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The Fashion Memo

The importance of dressing up at home

For many of us, working from home can mean lounging around for days on end in sweatpants, hoodies and pajamas. Here, NET-A-PORTER’s fashion director KAY BARRON explains why it’s important not to let lamentable lockdown turn into sartorial letdown – and that dressing up is as good for your mental health as it is for your dignity. So, while it’s important to feel relaxed in your new working environment, it’s always a good idea to show your closet some love…

When it comes to dressing at home, NET-A-PORTER’s fashion director Kay Barron likes to make just as much effort as when she used to dress for the office

As I write this, I am wearing black leather culottes by Current Elliot, a white Ninety Percent T-shirt (freshly ironed), and a pair of Gianvito Rossi leopard-print kitten-heel court shoes. While getting dressed this morning, I changed the accessories twice before settling on two Catbird chain necklaces and one Charlotte Chesnais earring. I had laid the clothes out the night before (yes, I really do that), having stood in front of my wardrobe deciding what to wear for this Thursday. Or whatever day it is. Indeed, I am writing this during lockdown at my kitchen table, and no, no one else has seen me today – or, in fact, this week – and it is unlikely that anyone will.

For the most part, we partake in conference calls with the cameras firmly disengaged, I live alone and I’m certainly not dressing for the attention of the odd delivery person – though give me another month of this and that might be a different story. I am dressing purely for me – and definitely for my mental wellbeing.

In a time when I am now restricted from doing everything I love – going to restaurants, bars, Pilates, spending time with actual people – I need to take control of what I still can do and what has always been true to me. And that is dressing up. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not throwing on a gown every day and applying layers of makeup, but I am making the same effort that I make when I’m heading to the office. I have a ‘look’ and I’ll be damned if coronavirus is going to take that away from me, too.

“The idea of dressing from the waist up (for video calls) is lost on me. Just get fully dressed… It is heartening to see that many people haven’t let their personal standards slip, but for every crisp white shirt there is an abundance of bathrobes”
Barron’s closet, which boasts skin-tight leather, exceedingly high heels and black silhouettes “as structured as her haircut”, has been her “armor” ever since she was a teenager

My closet of skin-tight denim, lots of leather, complicated shirting, high, high heels and black silhouettes as structured as my haircut has remained largely unchanged for years. It’s my luxe armor, that I have been perfecting and evolving since I was a teenager, and it has seen me through everything. And, right now, that armor is more important to me than ever.

Naturally, some people are taking this opportunity of working from home to embrace loungewear, or 24-hour pajama dressing. However, the idea of dressing from the waist up (for video calls) is lost on me. Just get fully dressed. Half-business, half-sloven is the kind of half-baked styling that would result in total half-baked thinking on my part.

Instagram’s @wfhfits account provides an insight into people’s new workwear aesthetic. Naturally, Italian stylist Anna Dello Russo hasn’t given up her statement shoulders and leopard print, while British PR Daisy Hoppen is still finding time to slip into a gold Vampire’s Wife gown, even with nowhere to go. It is heartening to see that many people haven’t let their personal standards slip, but for every crisp white shirt, there is an abundance of bathrobes. And while I understand the need to feel relaxed in your new working environment – especially when you have other distractions, such as children – it’s never been my default setting. I don’t own trackpants. I own one hoodie, and – under ‘normal’ circumstances – it is strictly reserved for walking to, and from, the gym. I have never been someone who changes into ‘comfortable’ clothes when I return home from the office. In fact, I am someone who doesn’t even take their shoes off. Though, maybe, on certain occasions, I might loosen a belt a little.

In my new routine – and believe me, this new normal needs a routine – I currently start the day in Lycra for a workout, and then shower and dress for the working day. I can’t concentrate on a 9.30am call if I’m still in my gym gear and, oddly, I also can’t fully pay attention if I don’t have shoes on. I feel undressed without them. I’ve taken to wearing my new favorite black Prada block-heeled courts, which, as they were bought just before lockdown, haven’t yet been taken out. Last week, I spent one day in baggy jeans and the aforementioned hoodie. That day, I was less efficient than normal and snacked all day. Now I’m not fully blaming my attire, but it certainly didn’t help. If I’m not dressed like ‘me’ to work, then I don’t feel like me – and that day passed in a haze of barely read emails and a party-size bag of M&M’s. I won’t make that mistake again.

Other than choosing what to wear each day – honestly, in a day of very little to do, it’s amazing how much pleasure it brings me – my other diversion is reading. Currently, I am escaping into Ma’am Darling, a Princess Margaret biography, which reminded me of previously reading about her daily schedule:

9am: Breakfast in bed, followed by two hours in bed listening to the radio, reading the newspapers and chain-smoking.

11am: Bath.

Noon: An hour in the bath is followed by hair and makeup at her dressing table, then she puts on clean clothes – “as one would imagine of a Princess; she never wore any of her clothes more than once without having them cleaned.”

12.30: She appears downstairs for a vodka pick-me-up.

Of course, Princess Margaret didn’t have an itinerary of emails and calls, and I’m not encouraging lying in bed till 11, chain-smoking or day-drinking, but as our current situation gives some of us a little more time to ourselves, there is a lot to be said for making a bit of an effort. Wash your hair, or slip into your favorite shoes that you never get to wear. At this time, I think we would all benefit from being a little bit more Margaret. You owe it to yourself. Just leave the vodka pick-me-up till after 7pm.

One of Barron’s more recent Instagram posts celebrated her latest purchase, in defiance of coronavirus – a pair of black Prada block-heeled courts that bring her joy while self-isolating at home