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STYLE: All Dressed up With Nowhere To Go

Written by Delaney Willet

Elissa Williams Santa Barbara
Photo by Meadow Rose

It is safe to assume that we have all had that lurking feeling of guilt throughout this quarantine: you look longingly into your closet, at the myriad outfits you haven’t been able to wear in a month, and know that it is due for a thorough spring cleaning. You then glance back at your three-day old sweatpants and tattered college t-shirt and decide to watch another season of The Hills reruns. And that is completely fine! Your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbor are probably living out different versions of this same cycle as well. But, if you would like to emerge from quarantine more refreshed than you entered it (or at least a tick more stylish), we have all the motivation you will need from Santa Barbara-based stylist Elissa Williams.

Williams is the founder of the Virtual Closet Concierge, an online service where she “creates outfits for women based on their next-level self from clothes already in their closet.” Elissa conducts her sartorial magic remotely, which can be especially helpful under these social distancing circumstances.

That spring cleaning that was never completed a year ago because life got in the way? There has seldom been a better time to follow through with it than within self-isolation. Williams recommends that amidst a closet overhaul, “you can do a virtual try-on party with a friend. Get Zoom or Facetime up and start making outfits from the clothes you have in your closet to bring some freshness in.” Though a complete closet clean-out can be overwhelming—especially when layered atop the stress that has already mounted around the world—Elissa promises the exercise can be therapeutic when done right. She suggests, “Have an inspiration board of styles that inspire you. That’s your gold standard. Pick out your five favorite things, get rid of the things that don’t make you feel good. It’s ok to be ruthless in what you’re getting rid of. At a time like this, you can donate things, you can sell them, you can do an exchange.” Giving back and getting our lives together at the same time? Okay, maybe we will lean into quarantine.

Although what we put on in the morning to wander through our homes is the last thing on our minds these days, it may be beneficial to our mental health if daily outfits once again became something to be considered. Williams explains the concept of enclothed cognition, “The idea that when you put something on that you feel good in, it can change your whole disposition.” Elissa offers, “When we’re all stuck in quarantine and we still need to get work done or feel good, we have the power to do that with our own closet. This can be something as simple as putting on a bright red lip or something super feminine, or whatever that feeling is that you really want to evoke. You can do that with your clothes every day.”

If a pick-me-up in the form of a fun jumpsuit or a tutu your co-workers cannot see over Zoom is not enough incentive to wake up and play around in your closet, the sheer entertainment encapsulated within the creativity fostered through keeping up your personal style may be. “I’m so social. I’m working from home all the time now. No coffee shops, nothing,” remarks Williams. “Style has been a way to feel good every day and feel motivated. That’s been something that has been really helpful for me is to create beauty in spite of any circumstance and to use clothes as a catalyst for creativity. I don’t care, I get on Zoom with a bright red lip and everyone else is in pajamas, but I feel my best.” It may take thirty seconds or thirty minutes—keeping up appearances amidst a global crisis has nothing to do with vanity, but everything to do with the maintenance of one’s personhood and sanity.

Fashion in this trying period, and throughout any of life’s hardships, should act as a personal outlet rather than an inhibition. Even in the case of style-maven Williams, clothing morphed from something difficult to navigate into. “It’s such a helpful tool to dress for the body that I have and not for a body that is someone else’s. I have had weight gain and weight loss due to health issues, so fashion is the avenue through which I’ve learned to love my body in all seasons.”

In this season particularly, and under the “safe at home” order, Williams recommends a few comfortable but classy pieces that can seamlessly make one feel human again. “I would recommend a nice silk jogger or feminine, breathable dresses. I also love to mix in metallics, especially to bring a little edge to your quarantine, or any bright accessory that makes you feel like you.” In the comfort of your own home, what better time is there to get experimental with your appearance? “I just wear my normal wardrobe in the house—skirts, whatever, I don’t care. What’s today, Saturday? I’m in a sweatshirt and metallic silver shorts because I still want to feel like myself and edgy and fun.”

Finding ourselves at a global impasse, it is important to locate the simple things in our worlds that make us the happiest. “There is a lot of uncertainty in the world but that does not mean that you still can’t be one hundred percent yourself,” Williams concludes. “The question I am constantly asking is ‘How can we love ourselves more?’ Fashion is just a way we can love ourselves under any circumstance.”


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