All Dressed Up and No Prom to Go To

Robbed of a real-life stage by Covid-19, the frustrated fashion faithful continue to pull out all the stops on Instagram.

Photo Credit: NY Times

“I told myself that I was doing all this just so I could feel like my old self again,” said Nicole Gordon about putting on her flowered cocktail outfit.

Recently the good old New York Times Style Section posted a cute little feature about how New York’s fashion victims have been lamenting not having a place to strut their inner peacocks. And finally it would seem that Instagram is serving a public service for a change.


The following passage is courtesy of the New York Times.

Last summer Nicole Gordon posted an Instagram snap of herself framed in a doorway at home. In a slinky sleeveless dress, vivid makeup and towering heels, Ms. Gordon, a writer and art adviser, was the picture of cocktail-hour glamour.

Just weeks ago she posted a nearly identical image: her lips tinted scarlet, hair swept back from her face. That dress, as she noted, still fit, though she’d filled out in the interim. Her caption, a cross between boast and lament, read: “What a difference a year makes.”

Ms. Gordon, 51, was alluding of course to the pain and sense of powerlessness that the pandemic has sown. “It has stripped me of everything that I knew of myself,” she said last week — not least the semimonthly lash extensions and Botox treatments that were among her cherished maintenance rituals.

She had rigorously prepped for her most recent post, tugging on two pair of Spanx, rimming her eyes in dark liner, and coating her feet in Lidocaine to help her squeeze into the stilettos she had not worn since March.

“I told myself,” Ms. Gordon said, “that I was doing all this just so I could feel like my old self again.”

That sentiment has swelled among like-minded artists, fashion influencers and style-minded civilians, for whom precoronavirus life was a runway and personal style a performance. Robbed of a stage, some are at sea.

 “How do we continue to express ourselves through the joy of dressing with no place to go?” Ari Seth Cohen, asked plaintively.

During lockdown, Mr. Cohen, 38, the creator of Advanced Style, a popular street blog, three books, and a film celebrating the sartorial quirks of the senior set, was hard-pressed to find subjects. Instead he posted pictures of himself turned out in gaudy turbans and leopard-print caftans.

At a time of widespread suffering and social unrest, that gesture may seem brazen. “Even among high-level fashion people, posting outfits is apt to be viewed as kind of tone-deaf,” said Lyn Slater, a professor at the graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University.

Ms. Slater, 66, who moonlights as a model and blogger, persisted nonetheless, coolly vamping on @accidentalicon, her Instagram account, in a wardrobe of slogan T-shirts and rainbow-hued kimonos, her trademark silver bob grown out during quarantine to shoulder length.

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Sitting on my butt. I’ve been spending more time sitting. Not the bad sitting that comes from too much working but the good sitting that comes from starting a yoga practice or taking a moment to do some people watching. I’ve been sitting on my butt until I finish one thing before I get up and start something else. Like eating a meal. Like writing an essay. I’ve been sitting in a way that makes me pay closer attention. To really smell something or hear the lyrics of a song. It’s like my butt has gathered all the scattered strings of my attention and pulled them into a bouquet. On this step, I’m going to sniff and hope to smell a flower. Ponder a new idea. Feel the breeze on my cheek. Where have you been parking your bones lately? #oldasfuk #slowliving #savoryourlife

A post shared by Accidental Icon (@iconaccidental) on

Social feeds have lately teemed with similarly colorful, often wickedly over-the-top fashion portraits and selfies. They proliferate these days on strikingly varied individual accounts and with hashtags like #quarantinelookoftheday and #quarantinefashiochallenge, reinforcing a sense of joy and connection, serving as a platform for self-promotion (and more rarely, social activism), and restoring, for many, a sense of self as fragile and faded as an old postcard.

“We’re all cobbling behaviors together to get through the days,” said Leandra Medine, 31, the founder of Man Repeller, a popular blog. Ms. Medine announced in June that she would “step back” from the company after being called out for a lack of diversity on the site. But on @leandramcohen, her personal Instagram feed, she shows off a playful cacophony of wildflower, stripe and kaleidoscopic tie-dye motifs.

Her posts are a reflexive response to the dreariness of lockdown, she said, “when there is no one to evaluate who you’re telling the world you believe yourself to be.”

To some social media die-hards, posting in that kind of vacuum is life affirming. “It’s a joy to be your own muse,” Mr. Cohen said, illustrating that notion in posts that show him garbed in a manner that is partly inspired by his grandmother.

“I’m wearing all her old jewelry,” he said. “During quarantine that makes me feel connected to her again.” He also draws for inspiration from a well that includes Marc Jacobs, who has created a minor internet sensation posting quasi-comic makeup tutorials and high-glam images that show him wreathed in pearls, and balancing on king platform boots.

About - Advanced Style
Photo Credit: Advanced Style

No question, Mr. Cohen said, such flamboyant get-ups can bring comfort now and then, and express the hint of optimism that is a tonic during somber times.

The impulse to fan out one’s feathers can be deeply ingrained. As Eleanor Lambert, the venerable American fashion publicist, once observed: “You cannot separate people, their yearning, their dreams and their inborn vanity from an interest in clothes.”

Sharing that itch on social media “is no different from any other effort to be seen,” Ms. Medine said. “What any one of us is doing is trying to prove that we are worthy, lovable and socially acceptable.”

If only to ourselves. Online, as in life, “We’re dressing for the audience in our head,” said Merle Ginsberg, 67, a fashion writer and former judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Ms. Ginsberg recently posted a photograph of her favorite John Fluevog floral patterned Mary Jane pumps. “I used to get excited for fall around mid-July,” she said in a caption. “Now what? Nowhere to wear these puppies.”

And finally there was Paula Sutton, a lifestyle blogger in Norfolk, England, who has taken up the gauntlet. On @hillhousevintage, her Instagram account, she fans out her skirts or cavorts on her lawn in a series of colorful garden-worthy frocks, her poses expressions of unfettered joy.

“I am fifty years of age and I see no shame in enjoying pretty dresses and attempting to live life as beautifully and positively as I can,” Ms. Sutton declares in one of her extended captions.

In the text accompanying an image that shows her in a gingham dress with extravagantly puffy sleeves, she urges fans to follow her lead. “Show your face, show your homes, show your gardens,” she writes, “and celebrate your version of beauty.

“Pose like Dovima,” she adds. “After all, life is hard enough without feeling pressured into being self-censored by the frivolity police!”

For those of you who missed the Dovima referece, ‘Dovima with the Elephants’ is a famous Richard Avedon photograph. See below.

Dovima with Elephants, c.1955 Art Print By Richard Avedon - 30x23 ...
Dovima with Elephants, c.1955 | Photo Credit: Art Print By Richard Avedon

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