LOSING MY SENSES TO COVID KNOCKED THE SENSE BACK INTO ME

When I lost my sense of smell after coming down with Coronavirus last March, I was distressed. That strange symptom of anosmia slowly improved, but another sensory deficit took it’s place. The year of quarantine resulted in the total disappearance of my formerly well-developed sense of style. Now it’s spring, vaccines are becoming available, and it’s time to come out of hibernation. What will I wear?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffered the symptom of a loss of fashion sense. When the pandemic hit, and no one had anywhere to go, comfort won over style. It was a slippery slope, and I got in the habit of wearing the same outfit of stretchy black leggings and comfy gray tops. Sometimes I just picked them up of the floor and re-wore them. This was not my norm. I was a former fashion executive and stylist. I loved to shop. I enjoyed accessorizing and getting dolled-up. I looked pulled together just for a trip to ShopRite. I didn’t even wear blue jeans until a few years ago — thinking they weren’t dressed up enough. But my new quarantine routine was so easy. I realized how good it felt wearing “play clothes”, dressed like an infant, in elastic waist pants and a t-shirt.

You would think spending the day in athleisure would be a motivation to work out more. But I just wanted to lie on a sunny spot on the couch like a puppy. When I did leave the apartment, I actually saw dogs on walks that were dressed better than me. The pooches had on matching coats and booties. I was wearing boxy footwear that looked like I was competing in the Iditarod. while my stylish boots and shoes were just collecting dust.

I swapped out my wardrobe through all the seasons last year, and still only wore a small percentage of my clothes. I turned my closet into a museum — I called it The Gallery of Unworn Clothes. The most recent curated exhibit featured floral dresses and sparkly gowns (price tags attached) that I bought for cancelled weddings and showers. The corner gallery hosted a history of designer bags — since I only carried a reusable tote for my trips to the grocery store.

My dry cleaner stopped waving as I walked by, since I hadn’t dropped off clothes in a year. Net-a-Porter emails went unread and Vogue’s Instagram didn’t even get a like from me. Emily in Paris briefly reawakened my interest, but she’s half my age and seemed to have twice my budget. I hungrily swiped on the NYT Cooking app, not the Style Section. I knew I’d really given up when I stopped matching my mask to my outfit.

I always wondered what it would be like to dress like a guy, who have a uniform for every occasion, and never worry about being over or underdressed. I envied their lack of choices. I got a taste of what it would be like when I began twinning with my formerly suit-wearing husband, wearing matching Lululemon pants and comfortable sneakers. I didn’t feel like myself.

But now the temperature is rising and the CDC is lowering restrictions. I feel a spring awakening as my hibernation ends. I have to shed my puffy coat and pay attention to what’s underneath. Will I remember how to pull together a cute outfit? Is it like muscle memory — or if you don’t use it you lose it? I am sure the first time I put on heels I will topple over like a toddler trying on her mommy’s shoes. I don’t even know if my clothes went out of style. News alert — skinny jeans and a side part are out. That’s a problem — at least 20 pairs of that problem.

It’s time for a change. This past year was tough and being cozy was one way to deal with it. But I missed looking chic, wearing a blouse, real pants, or something other than a sports bra. I learned a few things from this experience. Turns out, my previous comfort zone wasn’t so comfortable. It was liberating to let go of some of my fashion anxieties. I used to spend way too much time obsessing over my outfits before I headed out. I worried about other people’s judgements, and never felt secure in what I chose. I bought things I didn’t need, and was often constricted, ripping off my clothes the second I was back in the door. I felt so much less pressure this past year knowing everyone was dressing down with less choice and fewer places to go.

I’m not about to become my late grandmother who gave up on a bra and zippers at my age, but I feel more relaxed about dressing now. I know that I am over tight, impractical clothes. Perhaps I’ll suffer the occasional complicated outfit for special events, but I’m going to simplify my choices by purging my closet, buying less and wearing the things I like. And crippling shoes and leaden bags are getting donated or listed for sale.

It was disorienting to lose my sense of smell and it took months for it to gradually return. I imagine the same will happen for my taste — in fashion. There’s only one minor issue…will anything still fit after a year of quarantine baking? Well, I can always pull my sweatpants out from my “museum” archives.

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