How To Dress This Autumn

I own lots of capes for a person who works from home.” Writer Zadie Smith was discussing Intimations, her latest essay collection, in a podcast when they veered off topic and chatted about pandemic hair and clothing. “I look at the clothes I’d bought before the pandemic and think to myself ‘when am I ever going to be wearing any of this ever again – the amount of sequins… it’s all stage-wear!”

There are, of course, exactly two schools here: the one where sequinned capes are worn as casually and every day as pair of underpants. The other school we don’t care so much about.

Anyone who likes to belittle the importance of fashion as meaningless and whimsical ought to take a good look at this autumn’s fashion magazines. Clothing industry moves notoriously quickly, and it has responded to the global pandemic at astonishing speed. The result is pared down utilitarian with a side of tartan, because a September issue obviously cannot be put together without good ol’ plaid.

With big percentage of people continuing to work from home and festive events pretty much being verboten all over the place, the possibilities to show off one’s sartorial fabulousness are scarce. Gone are the otherworldly creations and off the wall statement pieces. The focus is precisely where high fashion has always wanted to stay the hell out of: comfort, durability and practicality.

Take high heels, for example. Brogues and loafers are traditionally slightly overrepresented in the autumn (they go well with plaid, I guess), but this year seem to have taken over the footwear-segment in magazines completely. This does resonate, though. I’ve tried on my heels once or twice during the lockdown, and it’s mainly just added to the overall misery: when am I ever going to be wearing these again?
I have a shoe collection roughly worth a small developed nation’s GDP, now sitting idly in my closet. I think about the years spent in learning to negotiate icy asphalt and Brussels cobblestones in vertiginous heels. I am embarrassed to remember there was a time when laddered, flimsy, yet overpriced, hosiery was more than enough to ruin a day.

Surely the time will come when we will be allowed to gather by the dozens on non-essential business, I’m not saying that. Champagne will flow again. Drunk, bad decisions will be taken aplenty. Awkward cocktail-receptions are a mere defrosting of a puff-pastry away. But Smith has a point: will we return to what was, sartorially speaking? Have you had similar thoughts with her when going through your wardrobe, looking at your clothes that belong to the pre-pandemic era?

Remember when we used to get invitations to all kinds of events and the first thought after RSVPing was always “what am I going to wear?” In many cases the negotiation about occasion wear would dominate social interactions between friends. It used to be a whole, fun process of getting ready to whatever it was.
Feel free to wear a fun hat for our next Teams-meeting” was never going to give the same rush as panic-buying an almost-fitting cocktail-dress half an hour before ordering an Uber.

If ever there was someone who would insist that they were only dressing for themselves, well, now everybody is. And it’s really boring.
(Disclaimer: Yes, my boredom is not the biggest problem in the world.)

Copenhagen Fashion Week happened earlier this month, Denmark being one of the few places in the world where such physical gatherings could already be organised. After months of looking at pictures of mask-clad Ben Affleck walking his dogs and suddenly being able to luxuriate in actual street style photographs online was like a heartwarming blast from the past – could this be?

(Lots of footwear formerly known as ugly sandals, which shall prove my above point about high heels – I’m not declaring their death quite yet, but do forecast a sluggish comeback.)

(Also most of the people in attendance being Nordics, due to travel restrictions, the overall look was extremely minimalist, which we shall call Scandi-chic, roughly the polar opposite to what we see during the Milan Fashion Week. This suits me very well, as my current fall getup is basically inspired by Korean factory workers (extremely oversized features, lots of navy and flat footwear.)

With September fashion bibles on the shelves now, I have my sights on the late autumn issues. I am curious to see what will replace the ubiquitous juice diet tips ahead of what used to be the cocktail-dress season. There was already a noticeable lack of get a beach body – articles this summer, so we might luck out again later this year.

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