For over fifty years, we have been conditioned to treat our bodies as canvases for a revolving display of mass-marketed clothing. We purchased clothes for leisure, but mostly, we purchased them for work, to look "sharp" and comply with corporate policies and expectations. Then the world changed. Many of us are home, with an opportunity to re-evaluate how we experience comfort and movement.
This isn't to say that marketers are giving up. Facebook's algorithm - which is always aware of what we are up to - is flooding our feeds with ads for leggings, robes, overalls and jumpsuits. Jumpsuits? Nope. I have no intent on playing Rosie the Riveter and I refuse to undress completely for every bathroom break - even at home.
If anything, I just wish I could find a vintage French Work Blue, in my size.
Originating in the mid-19th century, the Work Blue - “Bleu de Travail” - is a two-piece twill cotton suit designed for comfort. The coat hangs straight from the shoulders. The ample, straight-leg pants tie with a drawstring. Devoid of the hefty seams, belt loops and hardware of American denim, the Work Blue lets the body move with ease. Given time, the fabric softens to the consistency of pajamas.
Authentic Work Blues are extremely hard to find. With the loss of manufacturing jobs starting in the mid-70’s, the Work Blue was replaced by disposable clothing and polyester blend uniforms. It's possible to find an original jackets on Etsy and eBay but the pants have vanished. Only one manufacturer, Le Mont St Michel, still makes Work Blues, but the jacket, available in red, yellow, pink or blue are luxury products that don't have much to do with the original garment.
Dickies isn’t a cool but I have come to love their practical, roomy, all-weather workwear. I also like that they still produce 100% cotton garments, including hard-to-find twill pants without the spandex that make fabric hot and sometimes itchy. The thing is: I am tired of the snug-fitting tees and leggings. I want my day clothes to be different from my night clothes and I want a layer of air between me and fabric. I am caring less about I look and much more about how I feel. From the posts and articles I have read, I am not alone. A tiny silver lining of pandemic isolation is that we get to rewrite the dress code.
This freedom is likely temporary. Soon enough, the isolation will fade and we will be returning to social norms that will require more conformity. I will miss being my own person but I am also o.k. with some of the trade offs necessary for a return to normal. I am also interested in seeing how much we have changed and how.
The isolation has given us the opportunity to look at many parts of our lives that we had taken for granted but it has also pulled us apart in more ways than we imagined could be possible. Some changes have been good. Others not so much. I think I am not alone in saying that I am looking forward to a time when we can all be together again.