I've always been obsessed with the idea of 'around the house' clothes. Never more so than in The Current Climate, of course, when you haven't put a bra on in... *checks tits*... five days.
Meanwhile my Instagram feed is full of the inevitable 'self-isolating but make it fashion' lewks. The lenses are out, the statement glasses are on. Socks of every conceivable colour and glitter finish are being slid into box-fresh sliders. You’d think that if anything could give us a break from feeling badly dressed it might be a terrifying global pandemic, but here we are.
Of course, each person’s approach to dressing behind closed doors is different, and subject to a range of cultural influences. There’s the 'bohemian heiress' approach, swanning about in a silk dressing gown and hair wrap like a latter-day Norma Desmond or her 2020 counterpart – and the reason I have 'yellow vintage embroidered robe' as an eBay saved search – Jean Milburn from Sex Education. There’s the 'smug first-time buyers in an advert' approach, all Breton tops, mussed-up buns and improbable red lipstick. Then there’s the 'grey joggers, big T-shirt' approach: a perennial classic, if prone to veering too far into what one might call 'fart-casual'. The answer, obviously, is to add a Rosie the Riveter hair scarf.
My own attempts at chic around-the-house gear over the years have ranged from a glamorous 1950s housecoat, bought in 2007 during what I like to think of as my 'Dita Von Cheese' phase, to a giant '90s adidas sweatshirt stolen off my father and covered in Cuprinol stains. I’ve never completely nailed it, though. I always end up either creaking around like the Tin Man in too-stiff denim, or too relaxed ergo horizontal.
But if ever there were a time to find my around-the-house vibe, it is now. We are living through history in the making, and when students study Current Happenings decades down the line, there will be a paragraph in the textbook about the dawning of a new era of around-the-housewear. Right below the section on Spam’s culinary resurgence.
Now, I don't mean athleisurewear. This is an important distinction. Nothing that suggests a person might be grabbing a celery juice to fill the dead time between SoulCycle and Barrecore. No £100 Lycra in a shade called Butt Crunch Cerise. No, we’re talking the cosy middle ground between presentable and pyjamas. I mean clothes to make the postman jealous of you, not worried for you. I mean the artfully dishevelled, creatively mismatched (odd socks? You adorable kook!) ensemble of a potter in an indie rom-com with a pencil through her hair. A composite of both Grace and Frankie’s wardrobes in Grace & Frankie. Flowing silhouettes, soft jersey, items with portmanteau names like 'swardigan' and 'shacket'.
I mean the kind of luxury items you can’t normally justify buying to wear for all of two hours between the front door and bed but which in Present Circumstances suddenly look like sound price-per-wear investments. Maternity-but-not-maternity clothes, like these sustainable linen overalls from Stalf, and whimsical vintage dresses that may or may not have been nighties in a former life. Now you need never find out.
I mean layering. Famously one of the hardest fashion arts to master, layering is also a cornerstone of the social distancing aesthetic, which means now is a great time to practise for The Future, those halcyon days when we will frolic in beer gardens and selfie in restaurant toilets once more. Everyone is full of chat about using our time in isolation to learn a new craft; this could be yours! Just think of their faces when you emerge in [insert realistic but not overly horrifying number] months’ time, successfully wearing a longline blazer over a Laura Ashley smock dress over culottes over a pair of ski pants. With a bonnet. They may have MBAs and thriving Etsy stores but you’ll know when to wear a belt with a blazer and it’s hard to say which is the greater skill.
Personally, I’m using The Current Situation as a chance to get more wear out of all the nonsense clothes I’ve bought over the years. Like the black velvet dungarees I bought in 2014 when I first went freelance (the mistake I made there was forgetting I am no longer peeing on the company’s time, but mine) and the giant, balloon-sleeved sweater that doesn’t fit inside any of my coats. I plan to hit all my #30wears targets and sail on through. I’ve also found the perfect around-the-house trousers – kitten-soft navy needlecord flares, bought in 2017 – and I’m wearing them so frequently that I don’t hang them up anymore, just shed them in a snakeskin pile, to be stepped into again tomorrow.
Others are taking things further, throwing out the cosy-comfy rulebook altogether and seizing the opportunity to give their most fanciful outfits an airing. My favourite vintage influencers have been lighting up Stories with psychedelic dresses and disco-fabulous accessories. The account @wfhfits, set up just over a week ago to celebrate the best and most eccentric working from home looks, is filled variously with sweatpants and sequins, muted basics and joyfully clashing prints.
In my book How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, I champion a return to the leisurely dress-up sessions of our adolescence as a way to learn new styling tricks, get more out of your wardrobe and fall back in love with the clothes you already own. "But who has the time?!" you might have asked a month ago. Now we all have the time.
Now is the time to find the sartorial confidence you never had in the great outdoors, and save it until you can show the world. Now is the time to try on every plausible combination of every garment you own, and work out which make you feel the most you. Now is the time to be honest and realise that you hate jeans, actually. Or that you feel truly most comfortable in a quilted gilet over a slip dress, and to hell with convention. Now is the time to push the bounds of decency with transparent tops and shirts worn as dresses, or finally do a Katie Holmes and wear a slouchy cardigan over nothing at all. Who’s judging you? The houseplants?
Of course, longtime loungewear aficionados probably feel quite peeved at their personal aesthetic being co-opted by the masses. Sorry, guys. But if there’s one thing we’re quickly learning, it’s that in Times Like These we all need to learn to share.