Easy does it as times get hard. Jeffrey Yan explores how fashion can be utilised as a cocoon of comfort amidst uncertainty

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

First things first: Having the ability to work from home is a privilege; to be able to muse about matters of style while doing so is an added bonus. Having acknowledged the conundrum in which fashion now finds itself, perhaps it would also help to remember the power and pleasures of fashion. It offers escapism and a way to reclaim some sense of normalcy, no matter how small, in these turbulent times of upended routines—it’s the one thing in our lives we can control. 

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From left: Cashmere cape, about $3,480, Gabriela Hearst at Net-a-Porter. Cashmere cardigan, $1,895, Matches

After all, even with nowhere to go, one is still faced with the contents of one’s closet each morning. How do you take from that what you need to put your best foot forward? What you put on yourself and project outwards reflects, and ultimately influences, what you feel inside. Comfort should be the key here. As more people than ever are staying home, this will perhaps mark the turning point where athleisure, with its emphasis on ease and efficiency, completes its takeover of our wardrobes. The statistics certainly seem to indicate so. When countries began to enter various phases of lockdown in mid-March, Net-a-Porter reported that searches for stay-home apparel surged—loungewear was up 254 percent week on week, pyjamas jumped by 100 percent and tracksuits, by 73 percent. Of the retailer’s top 20 bestsellers that week, 30 percent was made up of its après-sport category, which includes activewear, cover-ups and track sets, with cotton jersey sweatshirts from Reebok x Victoria Beckham being its most popular item. Trackpants alone saw sales climb by 33 percent compared to the same time the previous year.

It isn’t surprising that customers are reaching for such comfort-first, easy-to-wear pieces in times like these. Coordinating sets such as tracksuits and night-to-day pyjamas take the mix-and-match work out of the equation while still serving up a put-together look. In cheery colours, like those offered by Olivia von Halle and Scott Sternberg’s Entireworld, they can inject a dose of feel-good factor into your day. In terms of fabrications, opt for breathable cottons and linens, lightweight cashmere or lustrous silks—you’ll be spending a lot of time in these, so it’s imperative that they are as pleasing as possible to the touch. 

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From left: Cashmere cape, about $3,480, Gabriela Hearst at Net-a-Porter. Cashmere cardigan, $1,895, Matches

If a higher degree of polish, along with versatility, are important considerations for work-from-home scenarios where video calls are the new constant, a loosely fitted dress is an effortless one-piece solution to everyday situations, from lounging to chasing after the kids and hopping into a work call. Jil Sander has terrific reinterpretations of djellaba and caftan styles, all filtered through the brand’s signature lens of minimalist chic.

With more time on your hands, you can start streamlining your closet (turn to page 58 for the smart way to do it). To ensure that your discarded pieces don’t end up in a landfill, earmark them for either charitable donations or reselling. In fact, resale platform Vestiaire Collective has reported a growth in online activity across all metrics over the last two months, from page views and transactions to deposits and offers, with deposits experiencing the most exponential growth at a 30 percent increase month on month. Among the items people are uploading onto the site, the biggest uptick is in the accessible category (a 60 percent increase from January to March)— signifying, perhaps, a shift of priorities from trend-led purchases to tried-and-tested classics that hold their value. 

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From left: Cotton caftan; cotton slip dress, Jil Sander. Satin trousers, about $1,585, The Row at Net-a-Porter. Calfskin slippers, $990, CELINE by Hedi Slimane.

That eye on the long term is crucial to rebooting your wardrobe after the purge. Any gaps should be filled with true investment pieces. As we’re all forced to rethink our consumption, the way forward is to buy less, but better— hardworking pieces that will see you through seasons and trends. The luxurious austerity of The Row’s modern classics will last you years, if not decades. Gabriela Hearst produces style staples in the same vein, with more emphasis on sustainability and environmental impact.

Instead of chasing seasonal trending items, spring for brands that champion consistent values and an enduring approach to style—be it Prada and its intellectual take on modern femininity, Bottega Veneta, with its refreshing update of pared-back luxury, or CELINE and its romanticised Left Bank sophistication. There is no better time to recalibrate not just our styles and closets, but also our whole mindset regarding the way we view and consume fashion.