This might mean pairing track pants with a coat you already own, or sharpening them with a blazer
in a style dubbed “biz leisure” – that is, a mix of comfort and tailored clothes.
“The idea is to leverage what you already have,” says Penny. “You don’t need a whole new wardrobe.”
Rather, she says, “it’s about taking a bit of risk, rethinking ways to wear them and being adventurous”.
This means playing with new-season footwear trends such as chunky biker boots that add a sense of edge and proportion to tailoring and denim (and, yes, tracksuits).
This cautious approach is apt, given that straitened finances, and possibly a shift in values, mean that many of us won’t feel like spending much right now. More than ever we’re going to be thinking carefully about the clothes we choose to invest in and gravitating towards classic, timeless pieces that will last and hold their value and feel special every time we wear them.
As New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman noted in her recent piece “This Is Not the End of Fashion”, flashiness will feel wrong, with quieter things holding more appeal. She also pointed out that “stealth luxury” – think Phoebe Philo’s pared-back, minimalist designs at Celine – reigned after the 2008 global financial crisis. She believes we might crave that kind of unfussiness once more.
More than ever, we’re going to be thinking carefully about the clothes we choose to invest in and gravitating towards classic, timeless pieces.
This pared-back aesthetic is one that many Australian brands do well. Look to the likes of Camilla and Marc for tailored pieces you can wear with a sweatshirt, and Lee Mathews for shirting to tuck into your track pants and pair with chunky loafers. In other words, clothes that can work double duties as our work and home lives become ever closer.
Specialness can be also found in the boxy and ladylike handbags we’re seeing everywhere from Dior
to Louis Vuitton, says McCarthy. (Who’d have thought we’d miss carrying a handbag?) She likes the juxtaposition of a classic, structured bag paired with a pair of track pants and how they make chunky-soled shoes look elegant.
It’s the same with a coat; a well-cut one will last for many seasons, and you can throw it over just about anything and look polished. This is exactly the kind of relaxed yet purposeful approach to dressing we’re going to want as we re-enter the world and finally have places to be again.
But we also want to have fun again. This is a cinch with gold chain necklaces, whether from Tiffany & Co or just bought on the high street, which can lift any old outfit. Then there’s the fuzzy, instant mood-lifter that is the “teddy bear” coat, a style that luxury Italian fashion house Max Mara introduced in 2013 (it does a new iteration each season). But you can find playful coloured ones at Zara, too.
Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele said recently that “we will want beautiful things” when we emerge from the pandemic. Indeed, Gucci’s famous bamboo-handle bag was launched after World War II.
McCarthy agrees. She thinks once we’ve made it through winter, when comfort and cocooning still rule, we’re going to want to dress up again. “There will be a return to glamour towards summer,” she says. “We’re going to wear dresses and heels and go out again.”
Until then, we’ll happily take well-cut coats, cool boots, beautiful bags and the chance to wear an elasticised waist just that little bit longer.
Fashion editor: Penny McCarthy. Photographer: Jedd Cooney. Hair and make-up: Aimie Fiebig. Model: Zoe from IMG.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 28.
Annie Brown is a lifestyle writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.