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Dressing from the waist up? Fashion's most stylish say no

By Jackie Mallon

Apr 8, 2020

Walmart, the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, reported that sales of tops are surging during the shutdown. But bottoms are stagnant, surely also a metaphor for our sedentary new existence working from home, experiencing screen fatigue and snacking nervously between Slack and Zoom meetings. As navigating the latest videoconference technology has taken priority, expectations of professional office attire that have been carved in stone since deep within the dress-for-success eighties have been eradicated.

Workplace dress codes have literally been halved as we social distance to flatten the curve,and encase our own expanding curves in striped button-downs but with gym shorts, yoga pants or pajamas, all with elasticated waistbands. Pants and skirts, not deemed essential workers during the pandemic, have been furloughed, postponed until further notice. You may have dug out the Christmas socks, a physical link to a recent happier homebound time. Perhaps you’re enjoying experiencing what if feels like to just float around your apartment on weekdays like a dust magnet. Some revolutionaries might even be videoconferencing with their boss with nothing but a spring breeze from the open window coming between their nether regions and that swivel chair. This is business, just not as usual.

But experts say the best way to deal with the self-isolation is to maintain routine. Leading the charge against this half-mast fashion is Marc Jacobs whose daily Instagram posts show him parading around his apartment dressed in the latest Prada, with glittery fingernails and eyelids, the ensemble completed with his signature platform boots. His looks are no different than those he sported pre-shutdown striding along Soho’s cobbled streets.

Fashion designers dress to impress while working from home

Isaac Mizrahi is also considering joining the resistance, asserting authority over a temporarily neglected sense of style. He posted, “I’m kind of thinking a three-piece suit, a really tight suit? Or a corset and some kind of 19th-century gown with 30 cuffed buttons? Seriously, I need structure!”

This need for structure prompted the founding of Instagram account @wfhfits (Working From Home Outfits) by a trio of editors from Elle, Vogue and GQ, a wellspring of inspiration for not giving up the ghost while confined. There can be no arguing with the power of Anna Della Russo’s leg-of-mutton sleeves towering over her wooden desk. But our natural impulse to artfully attire seems to have been redirected into selecting the perfect background for our Zoom meetings: Paris street scene or hallway from The Shining? Because it’s also disorienting to be receiving instruction from your besuited boss while you’re both questioning the decor choices of each other’s living rooms.

But know that you’re not alone in feeling subconscious if your roots are beginning to show. Some of us are wondering if we can push the unpredictability occurring under the desk northwards, to heads, and incorporate niftily wrapped scarves and rakish berets until the at-home hair dye kit arrives in the mail. And women worldwide are realizing how much bras truly pinch after having not worn one for several consecutive days. These communal experiences are human and grounding during this anxious time, but who knows how they might influence us as we present ourselves in the post-COVID office cubicle? The Christmas socks might stay.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photo of woman seated at a desk using moblile devices from Wikimedia Commons by CSIRO from http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/2102