What I’ve Been Wearing During the Pandemic

Wow, we sure are still doing this, aren’t we? It’s been about 6 months now since we were ordered to work from home and avoid unnecessary travel and have our lives uprooted by the pandemic. Working from home has presented a number of challenges for many people and one of those challenges has been what exactly should one wear? I admit it feels weird wearing a dress to make the long walk from my sofa to my dining area (where I have set up shop to work in a sad and sisyphean attempt to separate work from home when I work at home) but it also feels equally wrong to lounge around in my pajamas all day. Working from home often means video calls; that means looking at least somewhat presentable to human society. I’ve been more rigid with my style choices while working from home than some of my friends (no shade, they have said so.) and because of that, I’ve been thinking: maybe I should let you all know what I’ve been wearing during the pandemic. 

Velvet Leggings

You know good and damn well I am absolutely the kind of person to own a pair of velvet leggings. Well, I own more than just one pair. I own 7 at last count. I have them in two colors: green and black and they are effortlessly stylish. It takes a certain kind of boujee to wear velvet pants and despite the obvious luxury of having velvet cover your butt; they’re shockingly comfortable. Wearing something on my lower half does have its advantages: I can run out and pick up lunch without any guilt or worry about having to put on pants. Maximum luxury for minimum effort. 

Joggers

I never thought I’d see the day I’d own more than one pair of joggers but dammit they are comfortable. I got a pair for Christmas from my aunts during a very fun Costco run and they have very deep pockets, make my butt look phenomenal and mean that if I have to rush to the door; I am still technically wearing pants.  

Solid Color and Patterned T-Shirts

Listen, just because I’m working doesn’t mean that I have to dress up all the time. Sometimes a v-neck t-shirt in a tasteful pattern or color is all it takes to get the job done. If I have a client meeting or a big boss call, time to throw on a cardigan. Otherwise, just looking put together enough from the waist up is a solid start. Luckily, since my preppy youth, I’ve kept a small army of v-neck, crew cut, solid, striped, spotted and fruity t-shirts that can help me look just the legal definition of put together. 

Velvet leggings aside and t-shirts aside, this is an absolute departure from the dresses and tights and flats I’m used to wearing for work. If I had a client meeting or not, I took a ton of pride in how I dressed for work. Sure, I rarely wore makeup but I would never wear graphic t-shirts or sweatpants to work. What’s telling in how I’ve been dressing during the pandemic I think is what has been absent still: I’m still not wearing a ton of makeup and I’ve traded athletic socks for stockings. I’ve abandoned jeans, but they do still fit. I try to do my hair every morning I work even if I don’t put heat to my hair to keep it curled under or perfectly just; just to make it go in a direction that makes sense usually via lazy swipes of a paddle brush. I don’t wear earrings unless I have a client meeting now. Overall, I just dress like a more casual version of myself; albeit a version of myself that doesn’t have to wear shoes while working. 

It’s been very important to me not to slip into wearing pajamas or leaving my bonnet on because of how much routine matters to me. I still have to do all the pageantry of work to feel like I’m going to work even if my commute now is just from the sofa to the dining area. If I don’t go through all the steps of getting ready: showering, having breakfast, getting dressed, doing my hair, taking my medicine in the morning I don’t know if I’d have the mental fortitude to get on with the work day. I need structure and routine and I just don’t think I could be one of those people that rolls out of bed 30 minutes before my shift begins and drag my laptop into my lap and still have anything that resembles a productive day. 

I have recently missed having a reason to wear casual clothes. Typically my jeans, joggers, sweats and more were a reprieve from tights, dresses and nicer blouses but when every day is basically a day at home: casual versus dressy just doesn’t seem to matter. I did treat myself to a few new v-neck shirts to spice up my wardrobe and add to the rotation but as I add more t-shirts to my closet, I can’t help but look at all the dresses that have been neglected since there’s nowhere to go. But the new wardrobe additions have helped me feel a little less sad when it comes to getting dressed even if there isn’t always someone to compliment me on my outfit. 

The pandemic has changed every facet of my day to day life and by making sure that I keep the delineation between work time and not work time has been just one of the ways I’ve been able to try and stay sane. Making sure that each morning I work that I get dressed and look even a fraction of what is considered presentable has been a vital part of keeping up the routine that helps me focus on all that needs to be done during my work day. 

I hope you all are staying safe out there. I know this is a trying time; it has been for all of us. 

Fingers crossed, things will improve soon. 

But Vanity’s a Sin

Fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream. Donatella Versace.png

How many dresses do you own?

Didn’t you just go shopping?

How often do you polish your shoes?

Why are you so obsessed with where this came from and how much this cost?

I get asked questions like this more than I like admitting. And that may surprise people. We see fashion and clothing as vital parts of self expression. What you wear isn’t just about clothing your vulnerable meat shell from the elements, it’s an important part of expressing gender, race, interests and more. It sends a message when I wear a graphic t-shirt, jeans and a hoodie. It sends a message when I wear a 50s skater dress. And cosplaying shows very clearly that I obviously like being the center of attention.


Heavy. Short. Scarred.

Those are the things I have to say about myself.

But you’d likely never know that based upon how I dress and take care of myself.

I have a multi-step Korean-inspired skincare routine that takes me from clay mask to face wash to sheet masks to serums. I dress well. Many of my friends give me a hard time about how extra my fashion sense is. Recently, I’ve been stepping up my clothing for work, as well. And people have taken notice. My signature timeless style of dresses with pitch black tights have been well-documented. I like shoes and purses and clothes. I like looking good and I like attention.

But I am also hilariously insecure about my body and my looks.

I’m worried about my stomach and how short my legs are. I’m worried that my butt is too big and that my chest isn’t big enough. And despite my skincare routine, I suffer from acne, large pores and hyperpigmentation.

I take care of myself because in those moments of self-care I am aspiring to feel more beautiful.

I dress well, I value my face and I discuss fashion because it helps me feel beautiful at least for a moment or two.

I cosplay to, for a moment or two, become a character with a level of confidence that I clearly lack.

I write characters with more self-confidence than I have.

I do these things in hopes of one day being able to pull that confidence into my daily real life.

Now, there’s no conversation about vanity that isn’t also met with all of the hypocrisy of being a woman and being encouraged to be modest while also being so confident that it hurts.

As a lady, I am told to be modest and not try too hard to be noticed. But I am also shamed if I go out in sweatpants I’m told that I should “dress up just in case”. I have vivid memories of my grandmother saying that I may meet my future husband anywhere so I should always look good.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the strange junction between a woman looking good and feeling good about herself while also then being called “stuck up” or “vain” or “high maintenance” for caring about how she looks. Let’s also not forget that if I wear a low cut dress or a tight shirt that as a biological female I am “asking for it”.

The whore/virgin dichotomy that extends even to how I dress fascinates me and that applies to females as well. To women, at times, my choices for black tights, vintage patterns and low cut dresses and shirts is just as scandalous and offensive as it likely would be to one of my other Southern foremothers. I’m judged for wearing shapewear because I should “love my curves” while also then being judged for not having a smoothed out silhouette. That barely even covers the fact that people still feel the need to judge and comment how much I spend on clothing, serums, sheet masks and shoes. And unfortunately, I am not always mature enough to simply write off such comments. I’m happy to say where I get my sheet masks and where the dress was from and that only adds to the at times uncomfortable silences between “Where did you get that dress?” and “What did you do to your hair?”

It was only a few decades ago that a woman was more than mention that she spent hundreds on her hair, at least fifty to make sure she was entirely hairless and that her outfit was likely hundreds of dollars not to mention the thousands in jewelry or additional hundreds in makeup, shapewear and more. But humility is once more en vogue so mentioning how the more attractive sausage is made is now less a virtue and more a vice. The rise of social media influences has reversed some of this modesty. Now, it’s once more to spend a lot of money and time on some things. It’s alright to have brushes that cost you hundreds but your clothes should be perpetually thrifty. I’m supposed to wear little to no makeup but am also judged for letting my hyperpigmentation and dark circles remain uncovered on my face. Not long ago, an older acquaintance commented on the fact that I should wear lipstick more often.

Vanity works in a certain price bracket. It works for a Kylie Jenner or a Violet Chachki but it doesn’t always work for a social media manager who has a penchant for cameos and too much foundation. It’s not always alright for me to spend forty or so dollars on concealer but the dress I got at Goodwill equally raises concerns.


My perceived vanity helps me cope with my insecurity. Wearing a nice dress or getting my highlight just right help me feel better about how I look. When I was younger, I was told to value my looks and as I got older, I was told to value my mind. There was no middle ground. Either I focused on looking great or I focused on being a studious young woman. The idea that one is judged based upon clothing and style were drilled into me as a young one. I had a part to play and my family knew that no matter what I wore I’d face being sexualized, exoticized and fetishized: there was no room for error for sloppy dressing or anything like that. But all the while I was told to worry about how I looked and told to make sure I looked my best and took care of myself.

That all took a backseat for a while and I stopped caring about how I looked outside of costume because I was sexualized and fetishized no matter what. I’m fortunate enough to have come back into my own style-wise and hope that what many read as vanity in me just trying to cope in a world that doesn’t always value a lady with cellulite and acne scarring.

Stay beautiful, fair readership: in all the ways that word entails.

 

Coming Out of the Style Closet

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”- Gore Vidal

I am a young advertising and marketing professional.

I am an otaku.

I am a cosplayer.

I’m a traveler and filled with wanderlust.

I am a Southern belle and African-American woman.

I support multiple fandoms both Eastern and Western.

I am a theater brat.

I am a choir sister.

I am an orchestra member.

I am a writer.

I’m a lot of things. And the best way I express myself is through clothing. That’s true for almost all people. I have a lot of patterns and colors that I like. My personal style seems to be constantly at odds with who I am. Clothing is one of the most basic means of personal expression that we have but it’s also an amazing way to not commit to a particular style. As a cosplayer I am constantly becoming and changing who and what I am.

My personal style journey has been a complicated one. I spent most of my childhood as a hair show and mini-pageant baby. It was also the 90s so there were plenty of bad fashion choices made by my parents. As I grew up and became the sporty more tomboy-ish Amanda many of my friends and family know came to know I wore more denim and overalls. Lots of color. But one thing was always the same: my hair remained long. My father was very against me cutting my hair. So, my hair stayed long and perfectly manicured.

After my father died I faced an interesting act of rebellion: I cut my hair. At 13 or so I found my hair shorter and shorter and with that my choices in clothing changed again. I was a punk. Green Day, Blink 182, Simple Plan. I loved it all. Also by 12 and 13 I had found myself an incredibly dedicated anime fan, though at the time merchandise from these shows weren’t available. You kids these days, you have it easy with your J-List and Hot Topic carrying your fandom stuff. I date myself. I was also a Catholic school student so I didn’t spend a lot of time in “free dress”. I also had incredibly conservative and non-supportive aunts that did not like my punk rock music and cynical attitude and comic books that read in the wrong direction. So my clothing stayed conventional.

And then high school. Oh high school. High school was fantastic because with conservative aunties, my dress seemed to not reflect the otaku I was on the inside though it always managed to show out somehow on the outside. I hung out with the goths but was a bright pink spot in a sea of leather and black. I worked at Hot Topic but wore mostly purple and white. Then I’d spout out Maximum the Hormone lyrics and my “goth cred” was verified. But high school always felt like I was the most me. My style was a combination of preppy with argyles to nautical with blue and white stripes to general otaku wear: thank you, Hot Topic for carrying fan merchandise. But high school always felt like I was the most me. I found cosplay and cosplayers. I could be anyone. Anything. All the things. I could wear plaid and still be the otaku Amanda everyone knew and loved. College was a lot of the same. I was anime club president but also in honors societies. I was constantly in between looking like a high school age teen and a professional trying to get a job.

A few years ago I managed to get my first “real job” complete with going to an office and having to dress like a “professional”. I had learned about professional dress from the debate team which mostly involved Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits and pencil skirts with fitted blazers but working in advertising and especially as a writer, my work environment has never been incredibly strict with what I wore as long as it was more than presentable and I always have been. I could still be that somewhat preppy girl but with little accents of the weekend me via Hello Kitty rings, cake earrings, bracelets from my favorite bands and the occasional party that involved dressing up: Thank you, Halloween.

So why did I take you all on this journey through my history and closet?

Recently I picked up my first pair of Converse in years. Converse: the shoe that defined an entire generation of punks, emo kids and goths. I was one of those kids. My Chuck Taylors mattered more to me than some of my high school boyfriends. My Chucks, signed by my theater friends, anime clubbers and kept for years. Paint-spattered, messed up, faded: they were perfect. They were also murder on my incredibly flat feet so I stopped wearing them. Their expense also made them a less than attractive addition to my closet. But when I returned home for Thanksgiving, a Black Friday sale got me to buy not one but two new pairs of Converse.

I broke both in (a mint pair and a black and white pair, both low tops) and have been wearing them pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I walked into work with black skinny jeans, a black v-neck, my black and white converse and a black cardigan that I realized something: I felt like I finally looked good in something. I felt the most like…well, me. And that’s saying a lot. For someone like me who’s look never really matched all that was going on inside to feel comfortable in something was fantastic. A friend had made a snide remark about what that means about me and my character that I felt most like me in all black but it was easy to shake it off. I felt good. That’s what matters. To feel like me beyond the body image issues, dark spots (learn more about that here) and all; I felt like Amanda. The purest form of Amanda. Simple. Timeless but a medium for personal expression. It’s not the clothes. It’s the person. The clothes are an accessory to my personality.

It’s always weird for a young woman to deal with style. Society expects one thing from you. Family another. How are we supposed to be able to express ourselves and be true to ourselves and still maintain all that is socially and physically acceptable? As of now, I feel great with my new shoes and better outlook. Getting back into cosplay has been another great way to express myself and I still flash little peeps of who I am on the inside. You don’t have to abandon who you are and more times than not, the clothes we wear don’t mean much about who we are. You can be a pop princess in all black or a scene kid in argyle.

Stay true, readerships! And tell me in the comments what your personal style is!