In Search of Lost Style

In Search of Lost Style
Photo by Ron Lach on

In Search of Lost Style

Is anyone else experiencing the whiplash of the world “opening back up,” as they say?

I am fully vaccinated now. And I know that’s far from true for millions of people across the globe. But it doesn’t change the fact that now that I’m able to imagine a future again, I am totally lost.

Admittedly, talking about losing my style is about as superficial as it gets. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about because it has real consequences when it comes to my consumption practices. And, judging from Instagram, I don’t think I’m the only one suffering from a forced sartorial awakening.

I guess anyone could have predicted it, but fashion is very different than it was before the pandemic began. In 2019, it was all flowy neutrals. In 2020, it was sweatpants. And now, things have taken a turn to the psychedelic: checkerboard, cow print, bright florals, mismatched patterns, platforms. Everything that was out a year and a half ago is now in. All at the same time.

I used to dress like the influencers are dressing now, back when I was in high school. But, though I love a good print and a bright pop of color, I don’t really want to go back to pattern mixing and clashing colors.

I’ll be 33 this year. I’ve been working in professional internships for a year. And within another year, I’ll (hopefully) have a full-time job to look forward to. I know that there is work to be done in democratizing what counts as professional wear, but for myself, I find the practice of coordinating disparate pieces into an outfit utterly exhausting.

I’m just not into it in the way I used to be. I have things to do and places to be. And I’m happy with that.

But what it has meant is that I am fighting – really fighting – against the urge to adapt to the trends of this brave new fashion world when I know it’s not what I actually want. I keep doing wardrobe assessments because I know that without them, I’ll succumb to the whims of the internet. Somehow it’s worse this time than it has been in previous years. I think it’s because my energy stores are low, I’m still longing for restored community, and I’m giddy with the possibilities for living.

I keep window shopping on the internet. I keep adding things to my cart and then regretting it. I go back and forth, back and forth, on what I want and what I need. Significant body changes and the lingering aftermath of last year’s sprain have necessitated more wardrobe purchases than normal, which honestly hasn’t helped.

So, I’m just a little bit lost.

And I think the best thing to do is chill out. Wardrobes aren’t built in a day. I can’t just change my clothes and pretend that the pandemic never happened, or that I am a brand new, squeaky clean, mentally well person.

We are still sitting in the tatters of our grieving and broken selves, and maybe it’s ok to stay here a bit longer.

For now, I am clinging desperately to the reminder that I have clothes, even if they’re not the most ideal, most stylish ones. We’ll all get where we need to be in time.


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  1. Elizabeth
    May 24, 2021 / 12:53 pm

    I was the same in high school! Crazy prints, etc. that’s now so popular on social media (but feels soooo fake). I’ve finally morphed my style as I approach 30, and the biggest things that have helped me lately are accessories. Hair barrettes, scarves, funky jewelry, etc. because those are actually noticeable on the Zoom meetings I’ve been in for over a year at this point. I love getting dressed, but it’s been difficult to say the least in the past year, and amping up my accessories has helped a ton!

    • Leah Wise
      May 24, 2021 / 1:02 pm

      That’s a good point about accessories. They can do a lot of work!

  2. Amy
    May 24, 2021 / 11:06 am

    I so get this. When I feel unsettled about my wardrobe I pull out Courtney Carver’s book Project333 and read it several times. I’m a Project333 failure, but her confidence is 100% empowering and re-centering for me. I do not have an instagram account (am I the only one?).

    • Leah Wise
      May 24, 2021 / 1:04 pm

      I can’t tolerate restrictive capsule wardrobes, but that makes sense that at least the language around it could be helpful. I have an Instagram account, but it’s devolved into mostly cat photos and nature. It’s sort of “where everyone is,” but it’s also very fickle.

  3. Alice
    May 24, 2021 / 10:40 am

    I feel this. I’m at a crossroads professionally and personally and basically have little idea where I will be 1-2 years from now, so I figure I better not buy a bunch of clothes, casual, professional, or otherwise haha!

    Regarding resisting current trends when you see them on repeat, it is hard! Repeated exposure and the urge to keep up with your peers is powerful. I have long wanted a super blouse-y, floral Doen top but am reminding myself I have something similar-ish from Mata Traders, and trying to be happy with that. I may allow myself one floral thing though, to scratch the “itch” without remaking my entire wardrobe.

    • Leah Wise
      May 24, 2021 / 1:05 pm

      Same with Doen. I have one of their dresses but I never wear it and will probably sell it eventually. I have to be careful to assess what actually looks good on me, too, and then not overdo it once I find a trend I particularly like.

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