It was Memorial Day weekend, and Kristi Carlson-Goering needed new clothes. She works in IT at Wichita State University in Kansas, and the office was about to reopen. So I went to the store, took a pair of pants, and headed to the dressing room.
“I picked a size up that I thought I usually wore, and even it was a little too tight,” she said. “And it was a little frustrating at first.”
Like many people, Carlson-Goering has gained weight during the pandemic — and his presence in that locker room has stirred up some feelings.
“It’s just, whatever peer pressure you have that you have to be a certain size, you know, to really be accepted,” she said.
Then she went to another store, where the salesperson brought her things and made sure to tell her: Don’t look at the label.
“It was like, ‘Okay, try this stuff. Yes, they might be that big, but we were told they fit a little bit, you know, or they fit a little tight,” said Carlson Goering.
“So I tried a wide range of sizes, and I didn’t feel bad,” she said. “And I think it was because that assistant in that store made me feel like it didn’t matter what size, it was what looked good. And what felt good.”
It turns out that what I felt satisfied was different than before. First of all, it was comfortable. She used to wear leggings and baggy shirts while working from home.
“I felt better, I was more relaxed. I didn’t feel nervous,” she said. “I guess you don’t realize how tight clothes are, how uncomfortable it really is.”
Clothing sales have increased recently. But this is not the full picture. The type of clothing that many people want to buy and wear has changed due to the pandemic.
In that moment in the store, Karlson-Göring decided to shrug off the judicial thoughts that kept popping up in her head about her size or whether that shiny gold blouse or those Converse shoes were age appropriate.
“Because yeah, I’m 56, but, you know, I can dress that way if I want to,” she said. “It’s convenient, and I don’t care what other people think.”
She said the pandemic was a wake-up call, and a reminder that “life really is precious”. “Do what you want to do, wear what you want to wear, and be comfortable with who you are.”
The long periods of isolation over the past year have given many people time to discover and explore.
Ruggiani’s departure recalls a moment last year: “I remember going to a very open patio last summer for my birthday and wearing this long black and white skirt for the first time I’ve had it for about two years but not really worn yet.”
Rugiani is a type of sexual gonorrhea, and for a long time was mostly worn in clothes generally seen as masculine, such as cardigans and long pants.
But during the pandemic, they had time to think about what they wanted to wear, and what they felt was okay.
So that day in the courtyard, at first, Ruggiani was worried that she would be judged.
“It took the process of being in public to be, like, this really magical moment after I let off some layers of unease to be like, ‘Oh my God, this feels so liberating. I can do this all the time. What would it be like to be free?'”
This question seems more urgent now.
Ruggiani is a resident at a general hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“I think COVID, and especially for me, being on the front lines, really shined a spotlight on our community, you know, that’s kind of like, how do we want to live?” They said.
For Ruggiani, in the context of clothing, this means discovering a new style. Since that day in the yard, they have gone to buy second-hand and get some from their partners, like a mustard yellow jumpsuit and an ankle-length maroon skirt, both loose and flowing.
Because the other thing Ruggiani realized after last year was that they wanted to be comfortable.