By Devon Capizzi
Devon Capizzi is a writer, editor, and creative thought partner currently based in Boston, MA. Devon is interested in how we tell stories--in literature, in film, on social media, and in our daily lives. Devon is a new contributing writer to Kirrin Finch and we are excited to share their first post which touches on many of the challenges and feelings we are all having about being stuck at home during the pandemic and wearing the same clothes day in and day out.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been deeply connected to my wardrobe. When I was really little, four or five years old, I would dress myself five times over in a day. Each outfit struck a different mood, or even a kind of character. I’d wear baggy cargo shorts and T-shirts (I was equally obsessed with the boys of Boy Meets World). Or, I’d pull on a polo and a sweater, pretending to look like Christopher Robin, dapper and vaguely “British.”
In my clothing, I earned the tomboy moniker I received from friends and family. I was totally disinterested in the dresses my mom made me wear to formal occasions. I longed for the suits my brothers wore, their sharp oxford brogues, and their thick crewneck sweaters. My heroes were less Barbie, more Benny from The Sandlot.
^ first flannel, I think I’m about 3 years old here
Decades later, not much has changed. I am still that five-year-old kid, digging through my closet, thinking about who I want to be each morning. Except now, instead of searching for distant characters and boys I used to idolize, I am often only looking for myself. What feels like me? Should I go striped or plaid today? Blundstones or Sambas? Blazer or will the quilted flannel suffice?
^ 25 years old at our favorite spot in Downtown Boston
Recently, however, my relationship to clothing has shifted. With the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent shutdowns, I spend most of my days in the same room. My “office” is also our bedroom, and so I wake up in this room, I work in this room, and at the end of long, meandering days, I go to sleep in this room, too. I spent the majority of 2020 in old T-shirts and hoodies, worn over the same, tired pair of athletic shorts my partner and I have since dubbed my “quarantine shorts.”
^ my co-worker, Pepper
Comfort aside, this routine was unsustainable. By September, six months into stay-at-home orders, I felt increasingly like I was losing myself. For many reasons, of course, I felt disconnected from my pre-pandemic life. The staples of our life had all but evaporated. But, the feelings I had towards my body hadn’t been there since high school, those strange adolescent years where I had felt pressured into putting my masculinity on hold for the sake of prom dresses and dates and looking like a “normal” teenage girl.
Growing up, my “boyishness” always seemed to come with a timestamp, as if puberty would wipe clean my preferred androgyny. In reality, my obsession with the masculine has been the most constant security of my life. A grounding force, reminding me time and again who I am. I may have found myself through characters, through watching other boys, but I have sustained myself through my clothing, my own presentation.
In quarantine, this part of my life has been diminished alongside all the other parts of my life. What’s the point of getting dressed, if I can’t leave the house? In retrospect, that’s kind of like saying, “What’s the point of taking a shower, if I’m just going to get dirty again?” The point of getting dressed. That’s a loaded question for many.
What’s the point of getting dressed, if I can’t leave the house? In retrospect, that’s kind of like saying, “What’s the point of taking a shower, if I’m just going to get dirty again?”
The point, maybe, is that just as clothing can shame us—the hot pink prom dress I wore my senior year of high school—it can also set us free—the first suit I ever wore, to my cousin’s wedding and against my family’s wishes, pieced together thrift-fully from various retailers and local Goodwill’s.
Amid the mayhem of 2020, my partner and I got married, a very different wedding from the one I went to five plus years ago now. A quarantine wedding with only me, my partner, and two close friends, one of whom had gotten ordained online for the occasion. Without the traditional fanfare, dressing up was one of the main ways we made the day feel special, and I took it on to piece together a more sophisticated suit.
For the first time in months, I considered the act of getting dressed not as some perfunctory part of daily life--get up, pull the hoodie on, grab some breakfast--but rather as an opportunity to express myself, to look the way I felt. I delighted in online shopping, and I mulled over my look for weeks before making a final decision: black pants, navy button down, sharp brogues, and the Kirrin Finch Brown Tweed Blazer.
^ about a minute pre-vows
The blazer in and of itself is a kind of beacon of masculinity. When mine arrived, I ripped the packaging open like a kid on Christmas morning. When I pulled it on, an entirely new feeling: the sleeves fit. They were the perfect length. After years of wearing strictly men’s clothing, I was used to sleeves falling well past my wrists. An awkward look, more like a kid playing dress up than a fully grown person. The boy in “tomboy.” With this blazer, the sleeves fell a sensible touch above my wrists, allowing just a small sliver of my shirt sleeve to show at the bottom. It felt like it was made to fit me.
It was a small moment, but it was important to me. After months of feeling at odds with myself, I liked the way I looked. I had found something that fit my body and my gender, and it was a relief to come back to that feeling. Despite my lifelong experimentation with clothing, I hadn’t fully recognized how tightly bound my wardrobe was, and is, to my sense of self and self-confidence.
Getting dressed has now become a kind of balm for at-home anxieties and body dysphoria. Writing this now, I feel at home in a long-sleeve men’s button down, black jeans, boots, and my favorite baseball cap. I am alone at my desk. I have no Zoom meetings today. I will not see anyone but my wife and our cat, but in this small act, I find something we could all use this year and next: I feel calm, and I feel like myself again.
^ very sleepy in the before times, getting breakfast in my beloved Carhartt