Rethinking whalebone in a post-pandemic world …
It reads like something you might have seen in any media outlet this time last year.
“From Syracuse, N.Y., to Idaho Falls, Idaho, some stores were shut, while others limited hours and crowd capacity, or encouraged phone orders. Merchants discouraged exchanges and returns to limit transmission,” notes this post from WWWD.
Sounds right … even though the author is describing the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak on the fashion world.
“Through the fall of 1918, sales of blankets, comforters and winter underwear (a precursor to today’s stay-at-home ath-leisure?) were up, while sales of ready-to-wear and children’s wear were hard hit. (Many mothers were afraid to take their children to stores.) Suit sales also dropped.”
It was the 100-years-ago version of Netflix and chill.
As our fashionista ancestors came out of the pandemic and the post-lockdown depression morphed into the Roaring Twenties, they made some choices. Flapper fashion began to rule the runways (this was the age of Coco Channel, Lanvin, Gucci, etc) and one thing in particular was relegated to the burn bin: the corset.
There was a lot of burning going on.
“This was also the time when women were given the right to vote in the United States. This new found freedom and desire to have fun, caused a shift in female fashion,” writes Jordan Anderson in NSS Magazine. “It was the birth of a new woman who abandoned the traditional corset silhouette for something much more freeing. Dresses were shorter, looser with a lower or non existent waistline and more revealing aspects like short sleeves and lower bust lines as trends moved further away from the Victorian era of dressing.”
The parallels can’t be ignore. Now, strong, clear voices are calling out oppression … in all its insidious, rib-cracking, air-sucking, life-stifling forms . Glass ceilings and walls are cracking under the strain, and there’s growing awareness that the old normal isn’t simply undergoing growing pains; it’s gone.
The political and social shockwaves took a personal joy ride for me yesterday, talking with my daughter when she called from California. We had one of our beautifully rambling talks, and got on the subject of buying clothes as she begins to plan going back to the office. (It was her comment about the Spanish Flu and the corset drop that inspired this post. She is always dropping these profound nuggets into our conversations, one of the reasons I love talking with her.)
Like so many of us, she feels that she’s gone through some profound change this past year. She likens it to packing for summer camp, when you get to decide who you want to be around so many people who don’t know you from “before.”
The challenge? Being intentional with her choices. Does she buy fast fashion that will last her a season or two, then get pitched? Or will she opt for fewer, higher quality pieces that will stay in her wardrobe for years?
The same discussion goes for relationships. Do we still want to amass a “following” on social media that we call friends, or will we spend our time cultivating deeper connections with lasting value? Neither is “wrong” (you do you, girlfriend), as long as you decide, with intention, how you want your life to look.
As we remember how to be public beings again, are we going to strap on the mental, social and emotional corsets of old, bound to the way things “should” be done, longing to ease back into the familiar? Or will we look around with wide, clear eyes and realize yes, things have changed, in ourselves and each other? Things are profoundly changed now, in ways we can’t measure yet.
Me, I’m spending a lot of time deciding on the next best version of myself, and how she moves in the world. What matters to her, what turns her off. What fills her soul, and what drains her. What makes her better … and what brings her down. I need this guidepost to navigate so much that is new to me right now, so much change and disruption and blossoming and retreating and growing and shifting, so much light and dark fighting for me attention.
This is the work of a lifetime, an epic moment in our country’s and our world’s history. And maybe it deserves more than the ratty pair of yoga capris I’ve lived in for the last several months. Or, maybe that just doesn’t matter right now.
(Update … my daughter just informed me she went to Target sans bra after our conversation. And I couldn’t be prouder.)
Live with intention first, action next. This is where I’ll be.
Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.