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Can we just talk: I've chosen to give up on style during this pandemic, and that's ok

Can we just talk: I've chosen to give up on style during this pandemic, and that's ok

Fashion schmashion

Text: Cheryl Chan


I am at a breaking point. As a recovering shopaholic who feels she had her shopping compulsions under control before the whole pandemic hit, I have reached a new low where I'm starting to feel like I need to buy something just to feel alive.

Last night, I spent two hours past my bedtime scrolling through various fashion websites and vintage resale platforms for corsets that I could possibly wear once I actually have an office to go to again.

This is such... first world problems especially when we're in a literal global crisis with people dying. I know, please don't @ me. I recognize that. Which is why after hours of playing fantasy shopping (that's where me and a couple of other fashion fiends friends swap images of things we want to buy, dream of a bank account that rivals a trophy wife and then subsequently close our browsers), I logged out of Vestiare Collective and into Netflix to finish up Ryan Murphy's latest nostalgia-tinged show, Hollywood instead.

This morning, as I settled into a loose tie-dye t-shirt dress to begin a new work day, the dichotomy of me wearing a comfy item to work in at home versus the restrictive body-conscious item I wanted to purchase to wear to the office was not lost on me. It seemed like work productivity and comfort level were things that were on a spectrum for me, and the slider towards each end shifted dramatically, depending on location and the amount of people that I would be seeing for the day.


Apparently the effects of being comfortable all the time has led me to voluntarily want to restrict my body

Simply put, I do care what people think of the clothes I put on.

And why wouldn't I? I think personal style is a great way to express your creativity (and sourcing skills), regardless if you're a strong, silent brooder who only wears black or a maximalist with an accessory drawer that can rival Iris Van Apfel. And truth be told, having that part of my identity taken away (albeit only temporarily) can sometimes be a bit... hard to come to terms with. And thus, my personal Instagram (which served as a way to document my outfits), has remained dormant since Feb, waiting for me to take a WFH or supermarket fit which just seems way too much of a hassle at this point.

Fashion always gets a bad rep for representing something frivolous or superficial, but in actual fact, it affects us in much bigger ways than we think. What you wear to face the world does act as a form of non-verbal communication that can indicate to people who you are as a person before you even open your mouth. The emotions that you feel when you wear something that looks great can also truly make you feel better, as evidenced by Buro. Singapore's editor-in-chief Elizabeth Lee.

Sometimes though, it doesn't bother me. We all have those days where we schlep into work in a uniform. Mine was always a loose band tee (one whom I listen to and know of their music thank you very much) and a pair of jeans and Vans sneakers, hoping that I was at least pulling off the look of someone who was nonchalantly cool. Simply put, if I wasn't trying hard, I wanted to look like I didn't try at all.

So exactly who am I right now? I'm still very much a style-obsessed, pop culture loving fashion editor who worries too much. But I'm also actually really grateful to start a new job (especially in this economy) without having to worry about anyone judging if my outfits lived up to my newish job title. I've got bigger things to worry about, like making sure my work performance is up to par. A tough thing to suss out on your own when you don't have work colleagues IRL to banter with and share your work-related issues.

And now that the pressure is fully off, I have to say, I've fully been enjoying it. I spend a good extra 50 minutes sleeping in now, and that extra time can be spent writing, ideating, commissioning out stories as well as learning new systems at work. All those things take up a huge amount of brainpower, and right now I need all the energy I can get.


But that's not to say that I'm a slob. I have a small rack of shirts and earrings that I could quickly throw on for Zoom/Google Hangout meetings, just so that my colleagues can see how stylish I am from the shoulders up (Jk, nobody cares). I also rotate between day pyjamas and night pyjamas, just to create some form of separation to when the workday is over.

(FYI, once the pants are off, so am I.)

But the silver lining of this government-sanctioned exile is this we will leave the house soon enough. And the hope that we cling on to that things might eventually get back to normal is what makes us click "Add To Cart". That dress that's on its way to me right now isn't just a new dress it's optimism in a cardboard box. And at the very least, a click for me is also a click for the economy.

And that begs the next question who do I want to be once I'm back in the world again? Do I want to continue to be someone who felt so overwhelmed by something that was supposed to make me feel good about myself? Or has choosing to let my work and personality (instead of my outfits) helped to define me better as a person?

Of course the perfect answer always lies somewhere in the middle. But moderation is always much easier as a concept than in actual practice. So as I continuously plan my back-to-work outfits in my head, I'm going to kick back in my comfy AF t-shirt dress, let it all hang out and embrace this style hibernation for as long as I can.

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