Not Exactly “The Hunger” But Close Enough (Personal Essay)

From the start of the pandemic there was a question of whether or not God had cursed his people with another plague, now on March 20, 2022, that query was finally answered. Cloaked within a basic example about fashion the answer about the curse existed and proved to be two-fold. On one level it seemed as if he was punishing us for backsliding and reverting to immoral practices and on the other it seemed as if he wanted us to pause and reflect.

–Victoria Moore

All through the empty malls, restaurants, streets, and schools in my part of South Central Los Angeles an uneasy quietude seemed to unsettle some and enlighten others. Whenever I did see people, whether individually or in groups they were cordial but reserved. At times they even left a scent of perfumed sanitizer in the air.

After months of safety face masks, rubber gloves, and Zoom gear, the local fashion scene had changed to embrace the newly unemployed, shell-shocked shut-ins, and sartorially clueless. Those who’d consciously read Vogue, binge-watched old Project Runways, ordered new duds online, and kept up with their d.i.y. projects were at the top of the style pyramid, while those who’d wiled away the pandemic in tore up p.j.’s, old sweats, and tired trends were at the bottom. It appeared that the slackers who’d gotten comfortable and hadn’t tried to improve themselves in their self-imposed staycations slid downwards and those who did the opposite rose upwards.

So what do you do if you’re one of the slackers, and can’t see your way to your next style fix? You look to your closet for therapy, that’s what. Even if it’s full of things you bought seasons ago, it still has enough magic in there to make you happy, if you’d just mine for it.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage IIA Breast Cancer, which meant I couldn’t work during the duration of my treatment. I didn’t have a job, yet still I had to change what I wore for my procedures. At first I didn’t know what I was going to do because at the time all I owned was a few things from Ross Dress For Less, and a lot of second-hand and vintage things I’d either inherited from my mother and grandmother or bought at various thrift stores and the Vintage Fashion Expo.

Refusing to give up, I examined the Japanese fashion magazines I’d collected when I’d had a job and could afford them, went to my closet, took everything out and started experimenting. In the process of playing with my wardrobe my closet became my therapy and my friend. All of a sudden I saw how my vintage orange floral sweater could work with a white button-down shirt and my vintage white skirt and how my second-hand Levi’s could work with a vintage print polyester blouse and my brown cowboy boots!

Realistically it’s a possibility that a good number of the businesses that tanked during the pandemic might not be able to make a comeback. A fact, I for one, would be devastated to see, but I guess like everyone else who wants to remain relevant and not die out like a dinosaur I’ll have to accept it as the “new normal”. One of the best ways to do that, especially if your appearance is suffering, is to turn to your wardrobe and make it your ally.

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