Free from the gaze of the patriarchy, my wardrobe and I are liberated

The biggest change though? I’ve abandoned bras entirely

Harriet Hall
Tuesday 07 July 2020 15:51
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London Fashion Week announces digital schedule

In February this year, I went wedding outfit shopping for the *checks tally* 73rd time since I got engaged 12 months earlier. I had been getting together with my mother and bridesmaids regularly to peruse accessories, pick up shoes and run our hands across taffeta, silk and tulle as if we were browsing the splendour of a hotel breakfast buffet. On one such trip, a woman picked up an embroidered organza gown I’d tried on at MatchesFashion the week before.

“What do you think?” she asked me. “You look lovely,” I replied. “Special occasion?” “No occasion,” she said. “I’ll probably just wear it to walk the dog.”

Little did this woman know she had just suggested my would-be wedding dress was the type of outfit appropriate for traipsing through muddy fields with a compostable poop bag – I envy the life of luxury she must live – but her comment brought a smile to my face. I was struck by her sheer love of fashion, a desire to wear something fabulous to go about her daily routine.

I related: I have always been gently mocked by friends for being overdressed for pub visits or movie nights. I’ve always taken great enjoyment from going through the motions of selecting clothes and combining different styles, colours and moods. And I’ve always told myself I dress for no one but myself.

Then lockdown happened.

Over the past three and a half months I haven’t gone so far as to embrace the remote working, tracksuit and slippers attire that so many of my friends and colleagues have been enjoying. I’ve just never felt like me unless I’m crease-free (yes reader, I even Bosch my jeans), somewhat coordinated and with layers of fake gold chains hanging from my neck.

But admittedly things did change since my only daily outing turned into a walk around the 100 or so acres of my local common. At weekends I might slip on a dress and some nice shoes for a longer walk or to mentally separate work from play, but during the week my sartorial repertoire was reduced like a Delia Smith jus to jeans and T-shirts. No shirts, no skirts and mostly a battered old pair of Reebok classics – not the usual Doc Martens – on my feet.

I’ve not bothered with make-up either. I was always a fair-weather makeup wearer, enjoying the application process and loving trying out new products, but on the two days I have worn make-up in lockdown (a funeral, a cancelled wedding), I couldn’t wait to wipe it all off. I will no doubt enjoy applying make-up to prepare for that first special post-corona event, but it’s become evident in lockdown I don’t just wear it for myself, as I do most of my clothes.

The biggest change though? I’ve abandoned bras entirely.

Among the many memes that have kept millennials and their mums going during the pandemic, several circulated about the liberating joy of no longer feeling the need to wear a bra. Where many people continued to enjoy dressing up to work from home, dying their hair and playing around with at-home manicures and facials, bras seemed to be universally abandoned. Many women have relished the absence of a jutting underwire and constantly adjusting slipping straps. There hasn’t been a particular feminist rebellion against brassiers – rather a realisation that the discomfort many of us put ourselves through, just to feel “appropriate”, “professional” or “the right shape”, doesn’t have to be so.

Yes, some clothes look ostensibly nicer with a rounded, pert bust, because that’s what we’ve been taught looks best, and it’s preferable to have a conversation at work without wondering if the aircon is a little too chilly and having to awkwardly cross your arms to avoid the dreaded Skittles. But many women are discovering that, free from the male gaze and the expectation of how our bodies should look, we can be that little bit more comfortable and spend less time worrying about what is aesthetically required of us as women.

I look forward to getting dressed up again after lockdown. But what is more evident than ever is just how comfortable life can be when we’re free from the gaze of the patriarchy.

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