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Anyone else start a garden during the pandemic?

Granted, 2020 was my third year of growing vegetables in our suburban backyard, but like everyone else on my Instagram feed (or so it seemed), my husband and I dove into growing more. Tomatoes and a couple of herb containers were no longer enough. We needed a challenge to keep the anxiety at bay — so now our garden’s doubled in size, with beets, carrots, spinach and strawberries leading the pack and jalapenos, bell peppers, okra and three types of tomatoes following close behind.

What does this have to do with fashion?

Well, fashion has always been a reflection of the times. And while I’m not necessarily in the business of following or promoting trends — I’m a firm believer in wearing whatever makes you feel like YOU — the simpler side of fashion we’ve been seeing is less an arbitrary trend and more a result of what we’ve been through. When our hallways became our runways and our physical worlds grew small and frantic, we turned to comfort and ease. There’s a reason the housedress was the ‘fit of 2020 according to NPR, though I’d bet that T-shirt-and-leggings was the actual winner. And people turned to other comforts too, as the empty shelves of baking supplies at Kroger proved.

It’s not the first time in recent history “a simple life” has influenced pop culture (and I’m not referring to the early aughts’ reality show). Heck, Justin Timberlake built a entire album around it in 2018, with odes to flannel shirts, the routine of farmers’ days and the sensual beauty of Montana. (Not that anything about farming is simple.) But this time feels different. It’s not just a new minimalist movement aimed at people with cash to burn, or a reason for elevated Western wear a la BeyoncĂ©. (P.S. Read her interview with Harpers Bazaar from earlier this month to learn how her IVY PARK x adidas line is an homage to Texas and the overlooked American Black cowboy.) It’s a lifestyle shift. Where do we go in this transitory space between half-hibernation and “the new normal,” after quarantines have made us super-aware of the walls around us?

All outfit photos by Chantal Dominique Photography

To be clear, my thrifted look here is nowhere worthy of the “high fashion” designation, but the term “high-fashion homestead” isn’t so much a literal description as a practice in unexpected contrasts.

Hearing words like “homesteading” may call to mind another generation, one found in the barely-in-focus black-and-white snapshots of someone’s great-grandma, face suntanned and weary, torso wrapped in a handmade ditzy-floral apron and hands balancing harvested produce from the field. (Bonus points if your vision includes a curious chicken or two at her feet.) Albeit true, that image is limiting. This perception of old-school dependence on the land and one’s own hands hides what’s made homesteading, even the suburban kind, so attractive lately: the independence to create out of chaos, to feel in control of something, anything, if we can.

Who knows? Maybe a new generation of fashion designers will have the pandemic to thank.

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