There’s one word for this season’s style: depressed. Have you seen the models at Zara? Depressed. And not sexy depressed, or even substance-abuse depressed—which is, admittedly, still a bit sexy. No, this season’s Zara models are more like evicted depressed, dead-end depressed, and virus depressed—which is something we all understand.
The look for 2021 is a giant bag “dress” in depressing shades of muted colors. Check out Uniqlo for the quintessential example — available in shades of sad yellow and institutionalized lavender/blue. But Uniqlo’s true hat-off to depression this season might be the fact that they’ve run out of sweatpants. Yes, they have lit-er-al-ly sold out of every cut, fit, and size of women’s sweatpants internationally. But please, peruse their fine selection of depressing bag dresses! Now also available in grey.
There are other words to describe this season’s fashion trends. To “depressed,” I’d like to add the words “culty” and “mental patient,” with a whiff of Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial and its monochromatic, oversized mix-and-match pants and tops. But please, don’t think for a minute that I’m not in love with every aspect of this trend. I am. Beyond its perfect metaphor for everything we’re experiencing emotionally, I see the practical reasons behind its evolution…
Very few of us began 2020 depressed. “Whee a whole new decade,” every New Year’s horn enthused. But in March, when we all went into hiding and became a nation of Howard Hugheseses [sic], things changed. In mere months, we went from being scared to seeing red, until everything, absolutely everything, burst into flames—towns, trees, and tempers—it was all on fire. But even as we made our plans for civil war, we hadn’t yet embraced depression. We didn’t have the time! Instead, we rode adrenaline bursts just to keep up with the crises. You remember how it was.
And thus was the bag dress born of need. Women, stuck at home with a mercy of exploding shit to handle on top of their new Zoom-meeting jobs and freshly improvised schoolhouses, no longer had one fuck left to give about what they were wearing. Nor did those of us suddenly trapped like spiders in an impenetrable amber of total silence and solitude. Bras? No. Tight, binding things? Why?—It was a necessary change. I myself typed the words “comfort dress” into the search bar at Amazon more than a few times before YESNO of China released a giant wonder-bag of a sundress—available in 38 colors and patterns—size “whatever” and up. I bought two.
The other reason for this evolution à la mode pratique was that no one in lockdown could actually try anything on. As everything was bought online, each hand-delivered purchase best be something that need not be returned. Who could afford the risk of sending something back? A trip to the shipper, for what? For fifty-nine dollars back on Visa and the virus implanting itself in a lung with a whiff of someone’s mask-delinquent hello? No! So everything had to fit. And what fits 100% of everyone better than a giant calf-length bag?
Not every pandemic trend is worthy of a meditation on style. I do not believe in “mask fashion.” Masks are a mandatory accessory, to be sure, but are they fashion? No. Neither fun nor flirty, masks have become the prophylaxis I cannot escape, even in my dreams. Have you ever dreamed of a dog wearing an N95? It’s like those photos of horses wearing gas masks in WW1—chilling. And please, don’t don the ones with the lips where your lips should be. My nightmares are vivid enough…
In the Spring of 2021, with things beginning, just beginning, to be a smidge more like they were (at least for those of us not strapped in the bed of a monster truck waving a “Fuck Your Feelings” flag at passersby) the bag dress remains, as soft now as an old bedsheet. And I, for one, applaud its devotion to comfort. In today’s world, finding comfort in anything is a rarity best not ignored.
But despite all these advantages, the word the bag dress simply can’t escape is “sad.”
Indeed I can barely write these words, thinking about my poor friend in New York, taking his last machine-assisted breath, only moments before getting a vaccine. With the post-holiday happy-new-year-COVID-surge in early 2021, nearly everyone lost someone dear. The new president finally gave the nation permission to mourn our more than half-million dead. But what really pierced my heart was the moment I realized that the sudden boom in traffic-light flower sales was attributable to the newly high demand for them at cemeteries. More dead, more graves, more need for flowers, you see? So just like in A Streetcar Named Desire, every red light brings more ghostly vendors to my car, calling, beckoning, almost purring, “Flores, flores por los muertos?” Do you need flowers, flowers for the dead? So come! Let us bedeck our exposed chest-cavities full of pain with fashion!
You know? I wish I could jump right off this page, right out of this style report, and into the future—or the past. Yas, I’d revel in the splendor of some crowded scene, wearing a straitjackety collar, a tragic ruff, and washed-out colors that could only be described as “off.” I’d love the new high-buttoned necks gently strangling the wearer, the sagging jackets, and the floor length Amish skirts dragging through the dirt. I’d swish my seasick-green-upholstered bottom right up to the bar, where I’d shoot Fireball with a thousand strangers, exchanging with them so much breath and spit that by the end of the night we’d all share a microbial cloud. Oh god, how I wish I had the freedom to play with the irony and contradictions inherent in this season’s trends, allowing my sad clothes to juxtapose with my joy at running free and wild through the world! Free and wild! Running! Me! A long-haired Rosemary’s Baby Mia Farrow, skipping my way to a party! La la la la la, la la la la…
But I can’t, and probably you can’t either. So for this Facetime call, let me just throw on this depressing bag. And a baseball cap to cover my hair; it’s days-old-dirty now. I may appear to be looking at you onscreen, but I’m really studying my own face. There I am, doing time, trapped inside the video box, which is trapped inside its little screen, which is itself trapped inside this box-shaped room. And as I stare, my eyes frost their corneal glass and my pencil mouth draws downward. “Listening.” I hardly hear a word you say, but think to myself, I look just like a model from Zara.