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rebecca bergen

Covid-19: Social Exile in Style

This is the fifth of an essay series that will be published as long as social distancing is necessary. All pieces are written by Litchfield County residents. If you are interested in submitting an essay for consideration please email us at [email protected].

By Rebecca Bergen of Washington

Social distancing doesn’t mean style exile. Many moons ago, I started a fashion blog to document what I wore. As social media became less amusing to me, I stopped posting but kept dressing.  Now the stay home movement has spurred me to startup again  Home is where the heart is, and my heart loves fashion. A photo diary of daily outfits and inspirations based on my passion for designer vintage pieces and art museum treasures, FashionSheSaysAgain was rebooted from its FashionSheSays origins. Born and bred in New York City (Upper East Side), my parents have owned a house in Washington for 30 years, and I’ve been coming here all my life. Now that I’m here for the foreseeable future, I ask myself: can a city girl hack it full time in the country? Time will tell.

I’m social distancing like a modern Victorian heroine: Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart in The House of Mirth meets Henry James’ Daisy Miller (except with a happier ending—I’m no fragile flower). This entails putting on pretty dresses, walking outside on our property, writing letters (or texts) to faraway friends, and picking up new hobbies (like coloring books and possibly needlepoint—my grandmother left several unfinished tapestries). 

Socialite Nan Kempner proclaimed: “The best part of a party is getting dressed to go.”  This was always my mantra, but especially these days, when even a party of one can benefit from sartorial splendor— when in doubt, overdress  Dressing for success nowadays means stopping a social distance spiral down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland.  Trying to stay sanely stylish all the time in these trying times is impossible… Some days, I feel overwhelmed by current circumstances and stand in my closet, staring—it’s not that I have nothing to wear, but I literally cannot choose which clothes to put on. There are days when I can’t stop re-reading the same sentence in beloved books. At the moment, my mind can’t compute a new story, so it’s just as well I have old friends to turn to for comfort (Edith Wharton, Henry James, Jane Austen). On those days, I curl up in a cozy corner dressed in a fancy nightie with a favorite novel and re-discover stories of faraway places for pages on end until the mad world feelings flutter into friendly fairy fire.

As a single girl, social distancing certainly presents a dating conundrum. Luckily, I’m old-fashioned and enjoy talking on the phone. Previously, I’d screen potential beaus with a pre-meeting phone call to confirm the gentleman could string together a sentence. Now that FaceTime has preempted face-to-face dates, it’s another step until the day we finally meet. E.M. Forester implored: “Only connect!” in Howard’s End, hauntingly foretelling our precarious present. Isn’t it ironic that the technology distancing us from each other in the not so distant past is what’s helping hold us together now?

Rebecca. Bergen

Because staying in is the new going out, I’m dressing up and feeling inspired in beautiful clothes. I have a photographic memory for what I wore and when. Proust used madeleines throughout In Search of Lost Time to remember his past; I use clothes to remember mine. Are these times we want to remember?  Yes, because they make us who we will be tomorrow.  If today, all I did was hold myself together with a bit of frippery, I feel proud.  I dress, therefore I am.  I’m still here, and the clothes in the closet are my mark on the world. Emerson philosophized: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  I trust there are still beautiful days ahead—this intermission will end, and the magic will carry on.

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