From Pandemic to Protest: What We’re Wearing Right Now

Sonoma County stylist Malia Anderson shares tips on how to transcend the "athleisure" wear of COVID-19 and talks about how the protests are influencing fashion.

At a time when our minds are on the pandemic and the economy, racism and marching in the streets, it’s hard to think about fashion and style. Yet we still have to get dressed every day—even if that means skipping the bra—and our current outfits are making many of us feel less than dazzling. Sonoma County stylist Malia Anderson shares tips on how to transcend the “athleisure” wear of COVID-19, gives us her fashion forecast and talks about how the protests are influencing style.

As shelter in place directives have delivered another blow to already-ailing brick-and-mortar retail, Anderson has had to pivot her personal styling business to focus on dressing clients for virtual meetings and days spent at home.

“I’m building outfits from the waist up,” Anderson says, describing how she now preps her clients for their Zoom meetings. Jewelry and pretty tops are the focus. “(Onscreen) you can’t hide. In the conference room, you can schlep in and hide in the corner,” she adds. The personal stylist has also been shopping for leggings, sweatshirts and t-shirts for her clients, and for herself, to have more everyday options.

To combat drab stay-at-home style, Anderson will dress in work clothes just to feel good and then head out to the grocery store. She’s turning to jewelry to add style: ”There’s nothing wrong with a good pair of earrings.” As for really dressing up, she says that, until weddings, parties and events resume, it will be mostly casual wear for everyone.

Anderson believes style is a form of empowerment and she works hard to get clients out of a fashion rut. Despite there being no reason to dress up at the moment, she thinks now is a good time to re-evaluate personal style.

“You know what you don’t want,” she says. “So many people are purging their closets. We can put back in what we do want. Love it or hate it, everything’s going to be on sale for the rest of the year.”

On the topic of fashion as empowerment, Anderson adds that “the revolution (challenging racism) will have a uniform,” and she mentions work boots, dark clothing and protective wear as examples. “It’s an old uniform,” she says. Layered masks, of course, are an addition courtesy of the coronavirus.

Anderson believes the revolutionary spirit will endure and will be expressed in clothing with a more militant look. Statement tees will be very popular, she says. She also predicts that there will be more people who “shop black and indigenous (businesses),” making spending more of a political statement. “There are retailers that made (positive) statements (about Black Lives Matter) that didn’t have to,” she says and adds that she will be frequenting these businesses.

She cautions, however, against dressing or protesting in a way that appropriates culture. “It’s one thing to be an ally and a partner. It’s another thing to be a trend.”

Anderson believes protests will continue and soon be “taken indoors to the legislature.” As people stump for candidates at the state and local level, she says, “you’ll still see the revolutionary fashion, slightly polished or dressed up.”

Anderson likes to style statement tees with blazer and heels—but she also likes to dress her advocacy in a less literal way. “If I’m dressed from head to toe in yellow, you can’t ignore me,” she says. Even outside of a climate of pandemic and protest, Anderson offers similar advice to her clients.

“When people see you, they will listen to you. They will hear you.”,