No. 1: Pandemic Fashion
On Harry Styles’ cardigan and the rise of pandemic crafting, the Westminster Menswear Archive’s exhibition on face coverings, and unforeseen wardrobe changes.
Welcome to Issue No. 1 of Fashion Foreword!
For this first issue, we chose to take up one of the most pressing concerns in fashion these days: the pandemic. Much has been written on Covid-19 and fashion – about the almost instant rise of loungewear, the transition to online shopping and virtual shows, and designers grasping the pandemic to advocate a ‘slower’ approach to fashion. As the world came to a halt, the high speed of the fashion industry suddenly seemed more absurd than ever.
It is clear that the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in fashion, and though we might return to the glitter and glamour once the world opens up again (there has already been talk of a ‘roaring twenties’ revival), some of the pandemic’s impact will be lasting. Therefore, it seems vital to take a closer look at current developments and reflect not only on what pandemic fashion looks like but also on what it’s doing, at a personal, political and socio-economic level.
In this month’s long read, Judith Beyer discusses how and why a colourful knit cardigan worn by pop star Harry Styles became a pandemic-era fashion emblem. Out of all the eccentric outfits Styles wore last year, it was this humble cardigan that went viral, got masses of young people creating their own versions, and eventually found its way into a museum collection. Then again, this cardigan wasn’t exactly just another celebrity style fad. Instead, as Judith argues, it embodied a transition from an elite, fast-moving industry towards slow fashion and do-at-home crafts.
Being homebound for most of the year has also altered personal dressing patterns. In this month’s Recollection column, Jip Mulder studies a profound change in her own wardrobe: she buys her first pair of sneakers ever – and takes them for a walk around her neighbourhood. One particular article of clothing, the face mask, made its way into everyone’s closets last year. From a simple rectangular piece of cloth meant to prevent transmission of the virus, it has become a full-on fashion item. On until 5 June, The Westminster Menswear Archive has devoted an online exhibition to the garment. However practical in purpose and small in size, the face mask can carry many different meanings, as Eanna Morrison Barrs points out in her review of the exhibition.
Want to delve further into pandemic fashion? Nora Veerman has curated a selection of articles, videos and podcasts related to this month’s theme for our recurring Footnotes section. From virtual fashion shows to artists making clothing out of face masks, we’ve rounded up the best from the web to enjoy until next month’s issue on Needlework.
Judith, Eanna, Jip, and Nora
The Fashion Foreword Team
What are the challenges and possibilities of communicating fashion during a pandemic? We’ll be discussing this question on Clubhouse with curator and fashion design professor Andrew Groves and Mark Prendergast, co-founder of studio Formatsandmechanisms. Join us for the first edition of our live discussion series Afterword: Communicating Fashion During a Pandemic on Friday 18 June at 20:00 CET.