How Your Wardrobe Can Ignite Some Light in Isolation

If dealing with social distancing has sucked out that very last ounce of creativity, let us introduce you to a simple remedy to help soothe your isolation woes. You might find that it not only awakens your creative spirit, but more importantly brings you some actual joy.

WORDS Majken Hansén
PHOTOGRAPHY Emily Almodovar
STYLING Emily Macfie
MUA Rachael Mulligan

To get dressed or to not get dressed? For some, the case of getting dressed remains unchanged. For others (hi), the question of what should I wear today? has temporarily ceased to exist. There’s truly no right or wrong way to approach dressing through a pandemic, in the same way as there is no rulebook for adjusting to social distancing and isolation. 

Because as many of us are grappling with loneliness, anxiety and feelings of fear and disconnection, the fact that you don’t have to make the most of a pandemic can’t be reiterated enough. That includes delivering fabulous #WFH fits, organising a millennial mindfulness retreat, or staging your own version of Bake-Off. Instead of falling for the productivity pressure, unplug and focus on what you need to feel good (if that’s banana bread, then I’m happy for you). But you might find that turning to your wardrobe brings some sartorial solace, or at least a moment of escapism.

No, this is not another article telling you why you should scrap the sweats and get dressed in the morning. It’s rather about how you can use your wardrobe to feel a little better. It does involve getting out of your sweats though but bear with me.

Because even if it’s unlikely that you’ll find us further than five feet from the sofa for the foreseeable future, we can still give our wardrobes and ourselves some extra TLC. Why? Because clothes have psychological powers. In fact, according to fashion psychologist Kate Nightingale, what we wear can impact how we feel. 

“This is where the idea of enclothed cognition provides the answer,” Nightingale explains. “Studies in this field show that what we wear can influence how we feel and process information, so basically our emotions and cognitive abilities.”

What we wear can influence how we feel and process information, so basically our emotions and cognitive abilities.

Kate Nightingale

“The effect is based on what you subconsciously associate with particular pieces from your wardrobe,” she continues. “This can be sensations like confidence, strength and determination, situational appropriateness like this jacket is only for pitches, or memories like I bought this on holidays with my Mum.”

“Whenever you wear this piece,” she explains, “all of these associations come to the surface of your mind and begin to affect how you feel and process information.”

“So when you have that important call, you can put on your invincible heels to feel more powerful. When you are feeling down, you can wear that summer hat you bought on your last beach holiday. It won’t fully fix how you feel but will move the gauge that little bit closer.” 

In other words, turning to our wardrobes can help lift our mood, or at least bring a moment of distraction by awakening bygone memories stitched into the seams of your clothes. So dig out the pieces from your Hot Girl Summer peak and rekindle that same confidence. Re-fashion that decades-old prom dress that’s too sentimental to give away but too 2008 to wear in front of other people, or dust off those heels for which it’s just never the right occasion. 

Artist, performer and activist Vicky Pasion is doing just that. With the kitchen as a backdrop she channelled her inner quarantine queen, and she explains how experimenting is helping her cope. 

“It’s kind of my challenge to myself to rework different items or look for inspiration online, in films or fashion magazines,” she explains. “It’s been really fun, as playing with possibilities from home gives me some sort of safety or security, even though I’m playing with heightened looks.”

In the safety of your home, play with items already in your closet. Just trying things on that you might not usually be attracted to and channel different characters.

Vicky Pasion

“For me, it used to be very daunting to play with fashion, but we can cope by being creative,” Pasion continues. “In the safety of your home, play with items already in your closet. Just trying things on that you might not usually be attracted to and channel different characters. And if that inspires an uplifted mood or a sense of routine, then that’s perfect.”

So, while this is certainly not a great time to bash out a bestselling novel, it can definitely be an opportunity to be kooky and experiment with what’s available to you. Pour yourself a quarantini, play dress up, revisit old memories and unearth those pieces that bring you joy. 

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