COLUMN: Time dress down, mask-up and embrace ‘pandemic chic’

When you seldom see another human being, does it even matter what you wear?

Lately, I’ve been working on a bit of a new weekend look. I call it “pandemic chic,” and unlike skinny jeans or puffer coats, this one is easy to pull off. The secret – never look in the mirror.

Since March, my world has been pretty small – work, weekly trips to the grocery store, the occasional restaurant stop for takeout, and so on.

On a recent Saturday, though, I decided to poke my toe out the door a little further and treat myself to a pedicure, provided that my favourite salon was taking sufficient safety precautions.

I called to see if I could make an appointment for some time during the weekend.

“Can you come now?” the owner asked.

I wrangled my still-wet hair into a ponytail, slid my desperate-for-attention feet into a pair of flip-flops, grabbed a mask and high-tailed it out the door.

Following a highly-sanitized and physically-distanced 45 minutes of pure bliss, I felt energized.

Since I was already out, didn’t it only make sense to run a couple more errands?

I gassed up my car and trekked up and down the aisles of the closest supermarket trying to Amazing Kreskin my way through the grocery list I’d left on the kitchen counter.

What I’d failed to consider in my haste to get out the door was that I had dressed for another day at home, with no notion of actually being seen by other human beings. I only realized this while I was hauling my groceries into the kitchen and had the misfortune to glance over as I was passing a full-length mirror.

To offer a bit of a mental picture, I chose for the occasion of my first pandemic pampering, my finest stretched-out black T-shirt – faded and peppered with tiny holes from multiple washings. Complementing this look was the droopiest pair of wrinkly black shorts I could find in the back of my closet.

From behind, they most closely resembled a diaper carrying a full load. But you’d really only have noticed that if you could see past the thick coating of white cat hair covering my rump.

Now mostly dry, my hair had decided to stage its own breakout from Phase 1 lock-down, springing from the elastic binding in fits and starts all over my head.

It was a look that said, “I just don’t give a chic anymore.”

Truthfully, I’m not sure anyone noticed – I detected not so much as a sideways glance during my outing.

And I’m certainly not judging the folks out shopping in their pyjamas and Crocs.

One time I do know that I caught everyone’s attention, though, was on a day when I’d actually made a bit of an effort. It was one of the few really hot days we’ve had this summer, so I decided to go with a long, billowy skirt for maximum airflow.

Detouring around a bit of construction work, I found myself walking an unfamiliar path, which happened to take me across a massive sidewalk vent.

Before you could say, ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President,’ I’d gone full Marilyn Monroe – a giant circle of fabric flying at elbow level in front of about a dozen or so horrified onlookers. I slapped away at the material, trying in vain to push it down during what felt like a half-block sprint before I finally managed to escape the violent updraft.

Were there some sideways glances? Oh, yeah.

I think how I might have retained a tiny bit of my dignity if only I’d been hiding behind a mask – another crucial component of pandemic chic.

In fact, I don’t understand the reluctance of so many people to just embrace masks and view them as an opportunity rather than an imposition.

From basic black – always slimming and classy enough for any imaginary cocktail party – to bright florals, animal prints and even classic works of art, (I recently saw a cashier wearing van Gogh’s Starry Night) in addition to helping to protect everyone around you (a good look on anyone) masks are the perfect fashion accessory for letting the world know who you are and what makes you tick.

That in itself is très chic, even if sometimes who you are is an accidental exhibitionist or just a slob who’s covered in cat hair.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News

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