Every morning since lockdowns began last March, I’ve gone shopping for dresses. At first, cruising websites and shovelling frocks into my cart was like a stubborn affirmation—if you say it enough times, it will be true. And my affirmation browsing (I only actually bought a few dresses, I swear) went something like: “This will be over, it will be over soon, and when it is, I’m going to be rocking this leopard-print maxi like nobody’s business! Also this pink jumpsuit! And maybe that cute skirt, too.”
But as the weeks stretched into months and the world’s snappy work clothes and going-out lewks morphed into leggings and matching sweats, my dresses started to feel neglected. I even banished them to another closet, because it was too depressing to look at them when I was still afraid there may never be a world where I’d need to wear them ever again.
Once things opened up a bit last spring, I started having a few of my girlfriends over for backyard gatherings. “Can we say it’s a dresses party?” pleaded one of my friends. “I haven’t worn a dress in months.” Hell yes, we can! I quickly tapped out a bossy group text. “GIRLS,” I wrote. “Entry to this event is contingent on wearing a dress. No dress, no service!” (What can I say—my backyard, my rules.) But to comply with this dress code means I too have to visit my lonely closet of dresses from days gone by.
I creak open the door. There they sit, waiting hopefully.
“Hello friends,” I say, and start flipping through hangers. Oh, here’s the one with the cutout shoulders and billowy sleeves I wore to an awards ceremony. There’s the leopard print, the zebra print and the cheetah print because I’m clearly an animal lover. Here’s the dress I wore for my first day at a new job that started last February—it looked smashing on my brand new employee I.D. card, I must say. That contract ended suddenly when the pandemic sent everyone scurrying into their homes, but I still have the card, and I’m adorable. I pull out a jersey maxi dress—I figure it’s a step up from the tattered shorts and grubby tees I’ve been wearing, but isn’t too fancy for an evening of takeout pizza and homemade margaritas. My nine-year-old son and my husband look shocked when I come downstairs. I get it—they’re overwhelmed by glamour.
“You look like you’re wearing a church dress,” says my kid (he means a choral robe). My friends soon all appear in similar loose, comfy “church dresses”—all the better for eating pizza and getting tipsy on my excellent cocktails.
After that, I start wearing dresses around the house, when going out for walks or for those thrilling spins around the drugstore aisles. (I know I’m not the only one—there’s a reason the phrase “nap dress” trended in 2020!)
I never stopped wearing makeup—doing my face every day made me feel better even though I wasn’t going anywhere special, so why wouldn’t I keep wearing my dresses, too? Of course the more relaxed, nightgown-esque styles get more play than the sequined party ensembles, but as the lack of sparkly soirees stretched on I started wearing my fancy dresses too (because why not?). They cheer me up and remind me of the world outside my front porch—a world that’s still there. Almost a year after lockdowns began, I still go “shopping” for dresses every morning, but with the possibility of a post-pandemic life finally glimmering on the horizon (thank you, science!). This time, I actually buy them.