I am writing during week seven of lockdown adorned in the jewellery I wear every day, the pieces that I could call my ‘skin’. These modest crown jewels include a silver ring from Camden Market on my right middle finger, another in gold on permanent loan from my mum; a silver Casio in all it’s 80s glory upon my left wrist; a silver christening band and a charm bracelet that makes music when I dance; finally, an engraved silver pendant lying weightlessly on my chest. These are the pieces that inevitably make me feel complete once fastened and placed on my body. They are the muted cheerleaders who tell me I am ready to face the day, while also leaving me feeling completely stark naked whenever they are forgotten in a mad rush out the door to work. Each piece is fairly simple, fairly inexpensive yet full of meaning and memory.
Like many Londoners, I am currently a furloughed worker. This means that I spend almost all my time at home with my family, the people who see me makeup-free and decorated in sweatpants more than anybody else. This ‘dress code’ previously only prevailed after work, on lazy weekends and hungover Sunday mornings. Yet suddenly, as I wasn’t leaving the house and getting on the tube and walking into a crowded office, the dress code morphed into a ‘uniform’. Lockdown was announced and the jewellery that had embedded itself into my daily routine was nowhere to be seen. There were no colourful floral dresses or flared trousers to be washed because I simply wasn’t wearing them. I stopped wearing the items of clothing and jewellery that were the textile-and-moulded-metal form of my image and personality. Was it true, then, that I only ever adopted a certain sense of style because I knew others (‘others’ often being complete strangers) could see me? Was I deluded in thinking I had been dressing and making an effort for me, myself and I all this time?
With the 9-5 world on pause, I seemingly had all the time in the world for perhaps the first time since my childhood, yet something was missing: something trivial, yet almost reminiscent of an old friend. After a week-long love affair with pyjamas, I decided to put on my jewellery again. To me, it felt like coming home. Home is the place we should be completely comfortable so of course ballgowns and heels are not making an appearance right now. But with my fingers and wrists now glistening in the city’s temperamental sunlight, I felt slightly more at ease, slightly more confident. I was eight years old again, tumbling into a sacred Cinderella dress that now resides in the attic. Jewellery led to mascara which led to a bright orange sun dress. I dedicated a pocket of time to my appearance because I wanted to, with no one else’s opinions on the playing table. I wasn’t deluded after all then. That floral dress made me smile, and it was the same smile that my oldest, baggiest Adidas jumper would always bring to me after a long day at work.
Playing dress up is fun; we can become another version of ourselves or someone entirely different. My every day jewellery felt like a costume. Another Tuesday at home was suddenly the social event of the year and a sprinkle of pre-lockdown life was (literally) at my fingertips. It felt good; it felt like expression, something that I have personally found difficult to achieve through the lockdown favourites of Zoom or House Party.
Experimenting is also fun. Now is the perfect time to finally try that neon green nail polish, even the pink hair dye in the bathroom cabinet. Wrap a floral scarf around yourself to make a skirt or cut up old trousers into the shortest of shorts and flaunt them around your bedroom. Or not. Lockdown or no lockdown, our individual take on the words ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ should only ever add to our happiness and confidence. I have discovered that wearing a full face of makeup brings me confidence while simultaneously learning to love my unpainted face even more. With so much time in my own thoughts, it struck me that our naked face is often one of the first and last things that we see each day – for this alone surely it deserves the utmost appreciation. Skinny jeans or leggings, formal blouses or that old Christmas jumper from the charity pile – let us all wear the clothes that make our minds and bodies happiest. Today I am wearing all my jewellery, sparkly flower earrings included, paired with slippers and a dressing gown. Life is a balancing act, after all.