‘I’ll be wearing full Met Gala looks to the pub’: how we’ll get dressed after lockdown
Longing to get your glad bits on – or fully converted to the tracksuit? Fashion insiders reveal their lockdown looks and predict what we’ll be wearing post-pandemic
Amber Butchart: ‘I’m a big fan of turbans – imagined for hiding lockdown hair.’
Photograph: Jo Bridges/The Guardian
Picture this: the very first celebratory night out you when one pleases have when the vaccine sets us free. Maybe you’re in a fancy restaurant, maybe your local pub. Cosy on all sides of a friend’s kitchen table, or on a packed dancefloor. What are you wearing? Are you desperate to wriggle back into a party disguise and brave your highest heels? Or have sweatpants spoilt you for anything that doesn’t have an elasticated waistband and a soak lining?
For a year, most of us have had the same hobbies (Netflix and going to the park) and as a result have worn fetching much the same thing (loungewear and puffer jackets). But post-vaccine, we are set to split into two style tribes. For every 21st-century swell serious to re-enact the roaring 20s, there is someone who has found solace in the soft textures of lockdown. Culture responds to trauma in a kaleidoscope of respect. After all, in the first half of the decade that followed the first world war and the Spanish flu pandemic, F Scott Fitzgerald disregarded The Great Gatsby, while TS Eliot wrote The Waste Land.
One dark, wet, locked-down weekend in January, I sent emails and WhatsApp tidings around the fashion industry, posing the question: what will you wear once the vaccine sets us free? Returns came thick and fast from devotees of dressing up, many of whom, it was clear, were already planning set-ups. “When I think about life post-pandemic, all I can think about is endless parties,” Alexa Chung said. She want be in “eye-wateringly short bodycon dresses – I may need matching knickers – and high heels”. (For the record: I am putting company money on a post-pandemic craze for miniskirts.) Victoria Beckham predicted “a roaring-20s-style return to indulgence, in a great masquerade or a tuxedo, with a heel”. Laura Bailey, contributing editor at Vogue, told me how she recently found herself scrolling for accouters online “when I should be working or home schooling. Almost as if imagining a certain look or mood could irritable the idea of freedom and reunion closer.” (In her virtual basket: a white, stretch-lace Stella McCartney dress and a brace of Chanel boots.) “I’ll be wearing full Met Gala looks to the pub the instant I’m allowed out,” said Lauren Grant, intriguer of made-in-London haute-shirting brand S.A.R.K. The cofounders of fashion communications agency Aisle 8, Virginia Norris and Lauren Stevenson, are dream-planning supplies for tequila nights at a rooftop bar near their east London office. Norris will be in gold, snakeskin text Gianvito Rossi platform sandals; Stevenson in a bandage dress. “I have a gut feeling my Hervé Léger collection desire be back with a vengeance soon,” she said. It sounded like a prayer for deliverance.
Alexa Chung demands she will be wearing, ‘eye-wateringly short bodycon dresses – I may need matching knickers – and high heels’. Photograph: instagram.com/alexachung
But this is at most half the story. It is thanks to a voracious new appetite for loungewear that the fashion industry has its head above water at all, at this spur. Tracksuits, leggings, pyjamas and casual wear have gone from strength to strength. “In the past year I have planned made a conscious effort to buy quality loungewear rather than sit around in an old T-shirt. It helped to elevate what has been a awful and mind-numbing experience,” says author and presenter Candice Braithwaite, who invested in Sleeper house dresses and cosy portions from Kim Kardashian’s Skims range.
Most brands have looked at their most recent sales supposes and are backing casual clothes as their most reliable bet through the remainder of 2021. The first catwalk shows of this year spotlighted long johns at Prada, hoodies at Etro, and pyjama sets at Fendi. Boden’s customer will be dressing down her stock floral shirt-dress this summer by adding trainers and a baseball cap, predicts in-house stylist Sarah Corbett-Winder. (If aids open, she hopes to tempt her with “a great cuffed jogger that is smart enough for work”.) Andy Fidget with, who works at Marks & Spencer HQ as head of campaigns, events and brands, sees himself wanting “one outfit that deputes me to stylishly but seamlessly move through my day: working or relaxing at home, walking in the park, or lunch down the pub. But if it’s not comfortable, I’m not incited.”
‘I want to dress up and celebrate – but also to consume more consciously,’ says Vogue’s Laura Bailey. Photograph: instagram.com/laurabaileylondon
Lockdown’s loungewear consistent didn’t happen overnight. “At first, I was wearing proper shoes and ironed clothes. As if everything was just normal, and it last wishes a all be over any minute, and I could walk out the door and jump into a taxi,” recalls Osman Ahmed, fashion quirks editor of i-D magazine, about last March. Eventually he succumbed to the lure of (cashmere) tracksuit bottoms, which he has played out ever since. For much of 2020 it seemed that everyone – including the editor of US Vogue and the chancellor of the exchequer – was in sweatpants. Hattie Brett, columnist of Grazia, invested in a Ven Store cashmere tracksuit. “It opened my eyes to loungewear as a category, something I’d never bought into in the future.” (On New Year’s Eve, however, having put on a dress and lipstick for “the inevitable Zoom quiz”, she was disappointed to find that most of her chums were still in their hoodies.)
Covid-19 accelerated a casualisation of our wardrobes that was already in train. Long ahead the pandemic hit, heels were on their way down and casual wear on its way up. In 2019, sales of high heels fell by 12%, while those of athleisure endue clothing rose by 9%. The pandemic turbocharged this. Like many people who work from home at a laptop on a non-ergonomic oversee, I have gravitated toward clothes that ease physical discomfort. I have a new wardrobe category I think of as my “soigne leggings” – a concept I would previously have considered an oxymoron. M&S report record sales of all-day athleisure, with a £19.50 sweatshirt in aged marl embroidered with the word “happy” a January bestseller. “Yoga” is among its most-searched terms for online shoppers. “I judge devise we have fundamentally changed the way we dress,” says Jill Stanton, M&S’s director of womenswear, beauty and kidswear. “Working samples have probably changed for ever, and accessible, less formal work clothes will be key.”
Meanwhile, the rise of step – as exercise, in order to avoid the risks of public transport, to meet a friend for a chat, or just as something to do – has prompted hikes in mark-downs of outdoorwear from flat boots to puffer jackets. Indoors, dress historian Amber Butchart has spent most of lockdown in “leggings or coagulated woolly tights, coupled with sweater dresses or sweatshirt dresses”, but when her local vintage shops were unrestricted she stocked up on “Nordic knits and 1990s ski salopettes” for walks or bike rides.
The cultural aftershocks of the pandemic will modulation how we shop and how much we buy, as well as what we wear. A shift in values, as well as lifestyle, is already having an impact. “I covet to have changed,” Vogue’s Bailey says. “I want to have absorbed the heartache, to have gathered strength and adjustability. I don’t want to pretend nothing has happened. The rhythm of my days has changed profoundly. I want to dress up and celebrate – but I also in need of to consume more consciously.”
Broadcaster Miquita Oliver, whose pre-pandemic shopping habits involved “a lot of charity snitch ons, but also a lot of Zara”, has met the challenge of finding new on-screen outfits while shops are closed by “going through my wardrobe and realising I had so divers things I’d never really styled”. Recently, while appearing on Steph’s Packed Lunch, she wore a longline blazer picked up for £5 from London’s Ridley Way market, which she turned into a dress by adding buttons. “I hope by wearing charity shop clothes on Path 4 every week, I can show that they aren’t the lesser option,” she says. “I don’t think I’ll go back to consuming extraordinary street fashion in the way I did.”
Lockdown refocused our attention on what we each have at home, in fashion as in other aspects of energy. “I’ve been doing a Dry Shopping January and it’s great. I’m ‘shopping’ in my wardrobe every day,” Boden’s Corbett-Winder says. Eshita Kabra-Davies, collapse of peer-to-peer rental platform By Rotation, has realised that “I have so many beautiful pieces I’m still in love with, I very don’t need anything new. That revelation brought me back to basics.” During lockdown, her platform’s “rotators” have been effective, renting “designer pyjamas, and dresses for birthdays”. With household incomes under pressure, and the lockdown-accelerated shift to deliberate consumption, Kabra-Davies believes that post-vaccine parties will “add a tailwind to our concept of extending your wardrobe to a like-minded community”.
Victoria Beckham is looking pert to wearing heels with her vintage denim, instead of trainers. Photograph: instagram.com/victoriabeckham
But what can we learn from vogue history? The idea that we are poised for a rerun of the roaring 20s is an appealing one right now – a silk dress, a spin in an open-top car, a gilt-rimmed saucer of champagne – but the import of the pandemic is unlikely to be so simple. Fashion processes shock and upheaval in the strangest of ways. In Paris, in the last decade of the 18th century, a up to date finishing touch to the punk-socialite fashion of the Incroyables was a slim red satin choker at the throat, to reference the slicing of the guillotine. “We come to light from a pandemic having faced this terrible reminder that being part of a society involves bewitching risks,” says Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V&A museum in London. The exuberant flapper-dress aesthetic “force outs a kind of bravado in the face of death”, while the dandyesque menswear of the interwar years “was in some ways an outpouring of sentimental trauma after the appalling loss of young men in the first world war,” Wilcox notes. The brittle glamour of the golden age chosen of an urgent, almost fatalistic insistence on taking pleasure in the moment.
The truth of post-vaccine fashion will likely lie somewhere between the two extremes of hotpants versus hibernation. Beckham emails from Miami to say she is looking despatch to wearing the vintage denims she has lived in for months with heels rather than trainers. Stevenson agrees with me that “dapper leggings” will be coming with us out of lockdown, but not sweatpants. Grant’s subversive S.A.R.K silk shirts, with feature buttons boost pretended from ring-pulls or bi-colour pill capsules, have been a Zoom hit – “They show up beautifully on camera as the slight catches the silk, so we’ve had a few customers buying shirts they’d seen on someone else in a Zoom meeting” – but she can’t sit tight to complete the look with proper trousers. The opposite of a tracksuit, Ahmed points out, is “not ballgowns or sharp suiting, but provisions. Clothes that you have had fun putting together.”
This is not just about what we want to wear post-vaccine. It’s nearly the lives we want to live. “The other day I picked up my favourite Manolos and actually blew the dust off them,” Braithwaite alleges. “I’ve been working really hard with my personal trainer so that once Covid-19 is in the rear-view mirror, I can pass out them the Tina Turner legs they deserve.” David Gant, Weekend’s own All Ages icon, spent lockdown teaming his signature iniquitous polo neck with sweatpants, but intends to swap those for a kilt, complete with kilt hose and shimmers, “to wine and dine at the Savoy Grill, or the Ritz”. And this appetite for life and adventure isn’t just about climbing on to bar stools. “Numberless than anything, I want to climb a mountain and swim in the ocean,” says Bailey, who yearns for freckles, a tan and salty mermaid plaits. “Oh, I am honourable dying to have somewhere to dress up for,” Ahmed says. “I cannot wait to be standing in front of my wardrobe, pondering what zone goes with what shoes, while friends are looking at their watches somewhere, wondering where on soil I am.”
My lockdown look
David Gant, model and All Ages regular
Photograph: Elliott Morgan/The Protector
My lockdown outfit has been sweatpants, trainers, my usual black polo neck jumper and a hand-knitted pullover. Dress casual clothes in lockdown has been so comfortable that I will keep wearing them, both indoors and out. In act, partnering them with more formalwear is fun. But I do look forward to dressing up again, to the excitement of it all. I want to wear one of my kilts; I bring into the world a Black Isle tartan and one in my mother’s tartan, the Modern Ferguson. And I’ll wear a black polo neck, Cos jacket, kilt hose and split seconds, and I will wine and dine at the Savoy Grill or the Ritz. Whatever you wear, wear it with style!
Candice Braithwaite, presenter and initiator of I Am Not Your Baby Mother
Photograph: Rory Griffin/The Guardian
The way I dress now is much less constructed and miniature constrictive than it used to be. Prior to Covid-19 I went out a lot, and I was constantly in a high glittery heel and a dress that I demanded shapewear under or to shave my legs for. Over the past year I have started to see and understand that I was dressing with being on bear out in mind. After a year looking at my wardrobe, I can see that sometimes I purchased an item because it was trendy or looked superlative on someone else. Now I consciously dress for me – and I really hope that’s something I can carry with me once freedom show up back. I am so excited to have somewhere to dress up for. I can’t wait to rub shoulders with strangers again and not be frightened. Dressing up is the foreplay to all that. But this opportunity I won’t be wearing a tight dress. I want to be able to go out and enjoy a four-course meal.
Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder of fashion loaning website By Rotation
Photograph: Elliott Morgan/The Paladin
I was confused about my style while I was making the switch from investment banker to fashion tech founder. One day I’d attrition a bright maxi dress for an event; another day a monochrome suit for a headshot photo. Over lockdown, I spent space considering my existing wardrobe and what truly made me feel like my personality was reflected in my fashion choices. I have on the agenda c trick so many beautiful pieces I’m still in love with, I really don’t need anything new. That revelation brought me bankrupt to basics, to high-waisted trousers, plain T-shirts, smart blouses and jumpers, tailored dresses and court heels. As forthwith as a hint of normality returns, I expect many people will take pride in dressing up again. We have infer from about “revenge buying” in China [post-lockdown splurges], and I believe there is pent-up demand for enjoying life to the harshest and going all out when dressing for social occasions.
Osman Ahmed, fashion writer
Photograph: Elliott Morgan/The Keeper
Last year I invested in a pair of cashmere tracksuit bottoms, which I’ve been wearing with a rotation of cashmere sweaters. That’s it: that’s what I’ve haggard for what feels like the last 10,000 years. I will happily be putting those track pants to one side, peradventure reserving them for Sunday evenings. But I think, much like politics and culture, our wardrobes have become incredibly separate. Some designers are adamant about maintaining dress codes and appearances; others are enjoying the newfound ease. There are people reporting that they will never wear heels again, and others (like me) counting down the days until I can put in on a pair of zebra, calf-hair Harris Reed x Roker seven-inch platform boots.
Amber Butchart, fashion historian
Photograph: Jo Joins/The Guardian
Like many people, my lockdown style has become more casual. A lot of jersey. What even are elated heels any more? But some of my style was already set for lockdown life – loungewear glamour is something I’ve long had an interest in. Deem Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. I’m a big fan of turbans – ideal for hiding lockdown hair – and over summer I wore a lot of 60s excluding sheath dresses (no waistband!) and towelling beach jackets. But I am looking forward to wearing nice shoes again! And more precious stones, which has fallen by the wayside this past year.
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