A catalog came in the mail the other day. The woman on the cover was beautifully dressed in slacks, a silky blouse, a blazer, and jewelry. Her lovely handbag was also on display. I was astounded. Where did she think she was going dressed like that? Has she heard about the pandemic?
I browsed the catalog. The pages with jeans, leisure wear, and sleepwear made sense to me, but much of the catalog featured things that seemed of another era. Fur collared blazers. Jeweled sweaters and evening bags. Dress shoes. Skirts. There was even a two-page spread of this year’s little-black-dress.
So much has changed! How can this catalog NOT reflect that?
It makes me think it’s time for the fashion industry to pause and recalibrate. It makes me think I should do the same.
Taking the fashion industry first, I turn to an article in the Washington Post by Abha Bhattarai, the “national retail reporter” for the paper. She assures me the coronavirus is changing every aspect of this business. With Americans out of work, they are rethinking their spending, and there is a return to basics as opposed to seasonal trends.
In the case of shoes, “high heels are way down,” and other dress shoes have fallen out of favor as comfort becomes key. Slipper sales have doubled, and shoes are getting new touches – borrowed from athletic footwear – to add comfort.
In clothing, consumers and retailers are stocking up on “evergreen” basics and neutrals like plain T-shirts, classic-cut jeans, and beige and khaki pieces that won’t fall out of favor. Even when the pandemic ends, a return to dressy styles is not anticipated. Indeed, Americans are likely to trade in business casual for “Silicon Valley chic.” Examples of this look are hoodies paired with blazers and sweatpants paired with silky tops as dressing up and dressing down merge.
The only part of this article that didn’t ring true to my reality is Bhattarai’s assertion that false eyelashes are a hot commodity. She says the sale of eye makeup is up as women look to express themselves behind face masks.
My reality is that I have worn no makeup for eight months, and I’m getting used to looking at myself this way. I love NOT having to spend time putting makeup on every single day of my life, which was my habit pre-coronavirus. And I’m wondering if I should give up makeup forever? Ultimately, this question has broader implications, but for now, let’s just talk makeup.
As I ponder this question, I turn to still another expert, my cousin Loie. Unlike me, she was a cool kid when we were in high school some fifty-plus years ago. She knows about stuff like this!
Loie was horrified to even think of giving up makeup! Her grandkids call her “Lolly,” and she says it’s important to look like the Lolly of old not like the Lolly who’s old. While she is not going the false eyelash route, she thinks it’s important to perk up her eyes when she wears a mask. A friend of hers has gone the permanent eyelash route. (Huh? What? There is such a thing?) But Loie’s solution is to buy very expensive mascara primer to use with her drugstore-variety mascara as she marches on with makeup usage.
When I go into “yeah but” mode and mention all the men I am studying who wear no makeup and look just fine, she tells me she thinks about that too, and wonders if perhaps men are a better-looking species. (Huh? What?) All she knows for sure is that she is mieskite (Yiddish for unattractive) without makeup.
She then tells me two shocking things about her late mother, my beloved and much-admired Auntillie. The first is that Auntillie always wore lipstick and rouge because “powder and paint will make you what you ain’t.” And, even as she got into her 90s and moved to an independent living community, she felt it important to look her best. As she rode the mirror-lined elevator from her apartment down to the dining room, she would check to make sure she was all pulled together as she uttered, “OK, last chance.”
This makeup issue shakes me up for a reason.
I have written with some regularity about the importance of having a healthy daily routine in order to be on an even keel emotionally. I have said that such a routine includes regular exercise, a nutritious diet, good sleep hygiene, meaningful activity, etc. But I must have learned by osmosis Auntillie’s definition of looking our best because I have instructed my readers to get dressed daily and told women this includes doing their hair and makeup. I followed these rules right up until the pandemic struck.
And so I wonder, what does it mean to give up makeup? I fear it means I am depressed and thus willing to go into mieskite mode. But then my inner voice shrieks, “So much has changed! How can your life NOT reflect that?” And I see the makeup question as a tiny step in a larger evolution. In ways large and small I will be different post-pandemic. I’m demanding it from the catalog company; I need to allow it for myself.
Just a note: I recently updated my website and hope you will have a look! Among other things, on the homepage you will find a video of me welcoming you to the site. And guess what? I’m not wearing any makeup. Let me know what you think!