An ode to dressing up and going nowhere

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Socialisation as we knew it before 2020 has necessarily mutated into conversations beyond screens and two-metre distances. And now that the UK is in lockdown, those of us here at Durham are cornered in the four walls of our households. Even for a self-proclaimed introvert and homebody like me, spending all day inside the confines of a house in a pre-2020 world seemed to feel pathetic and unproductive. 

For days on end, I’d sink into my well-worn and weather-beaten sweatpants with crumbs of crisps and cookies embedded in the seams, lounging on a couch that knows the curves of my body better than any romantic pursuit, with a laptop on my stomach playing yet another episode until Netflix insultingly asks if I still want to while away the time this way.

However, after many such cyclical pandemic-ridden months, the cocooning warmth of my sweatpants began to feel less like a security blanket and more like a con-artist disguised in soft cotton, tricking me into believing that life suddenly wasn’t worth experiencing because I couldn’t leave the house anymore.

Some others seemed to arrive at this epiphany sooner than I did – in the beginnings of the first lockdown, people spent their time baking banana bread and learning TikTok dances, grasping at shadows of community to combat isolation.

There’s a certain joy to be accessed in pointless mirrorfare.

Eventually it became clear to me; the only way to stagnate the unrelenting passage of time was to treat it with love and attention and to look at each day as an opportunity to freshen up my domestic habits. To achieve this I cooked, journaled, watched the sunsets on my terrace, and significantly, stepped out of my sweatpants and into my ‘going-out’ clothes every morning. 

In this second lockdown, a lot of us at university have found ourselves robbed of any possibility of exciting pre-drinks, nights out and house parties to dress up for. It’s easy to familiarly recline into a despairing hopeless slump and retreat into our couches and beds, hiding under the covers in our well-worn weather-beaten jammies. But I’d like to propose a slightly controversial alternative. 

Open up your closet and pick out a shiny daytime outfit, accessories and all, put some music on that reminds you of getting dolled up for a night out, and dress up to go nowhere. Bring the members of your household into the mix, or call a friend over Zoom, and make it a party. Whether you pair the event with a fancy home-cooked dinner, or host a single-person dance party in your room, or even if you end up having a pretty uneventful day and tucking in for an early night’s sleep, it really does redeem a slight sense of normality. 

And the best part is, no one really has to see you, so it’s the perfect time to experiment with your style and finally wear that colour-block jumper you impulsively bought but have been too nervous to try on. 

By no means is this ritual a permanent putting-down of days spent in our loungewear – unglamourous living holds its own crucial place in the equilibrium of student life. However, as necessary and therapeutic as it can be to let go of the obligation of presentability every so often, there’s a certain joy to be accessed in pointless mirrorfare.

Give yourself permission to access that joy and power.

There’s a peculiar power trapped in the act of dressing up to go nowhere; in some ways, it’s an unpolluted and radical form of self-presentation. I say this because there’s no real achievement in it; no external validation or goal to be gained, no one to impress or be judged by. 

It’s simply an act of leisure, but in reclaiming a sense of control and resisting the creeping insolence of lethargy, the effect of dressing up and going nowhere can be significant. Give yourself permission to access that joy and power.

Perhaps you’ll do so by stepping back into the trousers that you wore to death in the first term of second year, basking in the nostalgia of strutting down to Klute for a night out. Or maybe you’ll decide to wear those earrings you bought for a future winter formal and begin to embrace the everyday as a cause for celebration in itself. The agency lies entirely with you, and that’s exactly the point. 

Photograph: Becca McHaffie via Unsplash

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