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How dressing has changed in the Covid-19 era

Sunday June 28 2020
Salim Swaleh

NTV anchor Salim Swaleh working from home. PHOTO | COURTESY

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
By STEVE OTIENO

Let’s talk clothing, shall we?

It is for the sake of the clothing items probably wondering where their regular wearers went — from those shoes lying almost comatose at a shelf somewhere to that shirt that has not felt the warmth of a human body since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

With restricted movement and working-from-home being the buzzwords of the season, dressing has taken a different dynamic. Most meetings having moved online. It is also a season of facades or “things are different on the ground” as the colloquialism-savvy would say. All one needs is a smart top for the sake of being seen by others in the virtual meeting, but from waist down, it is a different story.

KENYANS SPEAK: “OUR CLOTHES THINK WE DIED”

Arnelle Omondi, psychologist

Arnelle, 25, misses how she would rush out of bed, have that mandatory bath and adorn a carefully selected dress that she was sure would catch the right kind of attention. Nowadays, this isn’t the case.

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“I am sure some of my clothes might think I died or something of that sort,” Arnelle says. “But I try putting them on once in a while.” Perhaps that way she reassures the garments that things are not all that bad.

Caroline Kalulu, church deaconess

The best apparels are usually set aside for church, but places of worship have been a no-go zone for months as a measure of containing the spread of Covid-19.

“I have missed my vitenges. I cannot remember the last time I wore my long kitenge dresses to church service. I just make do with my usual everyday clothes. May this Covid-19 end,” she says.

Ms Kalulu, 51, is a deaconess at a church in Nairobi’s Buru Buru Estate. She has decided that she will no longer wait for coronavirus to be banished before she can don her Sunday best. She is now okay with putting on her special clothes the very next day.

“There is nowhere written that pricey clothes are only for special occasions. Let me look good before I contract this corona,” she jokes.

Lizza Adhiambo, public relations officer

Lizza had spent a tidy sum to get herself the trendiest dresses and clothes so that she could “light up the streets” as early as April this year. Fate laughed at her plans. Not only laughing; it went ahead to rain on her parade.

“I have set aside all my smart clothes for the after-corona period. I am itching to put them on, but I cannot!” she says

Probed further on why she cannot wear them, her eyes light up. In the typical millennial fashion, she rolls her eyes, raises her arms and with nonchalance: “Imagine I cannot wear them. We ladies are suffering. Even if you wear it, a cloth has not been worn if people haven’t seen it.”

Daisy Chelagat, corporate communications analyst

“My sister and I wear our (best) clothes once in a while to remind them of our unchanging love for them,” she jokes.

She hesitates for a second then adds, “I know my clothes miss me. Of course they do.”

She then goes on to narrate a recent occurrence when she nearly went to town in “croc” sandals and nearly had a fight with her sister who felt town was “too sacred” for such a desecrating act.

They eventually made up, and Daisy changed into one of her neglected attires, and off to town they went. For Daisy, the coronavirus pandemic has made her more liberated dress-wise and more confident that she no longer dreads the looks of disapproval from strangers in the streets, whichever way she is dressed.

Steve Abonyo, data analyst

Not being required to wear official wear on a regular basis is a relief for Steve.

“This working-from-home thing is a miracle. As long as I have a pair of sweatpants and T-shirts, everything just flows. No wearing of official khakis, long-sleeved shirts and clutching belts,” he says.

With a smile, he explains that the new world order means less clothes to be washed over the weekend.

Ms Anne Ouko Onyango, a stylist and wardrobe stylist based in Nairobi, recently spoke with Nation’sMargaret Muthee on how to look the part in an online meeting. Her tips included:

1. Don’t dress down

“Dress as appropriately as you would if you were in the office. You should be professionally dressed if you work in an organisation that requires that and vice versa. Do not be tempted to dress down in your pyjamas and T-shirts,” said Ms Onyango, the founder of Anne De Brand.

2. Dress as per your work

“Depending on your industry, choose what is appropriate. If you work in a more relaxed environment you can wear casual attire like a shirt, a sweater and some khaki or jeans provided you look good and presentable,” Ms Onyango advised.

3. Some patterns don’t work well with cameras

“Stripes and checks are not camera-friendly. They appear distorted and blurry to the camera and are also highly destructive and dizzying to the viewer,” said Ms Onyango, adding that neutral colours work best.


4. Don’t push make-up boundaries

Ms Onyango said teleconferences put a focus on one’s face and as such, grooming should be given serious consideration.

“Wear the same kind of make-up you’d be careful wearing in the office. Colourful lipsticks and eye shadows should however be avoided,” she said.

5. Face exposure is of the essence

“Do not wear hairstyles that cover your face and eyes. Ladies should go for an up-do or pullback hairstyle,” Ms Onyango advised.

How to take care of clothes you are not wearing for a long time

It is not uncommon to hear people say they have “outgrown” the clothes they used to wear with so much ease before they were forced to limit their movements due to Covid-19.

There are various time-tested ways of ensuring clothes are in good condition even when not being worn for some time. We picked the following from a blog on lifestorage.com, a company that deals with acquiring and managing self-storage properties in the US.

1. Store them away from light

The ideal storage place for clothes should not be on the way of any ultraviolet light sources like sunlight or bright bulbs.

“If your storage spot has light coming in, opt to use opaque storage containers instead of transparent ones,” says the blog.

It adds that the storage area should also be as close to the ground as possible because elevated areas witness temperature fluctuations that can weaken the cloth fibres.

2. Avoid airtight containers

If you are going to abandon your clothes for very long periods, do not leave them in an airtight container. This can work for storage of clothes over short periods, the blog notes.

“Textiles need circulating air for longevity. This is why air quality in the storage area is so important for clothing because any smell or dampness will be absorbed,” the blog says, adding that the storage area should also be acid-free.

3. Keep moths at bay

An August 2019 article on theguardian.com shares tips on how to keep moths away from your clothes. One way is by using cedar, either in the form of wood or oil extracted from the tree. “The moths won’t go near it,” vintage clothing expert Amy Winston-Hart told The Guardian.

Lifestorage.com adds: “Cedar is a healthier way to deter moths than the use of mothballs. Plus, cedar won’t leave your clothes with an undesirable smell.”

4. Avoid metallic hangers

The blog advises that metallic hangers can damage your clothes if the storage will last for long. “Ideally, choose padded, plastic or wooden hangers for hanging storage,” it says.

5. Store them while clean

Storing clothes while clean will rid them of substances that might cause degradation of the material.

“Wash your garment according to the guidelines on the label even if the item looks clean,” says lifestorage.com.

How to take care of those shoes that think you’re dead

There is the all-too-common risk of shrinkage if your shoes stay unworn for long, but the good news is that you can apply a few tricks to ensure they will be comfortable when you wear them again. We picked these from lifestorage.com.

1. Be careful how you store them. “Carefully place your shoes into storage anytime you take them off. Throwing shoes in a pile on the floor will cause them to lose shape,” says the blog.

2. Use stiff materials to keep shoes in shape.In case you are storing them for long, use wooden shoe horns. Kenyans can buy these from a number of online stores.

“Shoes that will be off your feet for a week or more need structure, and wooden shoehorns and stretchers are an elegant option for helping shoes keep their shape,” says lifestorage.com.

Alternatively, a person can use acid-free material to stuff the shoes.

3. Use silica gel on light shoes to rid them of dampness that might ruin their lining.

4. Store shoes at a place immune from sharp temperature fluctuations.

5. Clean the shoes before storing them.

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