In the midst of this Corona-crisis, one of my favorite coping mechanisms is getting creative with my wardrobe. I’ve been putting together “new” outfits, and some are just so inspiring for me that I’ve been documenting them for my blog. While not everyone goes that far, I’ve noticed that many people are not giving up real clothes, even if they’re just running errands or staying home.
However, someone told me that because people aren’t going out much, style isn’t relevant right now. I didn’t think this rang true, considering that I still have to be seen standing on line to check out my groceries. (Sometimes, I have to wait in line just to get inside the store.) But I decided to try an experiment anyway.
I have been hearing people talk about how they love not to have to get dressed up nowadays, but I haven’t seen too many people actually go out wearing pajamas…
One morning, I put on a pajama-style outfit. I borrowed a hoodie and pajama pants from my husband. I found an old jean skirt to wear over the pants. I put it all on with my socks and sneakers. My husband did a double take. My children all stared and made faces and told me how strange I looked. And, quite honestly, I felt strange. At one point, I was waddling around my kitchen, instead of moving with my usual gait. There’s nothing wrong with a waddle if that’s how you normally move, but it’s not how I normally move—I only waddle when I’m feeling sick.
I wore the pajama getup to three different stores. I wasn’t sure if anyone would notice, and I wasn’t surprised when no one did. Grocery stores and drugstores are not social hot spots, even in normal circumstances. We don’t go to these places to see and be seen. Even if we do run into people we know, we might stop to schmooze for a couple of minutes, but then it’s back to getting what we need. And nowadays, we barely stop to say hello. Normally, I don’t pay attention to what others are wearing unless I’m looking for information for my writing (as I was here).
I did notice a few things. One was that no one recognized me. In one of the stores, there’s an employee who usually greets me with a smile and a hello. She wasn’t rude to me at all in my pajama getup, but she didn’t greet me as usual. This was no surprise to me, because I wasn’t wearing any of my trademark clothing items. I even hid my hair under a beret instead of my usual mitpachot (headscarves), and then covered the beret with the hood of my hoodie.
The second thing was that no one was dressed the way I was. I have been hearing people talk about how they love not to have to get dressed up nowadays, but I haven’t seen too many people actually go out wearing pajama getups like mine. In the stores, there were other customers (one of the stores had a long checkout line), but they were all wearing real clothes. Some were dressed more casually than others. A few were wearing hoodies, but with fitted bottoms. There were a few tiny faux pas, but no glaring “mistakes”. There were women who were wearing outfits which would’ve been perfect for work, complete with sheitels (and nice ones, at that). If the stores had been more of a social hot spot, I would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb.
I always wear a mask when I go out, and although it doesn’t make walking easier no matter what I wear, wearing my real clothes still gave me that much-needed energy boost.
The third thing was how I felt about myself. I really did feel strange in that pajama getup. I had planned to spend the day dressed like this because I figured I would be physically comfortable, but by the time I got back from the third store, I was finished. That pajama getup was physically comfortable but not psychologically comfortable. I felt heavy and tired. I was able to walk around the area with my customary brisk gait, but it took much more effort than usual.
I changed into real clothes that afternoon—a denim skirt with a simple top and a mitpachat and earrings. I was 100% physically comfortable—I don’t wear anything that isn’t comfortable—but I was also 100% psychologically comfortable. I went out for a walk just a short while later, and it was much easier to walk with my normal gait. I always wear a mask when I go out, and although it doesn’t make walking easier no matter what I wear, wearing my real clothes still gave me that much-needed energy boost.
The truth is that style is relevant even during a crisis. Groups such as “Look Good, Feel Better” are not around for nothing. Whether it’s a personal crisis or a larger crisis (like this pandemic), style is a very healthy way to take control. I find that getting creative with my wardrobe is a lot of fun.
I think of it as one more way of thumbing my nose at the Coronacrisis or any other crisis.
May Hashem grant a Refuah Shleimah to the sick, continued good health to the rest, parnassah to all, and may He bring us all Home very soon!
Right at the beginning of the shutdown (Was it only three months ago? It seems like years), I decided I would get dressed every day, in Real Clothes–clean skirt, blouse, mitpachat that goes with the rest of what I was wearing, something different every day. I’ve kept that up, mostly because getting dressed in the morning and putting out tomorrow’s clothes are good ways to mark the start and end of the day. But as you point out, the very action of getting dressed normally also makes me feel human, not like some cave-dwelling creature. The other discipline I’ve adhered to is going out for a daily walk. The sunlight helps me feel better–more alert and alive. When we were restricted to the 100 meter radius from home, I got to know my neighborhood quite well. For a while I took a photo every day of something I had not seen before–the view up an alley I had walked down for the first time, a bright yellow rose, an almond tree in bloom, a snail out for a walk in the rain. When the traveling limit was lifted, of course, I went further afield, trying to keep up my awareness to my surroundings.