Since mid-March, when directives were issued for Canadians to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the question of whether or not to actually get dressed has loomed large every morning. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work from home, the simple act of putting on clothes has shifted from a routine activity to a precarious one. Should one attempt to cosplay at normalcy by selecting an outfit similar to what they might have worn before the arrival of a global pandemic? Or should one refuse to get dressed and bask in the glorious comfort of loungewear all day? The former option feels slightly disingenuous while the latter might end up slovenly if practiced for too long; ultimately, nothing feels quite right. We can’t possibly pretend that the world hasn’t has changed, but at the same time, clothes remain a necessity. We’ve asked eight Canadian creatives how they’ve adjusted their style to face this new reality. Read on for some serious quarantine style inspiration.
Jeanine Brito, Painter
What I’m wearing… a Laura Ashley cotton dress I thrifted maybe two weeks before quarantine started, so I’ve never even gotten the chance to wear it outside of the home. The pants underneath are partially a practical choice – my apartment is pretty cold. But I think there’s something fun about wearing pants under a dress.
I usually dress… in clothing that is dramatic. I gravitate towards volume, colours, patterns, etc. To me, pulling off an outfit is entirely a confidence game. I always tell myself “it’s a look if you make it one.” Now, the only person I have to be confident for is myself.
My quarantine style… involves putting the most ridiculous pieces of my wardrobe together because…why not? It’s a form of play. I can wander my apartment in a mesh turtleneck and taffeta ’80s prom dress (intended for a friend’s wedding) and it somehow doesn’t feel out of place since everything else is upside down. I’m fortunate to have a job I can do from home and getting dressed feels somewhat frivolous right now, but it also feels like a kind of optimism.
Musemo Handahu, Visual Storyteller & Content Creator
What I’m wearing… a dress by ASOS Design. It’s light, airy and 100 percent cotton. It’s super easy to throw on, which makes it simple to feel less drab – fast! Dressing up makes me feel like I’ve set the foundation for a good day to begin.
I usually dress… dressy, yet comfortable. I was already working from home pre-quarantine and a few months ago I decided that I wanted to up my WFH attire. I bought a few new pieces, like this dress, that are comfortable and stretch but still look good. I’m very much into tonal looks at the moment, so throwing on a muted headwrap helps to complete the look.
My quarantine style… hasn’t really changed! The only difference is that perhaps if I’m not at my desk I just do some light work from my bed in men’s boxer briefs and a bralette.
Tanya Taylor, Fashion Designer
What I’m wearing… my favourite acid-green Alison Lou hoops and my colour-blocked Myers trench coat. Wearing bright colours grounds me and always helps brighten my mood.
I usually dress… based on how I’m feeling and what I have going on that day. I usually opt for one of our colourful dresses, paired with hoop earrings and either kitten heels or block-heeled boots.
My quarantine style… definitely prioritizes comfort. Rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts were always a staple in my wardrobe but now that I’m working from home with my two-year-old son while being seven months pregnant, I’m pairing them with Spanx maternity leggings and my husband’s cashmere sweaters or a sweatshirt. I found a bunch of my old McGill hoodies and wearing them feels like getting a hug. They are super soft and bring back happy memories of a simpler time when I first met my husband at the university.
Lido Pimienta, Musician
What I’m wearing… a red dress by Montreal-based artist Kate McConnan, creator of Number Sixteen. It is very light and soft, and has ribbons on each side of my waist, which my baby really enjoys. She pulls me by the ribbons from room to room.
I usually dress… like a sporty doll. As a kid, I was always a tomboy and I hated being a girl. When my boobs started to grow, I would hide behind oversized clothes to hide my femininity. My love for dresses is recent. I am still a tomboy who loves fútbol and getting rough, but I now appreciate the strength and aura of little girls, as I just gave birth to the bravest little one. She has given me a deeper appreciation for all things lovely so I like dressing like a real-life doll when walking around with her (but with my sneakers and comfy shoes on for extra speed, of course!).
My quarantine style… is heavily inspired by the circus. I’ve been revisiting the novel Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, and the HBO series Carnivale and have oddly developed a fascination with clowns. With my makeup, I enjoy testing out different bright colours and puffy hairstyles. We had some snow this week, so I am rebelling and pretending we are in Colombia strutting around in my chanclas [i.e. slides]…no socks, no tights, just pretty dresses, braids and cute scrunchies.
Rajni Perera, Artist
What I’m wearing… a hat and linen worker pants from Latre, a shop in The Junction [in Toronto]. I was introduced to the store by a colleague a little while ago and I love what they do. The coat I’m wearing by is Carla Fernandez (CDMX) and was a beautiful gift on a trip. The mask was made by my friend Tala, and the dancers’ anklets are from a shop in downtown Colombo, near the museum.
I usually dress… for comfort. I like natural fabrics, diaphanous drapes, architectural cuts and solid colours. When I dress for events, I approach it as though wearing costume. Clothing does for me what my work does, sometimes, in that it allows me to mess with reality. I love to transform because that is in my nature.
My quarantine style… isn’t that different except for the mask. I’m not a sweatpants person. Since it’s still really cold, I layer things like a cotton canvas jacket, a military lining, leggings, thick linen or wool pants, a scarf and a washable cotton mask made by my friend Tala (@panquequepanqueque). What I really miss is dressing up and going out dancing. It has a special place in my heart.
Talvi Faustmann, Musician, Prince Innocence
What I’m wearing… pyjama pants that were a gift from my grandmother, a Chanel sweater from the 2020 Cruise collection and angel wings, as an homage to my IMVU avatar, who also has wings. (IMVU is an online Second Life-style game I’ve been playing a lot of since I’ve been in quarantine.)
I usually dress… like a mean WASP-y girl in a John Hughes movie.
My quarantine style… is rapidly descending into a bit of a one-woman Grey Gardens situation. I live alone, so I think the line between my dream world and reality has become a bit blurred. The romanticization of quarantine is a class privilege, so it’s important that I acknowledge that I am privileged enough to be able to work at home and to go into my social isolation with a bunch of beautiful clothes, including some items loaned to me from Chanel. Wearing them, usually after some wine, makes me feel like an eccentric ghost haunting my own apartment. It has been an interesting test to see how much I enjoy clothes and objects based on my own very private interactions with them as opposed to my anticipation of other people’s gaze upon them. Despite the frivolity of it all, I stand by the fact that dressing up really does matter right now. Just putting on an outfit feels like a small, private moment.
Vivek Shraya, Author
What I’m wearing… an incredible, shimmery jumpsuit designed by Mic. Carter for L’Uomo Strano. I initially planned to wear it on my book tour to launch my new novel, The Subtweet (as featured in ELLE Canada!). Of course, like all other events, this was cancelled. But with the help of my publisher, I decided to pivot to a virtual book tour which launches this week so that I could still connect with audiences. The outfit was inspired by one of the characters in the book who sports a satin green jumpsuit when she goes on a world tour.
I usually dress… sophisticated maximalism. My friends would describe my style as “more is more”! Pre-pandemic, my day-to-day style often featured an oversized denim shirt, because I’m forever a ’90s girl and Canadian tuxedo stan.
My quarantine style… is giving in to the futility of putting on clothes. Mostly, I have stayed frozen in my Nike gym shirt and Calvin Kleins. But because of my general grey mood, I’ve really started to crave colour. I decided to break out a pair of vintage neon-green ’80s glasses that I got from 312 Optical Studio in Toronto that I had been saving for the summer. Not only do they give me a little boost in the day, but friends seem to appreciate them in our FaceTime chats!
Arden Wray, Photographer
What I’m wearing… baggy vintage indigo workwear overalls that I got at the flea market in San Francisco in February. I love pieces with history and am so enamoured with the visible mending on these. Learning how to patch and mend is pretty high on my list of projects to take on over the next few weeks.
I usually dress… eclectic. My closet is a unique mix of vintage pieces and independent labels. I especially love wearing hand-embroidered pieces from Eastern Europe and Central America, chunky knits, and great vintage denim. In what I’m now calling “the real world,” I’m a boot girl. My all-time favourite go-tos are a pair of cream vintage Tony Lama snakeskin cowboy boots.
My quarantine style… is wearing my softest, comfiest vintage pieces. I have a feather light Indian cotton nightgown that’s the best thing in the world to toss on and forget you’re wearing anything at all. It’s been in heavy rotation these days, despite the big hole right in the front of it (not really a problem when you’re not going outside). I haven’t really been wearing makeup or jewelry, other than some mascara, occasionally, if I feel like it, and my big gold ring that always lives on the middle finger of my right hand. I would feel totally out of balance without it. I did get dressed like “normal” the other day and put on a beautiful red silk blouse from Horses Atelier for a few hours just to pace around the living room. It was a nice break in routine.
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