Dressing for the occasion, or lack thereof


During quarantine, senior Lucia Rivera learned to appreciate the power of feeling good about how you look, even when no one will see you.

My mind is half asleep, but my body performs the familiar movements, screwing open the round container. I dip my fingers into the curl cream and rub my palms together before putting the product on my long, brown hair. 

Once my hair is good to go, I put the finishing touches on my ‘look’ and feel ready to face the day. 

I won’t be leaving the house or seeing friends in person. There are no strangers to give a good first impression to, nor any dress code I am obliged to follow. Yet I have found an inherent improvement in my day, both emotionally and productively, when I actually put in a few minutes of effort in choosing an outfit and doing my hair. 

As someone with thick, curly hair, I don’t usually get away with an “I woke up like this” look, but with a little curl cream I feel a reassuring sense of self when I look in my closet mirror. 

A simple choice of earrings, bracelets or rings not only gives me a small taste of normal life, but subconsciously tells me that important things will happen this day. I can better throw myself into my schoolwork when I dedicated a smidge of effort and time to my appearance. 

For me, this doesn’t mean makeup or an hour of doing my hair but rather a couple quiet minutes to choose the right leggings to pair with my shirt or fluffing my natural curls. 

Dressing for your enjoyment and well-being contradicts the common mentality that dressing up is directly correlated to wanting to impress others. This has only been exacerbated during the pandemic, as emphasized by the many memes of professionals working from home, dressed business casual only from the waist up.

When the semester first began in distance learning, I heard lots of peers lamenting that their favorite new clothes would remain in their closets—unused and unappreciated by others. But if you bought the clothes or accessories because you loved them or they made you feel good, then why restrict yourself from enjoying them? 

I haven’t bought any new clothes this year, but I still have items that make me feel ready to make the most of my day. In the end, people we would normally interact with in person may or may not notice—or like—the things we wear out to impress. The true power of getting ready in the morning comes from the consequencing sprinkle of self-confidence and empowerment.

During quarantine, I read fashion icon Tan France’s memoir Naturally Tan, and one of the many messages that stood out to me was that it makes little sense how we become accustomed to trying the least around the people most important to us—those we live with. 

It occurred to me that this is the most true for ourselves. Quarantine has taught me that feeling confident or happy with something as simple as how my hair looks isn’t an indulgence but a way to express my value for myself. 

Despite being with the same people, in the same space for Christmas Eve this year, I plan on making an effort to dress up and gain a bit of joy through it. While the pandemic took away many reasons for joy, this is a way to grant ourselves some, and I’m glad I learned to take advantage of it.   

With change hopefully on the horizon, I will take with me many lessons from my time in quarantine. I have been repeatedly reminded that my relationship with myself is one of the hardest but most important to nurture, and that includes dressing to reach that goal in a way that makes me feel like the best version of myself.