It took nine days of being in home-quarantine before I began to shop online. It wasn’t because of the work-from-home style advice I’d seen on Twitter, nor was it a desire to implement some sort of structure between my working hours and my nonworkers hours, though both were spent in the same place on the couch. It was something more elusive.
But let me back up. My newfound seclusion came after three weeks in Europe for fashion month; first in Milan, where they had just begun closing schools; and then in Paris. The atmosphere there was bordering on apocalyptic. It was hard to explain to people back home in New York. I kept saying, “I just really hope I don’t get stuck here,” but no one seemed to understand. I imagine it was hard to reconcile what they were seeing on Instagram — street style photos on picturesque cobblestone streets, dramatic runway moments — with what the news was starting to say, which was that things were getting bad in Europe, and would surely start to get bad everywhere else, too. And there was a reluctance on the part of the fashion community to address the issue, too, because I think on some level we all knew that what we were doing (gathering in large groups, travelling) would soon be frowned upon at best, and forbidden at worst. We all suffered from cognitive dissonance until there was no escaping the reality of the situation.
It’s been a week-and-a-half now of staying home, and I’ve become totally frustrated with internet advice about working-from-home best practices. For the first few days, I got up at my usual weekday time, worked out for an hour, showered, and set up shop at the kitchen table. Now, though, I’m waking up 10 minutes before my day starts, staying in my pajamas until evening, and showering after dinner. I sometimes feel that my body has become part of the couch. It’s fine. But it’s why there is no “work from home style” when you’re working from home in a pandemic. You work in whatever makes you feel the best. The news is stressful enough without having to worry about whether or not you look good in quarantine.
And yet. Even though I’d promised myself to avoid shopping — after fashion month, I was sick of the consumer excess, the endless choices to peruse — this morning I finally checked the overflowing Promotions tab in my Gmail. Ten minutes later I found myself adding-to-cart a puff-sleeved blouse from Everlane, ribcage jeans from Levi’s. I will want to wear these when I get dressed again, I said to myself, as I sat there in the same black cashmere set that I’ve been wearing every day for a week.
As much as these purchases are very much for myself, I’m also thinking about the positive ramifications for the struggling economy. Experts are estimating that the fashion industry will be feeling the effects of coronavirus until at least June 2021. That means people will be losing their jobs, it means small businesses are especially vulnerable, it means that the indie brands — the ones who are generally moving the needle on things like sustainability and plus-size options — will suffer the most. And so even if all you do is buy a gift card from your favourite small brand, as many people on Twitter are suggesting, it helps, because it’s giving them money now, and giving yourself something to look forward to later.
Although shopping right now has tangible benefits for the many brands who will suffer under an economic crisis, there are other reasons to do it, too. We need something to focus on that isn’t death and disease so that while we scroll through Twitter and check our push notifications and text our loved ones, the idea of a future is still there, a future where we make aesthetic choices that go beyond “what do I want to wear on the couch all day” and extend into “what do I want to wear in the world,” because at some point we’ll be back in it, and that is something to hold onto. Until then, don’t feel bad about not getting dressed for an office when you’re hanging out on your couch — there are more serious things to worry about, like if you bought enough toilet paper.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the Public Health Agency of Canada website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.