Something happened to our clothes during Covid. The whole world has been turned upside down in so many ways, and if anything serves as a perfect metaphor for the chaos of this era, it’s our shared wardrobe. I wore so few bras I don’t even know where they went, and I bet Champion’s stock has skyrocketed as everyone on the planet invested in more and more sweatshirts. Sweatpants, once a sign of ‘giving up’, have become a sign of comfortable settling in. We accepted our fate and decided we didn’t have to wait for it with restrictive pencil skirts or crisp collared shirts – or even shoes.
Now that the restrictions have been partially lifted, it seems like everyone around me is âupping their game,â investing in flattering pants and loafers, elastic belts and underwear. However, I am not.
For years, I have secretly longed to go back to the days of the Dominican high school uniform in Regina. We wore drab houndstooth skirts just above the knees, drab white brogues. I even had a breast reduction kit (which was kind of a polyester vest). The only way to spice up our outfits was to add micro heels, so under my bed I stuffed an incredible amount of cheap, jazzy flats.
When 1985 hit and I was released from the Catholic girls-only prison (and we burned / melted our synthetic skirts, literally or figuratively), I spent my birthday money on buying some clothes, clothes and even more clothes. Nowadays people can express themselves through tattoos and piercings anywhere; at this time, it seems we had fewer options. So I chose stirrup pants + shoulder pads + “Frankie Say Relax” short sweatshirts + rhinestone brooches. And I draped them over my body canvas.
When I look back, it’s not just the styles themselves that mortify me; it is the overabundance of clothes. But, honestly, when I look in my closet now, I haven’t really cleaned it up. The hangers and lockers are overloaded with casual clothes, and I haven’t had a semi-professional job for a decade and a half. I have any girly knitted or crocheted thing made between 1977 and the 2010s. What about the skirts? I have skirts up to the wazoo.
The funny thing is that in the midst of this excess, I dreamed that the suit would finally take center stage. Not the Saint Laurent version which can only be dry cleaned and which is disgusting. I’m talking about something like what the T-Birds wore during the musical number “Go Greased Lightning” in “Grease” – khaki, the archetypal car mechanic coveralls. (My nephew has his own garage, but it’s not 1950, so I was never able to get my hands on some.)
But mid-2020, I found something close, and maybe even better. They’re used, they’re huge, they barely touch my skin, and they’re fabulous. These are my inimitable low-crotch “pandemic overalls” – which have now become my “post-pandemic” overalls. When I bought them, they were the answer to my prayers. At first, they were strictly for home use, an effective way to avoid flashing my sons’ crotch when I sprawled out on the sofa. Shortly thereafter, I wore them to the drive-thru at Starbucks as well. Then I decided that I could walk the dogs there, as long as it was before 6 a.m.
I started to tie myself to my overalls. Really attached. I could wear them for several days in a row (or, um, every day in a row); I could get up on cold days and put 17 diapers under them and go about my business; in hot weather, I undress and wear boxers underneath instead. Better yet, I could just get out of bed, put them on my pajamas and voila! I was technically dressed, and no one would be wiser. I rationalized my overly accessorized wardrobe into a single pair of full length overalls, and I did it like a rockstar.
I expected to put my overalls away eventually. They had achieved their goal and, as my son told me, I looked like a rodeo clown. But the truth is, these babies aren’t going anywhere. I do my shopping there, I go to tennis, I have a coffee with my friends. And, I’ve received three compliments (in the last 400+ days) and that’s three more than zero. They have too many advantages.
Not everyone is on board. The last time I was with my 80-year-old mother, she was about an inch away from forbidding me to leave their house. (Also important to know: she once made me ashamed, an adult, for trying to venture out in public with the headboard.) My brother wants me to go to church with him, but not won’t bring me if I’m wearing my overalls. (Praise the Lord!) Some guy insinuated that I looked like I belonged to the set of “Deliverance.”
The point is, these trendy fools are here to stay because they really make me feel good. I am a bit loose and unimaginative when I wear them. (They are so voluptuous that air can pass through and it’s definitely a feeling of release.) Nothing sinks into my skin, itches or pinches me; I don’t obsessively twist a skirt so the label isn’t on the front. It’s really hard to put overalls inside out, so I never have to try and hide in a secret crevice for the right side. I don’t have to suck my tummy or worry about my thighs slapping each other in public. I happily manage to trot all day without being encumbered by any of that uncomfortable “body stuff”.
There is a lot of outside pressure (that’s right, mom, I’m talking to you) to look “presentable” and “like a lady”. I do not bite. I could, however, get a few more high-end pairs for events like weddings and funerals because no one wants to outshine a bride or a corpse. But my everyday uniform is going to be my everyday uniform.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll become an avant-garde influencer, and every half-century of years will reduce their wardrobe to a practical denim jumpsuit, so unflattering it is flattering.
I don’t care because I feel like I’ve found the love of my life.