Working It During the Pandemic

Just because you’re stuck in the house during the Coronavirus Pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t practice working your look, mask or no mask. Since we’re all required to wear them now, I’ve found the easiest way to bear it is to turn it into a fashion statement and coordinate accordingly.

One of the most stylish group of face coverings I’ve found lately are made by artist/designer/hairstylist Allesa Willis (DJAllesaThaGoddess@gmail.com). Sister of Malik Willis of Malik Books in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (http://malikbooks.com), the great thing about her masks is the array of prints she uses.

Perfect for either a graphically gorgeous boho top from Thredup.com, an orange, black and white print tunic from H & M, or a gold wraparound short-sleeved blouse from Ross Dress For Less and a pair of Levi’s or black Dickies they’re the perfect counterpoint for one of her African style masks.

Okay, say you’re going stir crazy at home, and wondering what you can do to remain stylish, inspired, and up-to-date may I offer a list of suggestions:

  1. Read a book, or two, or more…Right now I’m reading VOGUE: The Gown for my Fashion Book Lovers Group on goodreads.com, The Other End of The Line by Andrea Camilleri, for my Mystery Book Club at Mar Vista Library, A Death In Belmont by Sebastian Hunger and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
  2. Update your resume and portfolio.
  3. Read the newspaper. Now is a good time to get a Sunday subscription to great papers like the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times to make your week-ends more illuminating.
  4. Move around. Whether you dance, exercise, clean the house or play with your cat, movement will keep you rejuvenated.
  5. Do an art project, such as adult coloring or paint-by-numbers.

Finally, with 1,208 deaths of COVID-19 in California as of April 20 it pays to shelter in place, take care by wearing a mask when traveling outside the home and put your health first and foremost.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Fashion Flattery

Kaia Gerber’s Off-Duty Model Look

In the early 1980s, while I was attending SFSU as a Psychology major, I entered a particularly significant chapter in my life. Punk and New Wave were big then, and although I didn’t see a lot of African Americans sporting that aggressive and sometimes androgynous style, I gravitated towards it out of necessity.

For the majority of my last year at the school a stalker was making my life unbearable, causing me a lot of anxiety and eventually resulting in a return back home to Los Angeles. My look subsequently went from an ultra-girly ’80s imitation of Edie Sedgwick’s miniskirts and dresses, colored tights, pointy-toed vintage flats, 1960s go-go boots and heirloom vintage jewelry to a more masculine style of tight Levi’s, men’s pants, button-down shirts, vintage men’s blazers, sweaters and coats and high-topped Converse sneakers.

Due to the stress, from the experience, my hair also started falling out and my weight dropped to 110 pounds. I finally decided to solve my coif issues by cutting all of my hair off into a Grace Jones-esque cut. The bad news is the stalker forced me to leave a city and school I adored, but the good news is I transferred to CSULA where I changed my major to Fashion Merchandising, earned my BA, and became a professional fashion/feature writer.

I wish I could tell you that my experience with stalkers ended at SFSU, but following my graduation from CSULA, while working as a Circulation Page at Santa Monica’s Main Public Library I attracted a homeless stalker who caused me additional stress and grief. I finally took steps to legally stop him with restraining orders and regular police reports, then emerged stronger emotionally but permanently disabled with SLE Lupus. Still I was free and that’s all that mattered.

Throughout my trials with these two toxic individuals I was often told the way I dressed attracted others. Often imitated at SFSU, a day didn’t go by when one of my fellow students didn’t come up to me and ask me where I bought my clothes, ask to borrow something, or say I inspired them. San Francisco and Los Angeles had vastly different clothing scenes then, because stylish people abounded and strove to look unique and always wear something no one else either had or had discovered yet.

Today, especially in L.A. while I still loved dressing stylishly, the majority of people I see daily and work with as a Special Ed Instructional Assistant for LAUSD seem to lean towards conformity and hyper-sexuality in uniforms of all-black, skinny jeans and tight t-shirts and leggings with bra tops, tight skirts and sky-high heels.

Bringing Back the 1980s

Lately I’ve seen a reprisal of the ’80s look online, courtesy of model Kaia Gerber, and in Elle magazine. Feeling nostalgic, and a little motivated to inject some personality into two redone looks, I rewrote their visual scripts with color, print and texture. The first one, of Gerber, in a black leather shirt, black top and black joggers or sweatpants I re-did with a forest green trench coat from Forever 21, a pink pullover sweater from Target, and a pair of burgundy joggers from Fallas Stores. Her only spot of color, a pair of navy-blue Converse high-tops I replaced with a pair of multi-colored Harajuku Lovers high-tops. Comfortable and easy to move in, it was the perfect outfit for my doctor’s appointment at Kaiser-Permanente.

The second look, a variation on the Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shorts, white button-down shirt and black blazer, I re-did with a black and white pinstriped Norma Kamali blaze from the Goodwill Thrift Store on Crenshaw Blvd., a black and white striped button-down shirt and a pair of denim capris from Thredup.com. Dressy, but fun, it was just the ticket for my solo field trip to see Sting’s musical The Last Ship at the Ahmanson Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

Priced at about $50 for each outfit, the best part of copying these two looks was I did it on a budget and I got to re-visit a time in my life when I wasn’t as empowered or wise as I am today. I’d like to think my openness to change and grow, despite adversity, had something to do with it.

The Modeling Session