Dressing-up the issue – Lockdown life, cautiously normal. Mairi Fraser


A burning odour permeated the air. Not something that set off the smoke alarms, but an alien invasion all the same and one that prompted further investigation.

“Is everything all right up there?” called concerned family member. 

“Yes thanks.” 

“It’s just that it smells like something’s on fire”. 

“Nope.” 

“Er, OK, if you’re sure.” 

“I am.”

After two seasons of languishing on the floor, removed from its thrice-weekly call to arms some five months ago, a return to office working now requires my hairdryer to swing back into action. Suddenly, closer scrutiny than just the casual observance by a Zoom call associate is needed, and no longer is a post-shower, self-styled, tussled-locks image making the grade.

Working from home has prompted rapid slackening in my own – and the nation’s - sartorial elegance. Suit makers are in despair, bra manufacturers report an upsurge in demand for ‘softer’ (AKA more comfortable than those underwired devils) styles. Sales of heels have crashed to the floor with the ‘kit-flop’ - a semi-elegant kittened-heeled flip-flop - being one of the many new concessions to the emerging smart-but-casual fashion trend.

Like some slighted friend, disgruntled by my lack of recent attention and ensuring that the rekindling of our romance would be hard won, the hairdryer’s cold-shoulder manifested itself with a slow start and toxic aroma.

I had to unplug, cool, gently caress with a cotton-bud, remove long human hairs, remove short dog hairs in order to woo it back into action. Much like dealing with a nervous child on its first day at school, cajoling and enthusiastic noises were required, bestowing confidence that all would be well.

Next stop was make-up. Several furloughed months of abstinence have rendered the cosmetic kit sadly lacking in maintenance. Have you ever actually looked at a sell-by date on foundation? No, me neither, but in this first flush of grooming glee, I did, and what a mistake that was. ‘January 2020’, it trilled. Mascara, at summer 2019, was even worse and don’t even go there with the gloopy eye-liner that was thick enough for Banksy to action on the side of a tall building.

Did this mean I shouldn’t use it? Use it and pray? Give it to a teenager and hope they wouldn’t notice?

The answer is that you’d be smart to have a quick kit audit before necessity demands action. I looked like Pocahontas on a bad day and even the lure of over-weighted eyelashes rising from the prerequisite mask didn’t cut it with the clods of boot polish now adoring my face.

Further household equipment protestation came from the iron.

Months of line-dried washing and no need to press and starch has left that particular skill-set in sharp decline.

Having finally won the wrestle with board construction, idly moving the plate to and fro, I realised creases were not succumbing to my efforts, the implements usual free flow now bumping across a cardigan like a Land Rover on Rannoch Moor.

The temperature dial, of course, it actually needs to be turned up, you fool, and likewise the steamer button!   The usual swift execution of this task descended into further farce upon discovering several items left languishing in the linen cupboard for so many weeks that they now needed dampening (in a couple of cases, completely rewashing) and reshaping before I could attack with the iron.

Casual wear has promoted a household-wide casual approach to clothes use and storage, so now my neat little piles of tightly pressed items were immediately crushed by tangles of uncontrollable leggings, hoodies and shapeless tee-shirts in their fight for eligible drawer space.

Somewhere along the lockdown life of dressed-down living, not only have my clothes lost their shape but so have my feet. Cursing like Cinderella’s step-sister, I tried to jam reluctant feet into narrow court shoes that I swear could never have sheathed my soles in any modicum of comfort.

Our cautious new normal is definitely going to have many new guises, not least the amount of effort required to dress for battle. Military planning is evidently now required, so come back the kaftan, all is forgiven! 

Mairi Fraser

24 August 2020

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