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Fashion in the Times of COVID-19

May 29, 2020

As the global economy comes to terms with the corona virus
outbreak, ‘social distancing’ has become a buzzword of these crazy times.

Everywhere whether in the media, neighbors, friends,
strangers everyone is quick to prescribe social distancing – deliberately
increasing the physical space between people – is the best way citizens can
help to ‘flatten the curve’ and keep the virus away at arm’s length.

Fashion and social
distancing are not the things one would like to connect in these trying times.
But if we were to check on the histories associated with fashion in the earlier
eras, one can see an interesting relationship between social distancing and
fashion, whether it emerged due to some public health issues or was the result
of societal norms.

Fashion
can play an important role in the project of social distancing, irrespective of
the fact that the distancing created helps to halt the crazy speed of the pandemic.

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Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Clothing has long evolved as a functional mode to diminish
close contact and prevent undue attention. In this current crisis, face masks
have become a fashion accessory that signals, ‘keep safe distance please’. Just
check Amazon to see the variety of face masks on offer with different cuts and
styles and colors.

Looking back at history, keeping safe distance – especially
between genders, races and classes – was a vital characteristic of social
gatherings and public life. Social distancing in that era was more about
etiquette and sophistication. Fashion was the perfect solution.

Women nonetheless continued to use fashion as a weapon
against unwanted male attention

Face masks have been used both as a fashion statement or a
symbol of anonymity by the ladies in Europe. History tells us about the
popularization of face masks during the Spanish flu – very similar to the ones
we are using today.

I am not sure whether the corona virus will lead to new fashion
styles in the market. However we’ll see the advent and development of novel
forms of protective outerwear, such as the ‘wearable shield’ developed by the
Chinese.

But for now, it seems most likely that we’ll all
just continue wearing t-shirts, shorts, salwar suits, saris, etc.

Author:
Kakoli Biswas, Associate Professor, Textile & Knit Design, School of Fashion Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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