“I’ve lost my mascara, and do you know the worst thing?” my friend rails. “I didn’t even notice!” For context, this is a woman who permed her eyelashes in the first lockdown. So, imagine it as the cosmetic equivalent of Stevie Wonder waking up tone-deaf, or Jeff Bezos suddenly caring deeply about workers’ rights. This spring, she says, it’s time to bring back the big-lash energy. “Face on, joggers off,” is her new mantra.
The mood is catching. The cover of this week’s Grazia has the strapline “Making the case for getting dressed again”, while another friend has skipped the “joggers off” phase, and is already researching summer outfits. “Is 35 too old to wear a crop top?” she messaged the other day. “Should I get a tattoo?” asks another. The answers are always, in order: absolutely not and absolutely, but in 2021 there is even more reason to free ourselves from the constraints of what we think we “should” be wearing for our age and body type. After 12 months of social upheaval, collective agony and isolation, the very least we can allow ourselves is the joy of dressing however we please.
There is strength in the simple act of getting dressed. I am reminded of the women in the French resistance, photographed by Lee Miller, who saw dressing as well as they could as an act of rebellion against the Nazis. The message was: you may have stripped our country of everything we have, but you will not trample our creative flair or spirit.
The Lebanese television host Raymonde Boutros said of the country’s civil war: “Fashion is like a flower in a vase. It helps you forget the horrors of yesterday and cope with tomorrow.” And so whether you plan to put on a face, a crop top, a shirt or even a bra, as we all emerge from this pandemic older, grieving and unkempt, remember that the very small act of getting dressed up could well be a way of finding ourselves again.