For now, fashion is departing the life it no longer is
Fashion is a way of communicating to others something about yourself. But now that our lives are mostly subscribed by the four walls we call home, who are we communicating with? Your Zoomates not withstanding, does anyone really care? We may be encouraged to dress nicely at home when working, but it is doubtful people do. Nor, when out on an errand to acquire necessities—Balenciaga for boba tea? It’d be very curious that despite the relative anonymity face masks—now compulsory—afford, there are those who’d bother with what others in the socially-distanced queue, waiting to get into Fairprice, wear.
Home is where the heart is, but the heart alone may not be enough to save fashion from a certain fate: demise. Or, at least ebb. Home is not necessarily a great backdrop for fashion, unless home is a Sentosa Cove abode with an interior design inspired by the four seasons (the actual weatherly divisions of the year, not the hotel chain). Home is set up for attire other than what is worn out for tasks or activities that require even a smidgen of fashion. That’s why when we get home, we fall into the habit of slipping into something more comfortable. Home is not where fashion gets its moment. That’s why we have clothes set aside for wearing when in one’s residence. Homebound, over a period unnaturally long, encourages and hastens fashion into a flagging preoccupation. We unsubscribe from fashion.
For many of us, we have a set of clothes worn at home, whether old garments or bought specifically for home use (likely the former) that many do refer as home clothes, rather than home fashion. Sure, fashion types have tried to convince us that under lockdown, we can be attired as if we’re with friends at a cocktail bar. Why anyone would be inclined to do so is hitherto inexplicable. Home fashion is oxymoronic. Stay at home and in the latest fashion are so antithetical that it’s truly eye-opening when Vogue.com offered “4 Refreshing Spring Fashion Trends You Can Wear at Home”. We have always looked at fashion media for ideas that can be adopted outside. Now we’re seeking trends that can exist in a domestic setting? Perhaps Vogue staffers lead very different at-home lives than most of us.
Sartorial habits of home kill fashion; they destroy, if not diminish, desire and compulsion
Home is where we tend to “switch off”, where we can go (stay!) without—or with just—underclothes, where we don’t have to be concerned with how good we look, how raggy our rags. Home makes us creatures of habit: We get used to the comfort, to the familiar, to things. Habits tend not to change when we’re not out of doors. We also have the habit of keeping our best clothes for better occasions usually not confined to our habitat. Sartorial habits of home kill fashion; they destroy, if not diminish, desire and compulsion. And the longer we stay at home, even with productive work, the more likely fashion as we know or remember it, before isolating ourselves became a socially responsible act, will come to an end.
Home clothes are not anywhere near what we see worn on TV. From Friends to Modern Family to Fresh off the Boat, dressing for the commute between bedroom and kitchen requires considerable effort, not to mention makeup. It’s the same with K-dramas: Every character is attired as if they will be out to the swankiest part of the city the next minute; they don’t distinguish between outside clothes and home wear. Conversely, we tend not to draw a distinction between what we put on at home and what we don out, just as private and public behaviours are often indistinct. T-shirts and shorts are de rigueur, as prevalent in the living room as they are in spaces where fashion is expected. We are happy with how home clothes need not morph into something else even when we are going out on the town. We like home clothes so much, in fact, that many of us are happy that one of the perks of working from one’s residence is that we don’t have to dress for work. The old mores of office-appropriate are, well, old, just as working in an office is so pre-pandemic.
Perhaps it’s different elsewhere. Or in the digital sphere. If cyberspace is where you are most active, there maybe a small chance that home clothes may be better home clothes, not necessarily fashionable clothes. Perhaps the grim reaper isn’t quite ready to knock on fashion’s door. Going online allows many to go beyond their four walls of home. Fashion can have a social setting (it loves company), keeping its possible doom at bay. Recently we read of Netizens going on “video-chat dress-up dates”. This may, of course, creep some people out. Cyber debauchery or just shenanigans, who knows? But at least they’re wearing and showing and admiring what we hope is fashion.
Photo: Chin Boh Kay