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  • Isha King

A World Away

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

What being quarantined without my things taught me about my own fashion consumption:

I know perfectly well that I’m materialistic. It’s an inarguable fact about me. I’m not ashamed of it, because so is everyone else (whether they admit it or not). I also find that I get a lot of my confidence, a lot of who I am from the way I dress. I have a simple style – I’m not necessarily experimental and I can’t always afford designer, but I know what makes me feel good, confident, and empowered.

Pre-COVID, I dressed very much for the occasion, or for my day. When I knew I’d be out late alone, I would dress more masculine because it makes me feel safe. Like no one is going to f*ck with me walking from the train station if I have a massive jacket on.

When I needed to give a presentation, had a job interview, or just needed to do something that intimidated me? Boots with a heel. Preferably ones that make a click-clack noise when you walk.

It’s not really news to anyone that how you dress changes how you feel, but I’d never realized just how much of ‘myself’ came from my clothing until I didn’t have access to any of it anymore as the result of a global lockdown.

I left my flat in London to be with my parents in Calgary very quickly when the pandemic started to get worse around mid-March. LCF classes were on pause for Spring Break and I had already planned on paying my parents a visit around that time. Calgary felt like a safer place to be, so away I went. Ignorantly, I packed for about a 2-week trip (carry-on and a backpack).

Since I knew I’d be staying home for the duration of my trip, I left all of my ‘power’ clothes (nice things, pretty things, you know what I mean) at my flat in London. I brought the comfiest (and arguably ugliest) stuff I owned, planning just to spend some time lounging on my parents’ couch before jetting back to the UK and going on with life as normal.

I don’t need to tell you that that didn’t happen. I’m still in Calgary. Granted, restrictions have eased enough now (October) that I could go back, but for most of the Spring and Summer that simply wasn’t an option. My lease term eventually ran out on my flat and I had to hire a complete stranger on taskrabbit to pack up my belongings (underwear drawer and dirty laundry included) and ship them back to Canada. The process of having everything packed, shipped, and cleared through customs took about 4 months.

I’ll reiterate: I’m a fashion girl who spent 4 months living out of a carry-on full of sweatpants.

During that time I had to start uni classes again, had to work on projects, hold meetings, etc. and try to maintain some semblance of a schedule while operating on a 7-hour time difference in a house with no real “workspace”. It was hard.

Now that so many people are working from home long-term, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the internet talking about how getting dressed properly can boost productivity and help you focus. Given that I spent about 4 months in the same pair of sweatpants and my high school track jersey, I can say with certainty that they’re correct.

Obviously I know this all might sound dramatic considering the gravity of everything else going on in the world right now. And I know that it’s excruciatingly privileged of me to even have this problem in the first place, but I really missed my things. Plus, it was one of the oddest, stupidest situations I've ever gotten myself into.

More than that, having had all of my belongings on a different continent means that I’ve never been more aware of just how much our society builds us, particularly women, into relying so heavily on fashion and newness for happiness, confidence, focus, and the whole other range of emotions that you can get from clothing.

Mass-consumerism strikes again!

From a sustainability perspective, I definitely have a renewed love for a lot of the clothing that I didn’t have access to over the course of the lockdown. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, after all.

I think this whole experience has basically just reiterated that a sustainable, minimal closet is no easy feat. That’s because clothing offers us a lot more than just a physical object. Cutting down on consumption is something that we should all be trying to do, so maybe paying more attention to specifically which ‘things’ do the most work for us is the best way to do this?

While you ponder this with me please remember to respect others by wearing a mask, avoiding nonessential travel, and keeping your distance from others in public.

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