When I gaze back at my life so far, the narrative is largely punctuated by outfits. With cinematic clarity, I remember what I wore to every school dance, in every class picture, on (almost) every first date. I can tell you, right down to the seams, about the outfits that accompanied me on job interviews, the dresses (and one tux) worn to each wedding I’ve attended. As I reflect on this pandemic year, one image reigns supreme: an elastic waistband. Emotionally, it’s been a year of discomfort, but sartorially, I’ve made up for that in spades. If 2020 was about staying in, may 2021 — with its trendy spring floral prints and vibrant color ways — be about bursting out.
If there’s any style philosophy I carry into the future, it is this: Dressing up will be fun, because it is. Much like sunlight or time spent with friends, readying oneself to greet the world is a way to make life brighter. It is a celebratory act. Where answering the question of “What do I wear?” once felt laden with pressure, now I see — it is a gift.
One of the touchstones of the pandemic were the photos sent by a friend on his nightly walks through midtown Manhattan, where the shop windows glowed amidst the dark, quiet streets. While we were all cooped up at home, the mannequins kept living their best lives, decked out in the latest finery. There were bold colors and daring silhouettes, ruffles and marabou, gowns tumbling to the floor. Nary an elastic waistband in sight. In previous times, we might’ve poked fun at their outfits, made comments about questionable trends or over-the-top styling. But now, with my renewed perspective, it seemed like those mannequins had the right idea.
For me, clothes have always been part armor, part costume. Like a mood ring, every ensemble is a reflection of both how I’m feeling and who I wish to become. As I look forward to dressing up again, I want to inhabit the characters I’ve kept under wraps — the explorer, the optimist, the host. As soon as it is safe to do so, I plan to embrace everything (and everyone) I’ve missed, and my sartorial choices will no doubt be a reflection of that. There will be subtle nods to the experiences I’ve longed for — floral prints inspired by nature, sequins in honor of postponed events, oversized sunglasses for afternoons spent walking in the sun. I won’t hesitate to layer on the accessories that didn’t get enough play. (Though even alone at home, I always type with rings on, because it makes it more fun.)
For better or worse, 2020 was a bit like being in a focus group with myself, my tastes distilled right down to their essences. Where I was once a uniform dresser, I’m suddenly reaching for looks I would have admired in childhood. Loud prints, oversized gems, unexpected combos, they’re all invited to the party. I cannot wait to practice Olympic-level pattern mixing — an art that is elevated when a mask is involved.
Last week, as I emerged into one of the first warm-ish days in NYC, I spotted someone wearing a leopard-print maxi skirt, a striped top, and a checked face mask. It was poetry. And it reminded me that not only am I excited about dressing up again, but about everyone else dressing up, too.
Perhaps more than anything, I am excited to reunite with shoes — any and all shoes, as a category. Heels, platforms, mules, slides, I welcome them all. I want to strut down the sidewalk wearing thick wooden soles that sound like a spirited Clydesdale. I want to wear sandals in the park, the grass tickling my feet. I want to finally break in the colorful, open-toe slides, purchased in the darkest part of winter with the hope that I’d have somewhere to wear them come spring. After a year of stillness, I’m ready to experience all the places they’ll take me.
Marc Jacobs said, “Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them,” which ultimately brings me to my point. No matter what I wear or where I wear it, dressing up in 2021 will have meaning. It feels different than it did before, because I am different, too. However far I push the envelope (or not), what matters are the memories I hope to build in each of my ensembles, the snapshots I’ll add to my mind’s eye when I look back on this moment in time. As my clothes will surely reflect, I am hopeful.
Top Image Credits: Simone Rocha dress and accessories, Mary Young underpinnings
Model: Sabina Karlsson
Photographer: Christian Cody
Stylist: Tiffany Reid
Hair: Nigella Miller
Makeup: Shayna Goldberg at The Wall Group
Manicure: Ami Vega
Set Designer: Iris & Virgil