Fashion magazines are best read in a language you don't understand – Laura Waddell

Am I finally shedding my pandemic shell?

Fashion magazines are not for everyone (Picture: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)
Fashion magazines are not for everyone (Picture: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

The closed shutters added much to the sense of disruption and doom at the time, but a while has now passed since hairdressers and barbers first re-opened after lockdown. I imagine on opening day they were besieged by talking fringes, those unable to get their hands on hair-cutting scissors (at one point, like many personal care items, they were sold out everywhere online), desperate for assistance in shedding reams of vision-restricting overgrowth.

As the wait for personal grooming services stretched on beyond the point of simply styling it out, the disruption to haircare, depending on disposition, was as frustrating as it could be liberating. And although, through those strange months, my own hair left to its own devices grew so long and wavy I sometimes felt I might drown in it, the apocalyptic feeling in the air translated, on my social media streams, into a lot of homemade bleach jobs and ‘f*** it’ buzz cuts.

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For me, it was a Covid spring of DIY dyeing pastel streaks in my hair. With nothing to do on those unseasonably hot, unsettlingly silent days as one week of national lockdown stretched into many, the project was welcome distraction. The first step was the pleasure of poring intently over colour charts of pinks and purples before settling on a variant of peach.

With nowhere to go but one permitted trot around the block, I put on a silver-coloured dress and took photographs of my new hair contrasted against it. It sounds a little bleak in the retelling, but it’s a happy memory – in a dark time, a welcome wisp of colour. After that last-ditch grasp at zest, I gave up trying.

One benefit of a recent home reorganisation is that I keep unearthing things I had forgotten I owned. Digging through the layers of assorted clutter, I find hints of former lives. Watches that need new batteries. Eye shadow palettes I forgot I had purchased, trying to liven up dutiful work trips via duty free. Trying things on again feels like play; a way to try out my post-pandemic social face, made up of the rearranged bits and pieces of who I was before. This is the joy of transformation.

However, it has taken longer than I anticipated to slough off the post-lockdown fashion lethargy. Covid fashion is a lot like depression fashion. The ‘what’s the point?’ sweatpants and hoodies. The grudging one-step-up of elasticated waistbands. Why ever again be swaddled in anything other than soft, fleece-lined fabric? It’s only now, over a year since bars and restaurants have re-opened and a regular social life is back on the agenda, that I actually feel like going out in the evenings, and dressing for enjoyment once again.

While always drawn to a bold look I am not, by any means, a follower of the world of fashion. Feeling a desire to look at beautiful, frivolous objects I by no means can afford to buy, I bought a magazine for a couple of quid.

It reminded me why I don’t warm to much fashion writing. You know the kind I mean: a patronising, hectoring tone. The handing down of this rule and that for the season ahead, as though all the readers were nodding dogs awaiting instruction. The implication there is only one correct way to do things, whether it be wearing a scarf in June or anything else.

To avoid feeling like I am in an all girls’ school being pulled up by snobby prefects for the length of my socks, I have resolved to only buy fashion magazines in languages I can’t read.

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