop, it could be a time to think about comfort and identity. My recent purchase of boyfriend jeans (an online to-and-fro that was definitely worth it) has made me happier than I thought possible. Such comfort after years of enduring the denim cling film of skinny jeans.
I want to know who I am now, seeing as I’m not a teacher anymore. What would Writer Barbie wear? Although clothes can be an annoying preoccupation for women, they can also help with confidence and identity. I’ve bought all my clothes from charity shops for many years now. But last year I made a rule for myself. I wasn’t allowed to buy anything that resembled an item I already owned, and if possible I should buy things that I’ve looked at on other people and thought – they look great, I could never wear that. This has led to dungarees, jumpsuits, bright prints and colours. Things I always worried would look trashy on me but secretly admired on others.
In my imagination, being a writer involves lots of scarves. Flowing things and possibly a tassel or two. What I’m discovering, in the freedom of my living room (office), is that it can be anything I want it to be. No, I’m not leaving the house much. Yes, it’s possible that I’m only dressing up for myself. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Taking inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m dressing up for the magic. Wearing bold things and sitting down to let the creativity hit me. Hopefully it will mean I’m confident to wear it once I’m able to actually go out in public and see more people.
Are there things you’ve always wanted to wear but not found the confidence? I hope this inspires you to sit on your sofa in all your finery. If it does, I’d love to hear about it.
Thanks for reading,