Who’s buying clothes now anyway?


I miss retail style! I miss shopping in person! These two stunning oversized pillows are on a bench in the Brown’s shoe store in Montreal.


By Caitlin Kelly

A recent story in The New York Times magazine asks if we’ll ever go back to buying fashion. With a global pandemic forcing us all (OK, those unselfish enough to stay out of crowded places full of other people) to stay home and work at home and look decent from the waist up for Zoom meetings, why on earth would anyone put on proper clothes not made of loose cotton or spandex?

Who’s even wearing a bra these days?

No high heels.

No pocket squares.

No suits.

No style?

Here’s a brand making clothes for people with no need to dress to impress:

On an average day, the brand — still in its nascent stage — sells 46 sweats. That day they sold more than 1,000. When they ran out of sweatsuits, shoppers moved through the T-shirts, socks and underwear. By month’s end, the brand’s sales were up 662 percent over March the previous year.

The day we met, April 24, was the highest-grossing day in the company’s history. A new shipment came in that morning and promptly sold out again. Entireworld had now grossed more in two months than in its entire first year in business.


Since early March, I’ve bought:




— a pair of pale pink Birkenstocks and two other pairs of shoes

— five simple cotton T-shirts

— four bras and seven pairs of panties (most on sale)

— one vaguely dressy shirt

— a long navy blue shift dress (on sale!)

— a bathing suit (on sale)

— two scarves (my weakness!)


I actually bought everything but the underwear and bathing suit in a store, while masked, moving quickly, and with very few other shoppers in the store.

Like many others, I soon weary of online shopping.

From the Times story, and designer Marc Jacobs:


When asked about online shopping, Jacobs told Business of Fashion: “I love to go to a shop. I like to see everything. I like to touch it. I like to try it on. I like to have a coffee. I like to have a bottle of water. I like to get dressed up.” He raised his eyebrows for emphasis. “But ordering online, in a pair of grubby sweats, is not my idea of living life.”


Team Jacobs!

I’ve never been a big shopper but I miss the hunt, especially browsing through small/indie shops, the kind that line some streets in lower Manhattan.

I love to chat with the store staff, often the owner, enjoying their taste and editing.

Or did.

So many small businesses are going to die, or already have, so who knows who will make the cut?

Big/chain stores just exhaust me — too much merch, often badly made, standing in line (!) to pay. Not fun.

I also enjoy consignment and thrift shops, but in those places I really want to see and touch the quality.

I follow a few very well-dressed men on Instagram and really savor their sartorial choices.

I’ve always loved elegance and style: a well-cut piece of clothing, a gorgeous print, an interesting color. I lived for many years in Toronto, Montreal, Paris, cities with plenty of style, and pre-pandemic, was in Manhattan usually once a week —  and haven’t been there in seven months.

I really miss seeing other people well-dressed as well, gaining pleasure and inspiration from their choices — the suburbs offer very few of these, like the 50-ish woman I saw  recently wearing a white linen dress and carrying a brightly colored woven ethnic bag. That was a treat!



I love the colors in this


So when I recently met a pal for coffee I made sure to wear some pretty clothes and the drop earrings Jose bought me in Santa Fe, coral and silver, and my yellow sandals and the brightly colored embroidered bag a friend brought me from Mexico.

It’s just too sad and too grim to never celebrate beauty!

With nowhere to go now, have you given up on fashion and new clothes?




19 thoughts on “Who’s buying clothes now anyway?

  1. Jan Jasper

    I already had way too many clothes, overflowing my two closets. Now with the pandemic, I’ve given into sloth for the most part. For the past several years I have bought clothes mostly via mail order. It has worked out surprisingly well. I picked a few online retailers who consistently offered good quality and I ordered tons from them – Coldwater Creek, the Sundance Catalog, Peruvian Collection, and Soft Surroundings. But I just can’t justify buying clothes anymore. I feel bad for these retailers and their employees.
    By the way Caitlin I love those pale pink Birkenstocks you bought!

    1. Peruvian Connection always had beautiful things and I was tempted but never bought. I like the Sundance catalog but have to be cautious I don’t look silly going full-on Colorado in NY.

      I saw the Birks on the Anthropologie site — and thanks to a sudden and unexpected windfall could afford to splurge. Thanks!

      1. Jan Jasper

        Your “full on Colorado” comment gave me a chuckle. I don’t care for that look at all. Sundance also has pretty dresses, feminine without being frilly – really pretty and unusual fabrics. That’s what I’ve bought from them.
        I also like vintage stores, though in recent years I never seem to find my size. They’re still good for accessories, though. Like many of you, I am concerned about how those stores will survive. I’d much rather spend my dollars there than in a chain store.
        One of the main things I loved about NYC, when I used to live there, then visiting after I moved away, was the interesting ways so many people dress. Every day was a feast for the eyes. Caitlin, have you ever seen that green woman? Every single thing on her was green – including her hair. I think she was in the NY Times.

  2. Susan Dunphy

    The only clothes I bought this summer were pajamas (since I’m working from home and am generally in my pajamas when I’m doing it) Capri sets, some sweatpants, and a few sweatshirts..

  3. I miss wearing my cute summer outfits so much! I, too, am a thrift store fan and I’m so itching to get out to one of them….but then I realize I have almost nowhere to wear “new to me” clothes anyway. It’s very much a white privilege problem, but still it really bums me out!

  4. I so understand this. it’s been such a paradigm shift in so many areas, clothes-buying included. I’ve bought a few things, but did not buy anything dressy, as the 2 social weddings I was due to attend were rescheduled. I’ve bought good shoes for walking, as I’m spending more time out in nature these days, 2 pairs of classic walking shorts, and a few elbow length shirts that are a little nicer than a t-shirt, but still relaxed. I also bought a light and airy white scarf with black print, just because. when september comes, I may or may not be teaching at school, and with either location, home or school, it will be a very casual clothing kind of year.

    1. It’s really hitting retail hard — and this is why. For most of us now, there’s simply no need for more formal clothing or footwear. The rich keep buying luxury but the rest of us…

  5. I’ve worn a lot of uniforms and when I didn’t, wore a very tailored look with high heels. Those days are gone. Working in the north, I dress for warmth (although I have a beautiful handmade parka that falls below the knee – no snow pants!) and high heels and tailored suits are completely out of place. I can indulge my love of make-up though. I’m a bit sybaritic that way and love a good spa day. Sigh.

    1. ooooh, a spa day! The best! I would love to get a massage and am going to see if I can find someone who does out-calls and would do it on our balcony. I don’t want one in any small indoor space.

  6. We’re getting ready for a move that will downsize us from house to apartment so I’m really streamlining my closets. As a home-based freelancer for seven years now I find that all my old ‘business’ clothes are out of date anyway. Love the odd new thing but am going for what feels good more than anything else. And I love clothes that can cross over from lounge-around to city smart with little effort.

  7. Took my mom out to buy shoes yesterday at a small, local shoe store. She was thrilled to find two pair that still managed to stretch around her misshapen arthritic feet. I don’t know who was more excited about the sale..my mom or the elderly saleswoman. I know we could have found her shoes online, but shopping locally has become nothing short of a mission for me. FINALLY there’s something I can do to help us recover!!!

    1. For sure.

      I really miss the social aspect of shopping — especially any indie place you know needs your business and not some BIG corporate entity that wouldn’t notice your absence and never has enough staff (looking at you, Anthropologie.)

      Just sitting at home 24/7 is very bad for the mental health as well.

  8. At home, I’ve been living in yoga leggings. I have daily video meetings and calls for work, but no one can see what I’m wearing from the shoulders down, so leggings it is!

    I’m being very careful about what I spend, so I’m not buying many new clothes at the moment. But I did score a lovely new winter coat from Jigsaw (British brand — not sure if you have them in the US?) which was reduced to £160 (around $200) from £270/$350. And it was the last one in my size. A satisfying purchase!

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