Outfit Love in the Time of Social Distancing

So… one day earlier this week, I awoke with plans to take photos for a fashion post. “Yah,” I thought, excitedly. “Spring outfits. Let’s figure out what I’d wear if I were going for lunch with a friend. My new Frame straight-leg jeans, and what else?” Oh yes, I was all boundless, creative energy as I bounced into the kitchen to put the kettle on. Then I sat down at the computer with my tea, to read my e-mail. And I happened to stray onto a news site, and my enthusiasm fizzled a little. Really? Pretend outings? What was I doing? Was I thirteen? Sigh. I’m telling you my friends, outfit love in the time of social distancing and a world-wide pandemic is hard to sustain.

Still, I wasn’t helping anyone, not least myself, by getting all down in the mouth. After breakfast, I washed and dried my hair. My hair! Soon we’re going to have to have a conversation about hair. But I’ll think about that later. I put on some make-up, and began to pull pieces out of my newly organized spring closet.

Lunch outfit during social distancing. Max Mara jacket, Vince tee, Frame jeans, Stuart Weitzman loafers.
Off to lunch somewhere lovely, downtown.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click on my link and make a purchase, I will earn a commission.

First, my new Frame Le Sylvie straight-leg jeans. I bought these weeks ago, on my first shopping outing of the season and, as it happened, my last. They are very high-waisted, and very comfortable. They have just a bit of distressing on the hip and around the back pocket. I’d been dreaming of finding a pair of straight-leg jeans all winter, browsing on-line when I was stuck at home with my colds… plural. I was lucky to find these at Nordstrom on my one foray out in public before the Rideau Centre, and the world, shut down.

I know… I’m skewing a bit dramatic today. My apologies.

Anyway back to my fictional outing. I donned my new jeans with my old Stuart Weitzman loafers, my black Vince tee, and this old Max Mara jacket which I wrote about in a post a while ago. I like this outfit, even though it’s not very springy looking. Since I’m wearing gold jewellery, I might throw on my yellow scarf from last year, and, if I owned one, a classic tan trench coat. But I don’t own one, so I’ll settle for my old Michael Kors spring coat. Then I’ll be ready for lunch in a lovely restaurant somewhere downtown. I love being down in the Byward Market area of Ottawa on a sunny spring day.

Maybe I’ll meet my friend Susan at Play Food and Wine; they always do a delicious lunch. We could perhaps stroll through the National Gallery afterward. And as I make my way back to my car, I’ll browse in the small shops along Sussex Street. Then I’ll pick up a take-out cappuccino at Quelque Chose, the little patisserie and coffee shop on George Street that makes macarons. I’ll buy a small box of assorted flavours to take home, for a treat, and to remind me of our trip to Paris in 2015. I’ll sip my coffee, and drive home listening to my audio book in the car, replete with my wonderful afternoon.

Ah. I could see it all so clearly, and felt enormously better.

Lunch outfit during social distancing. Max Mara jacket, Vince tee, Frame jeans, Stuart Weitzman loafers.
I like this outfit, even if it’s not very springy.

Then reality hit hard. Hubby arrived home with the groceries, and somewhere in between sanitizing the doorknobs, and groceries, wiping everything off, and putting things away, I tweaked my back. No more outfits today. I was back in my sweats, on the sofa, with the heat pack on my back, a pillow under my knees, and hoping against hope that things didn’t get as bad as they did when I was at my mum’s in November. I lay there, berating myself: “Get real, Burpee. How silly to be creating fictional outfit scenarios! Grow up, why don’t you.” And I felt pretty glum for the rest of the afternoon.

But that old cliché about a new day dawning must have some truth in it, because the next morning my back was not worse, was in fact quite a bit better, and I felt much more positive. So I made another stab at creating a spring outfit. Maybe something for errand running, a trip to the library, and then a meet-up for coffee at Manotick’s newest coffee bar.

I pulled on my navy and white checked Rag and Bone Simone pants, a white shirt from Lafayette 148, and the navy Moncler knit jacket which I bought on sale a couple of summers ago. I love this outfit. This Lafayette 148 shirt has so much stretch in it that it’s super comfortable. Same with these checked Rag and Bone pants. I wore these a lot on our trip to Croatia last fall. Even Hubby admired this outfit. Casual, but still spiffy.

But you know, if I were meeting friends for real, this outfit would be way too chilly. It is March in Canada, after all. I’d have to swap out the white shirt for my new Vince navy v-neck cashmere sweater, pop a cami on under it, wind my Burberry scarf around my neck, and wear my Moncler spring anorak instead of the light jacket. I like this outfit too. I could even change up the sneakers for my red Earth brand loafers, if I wanted.

In my fictional scenario, once I’m ready, my first stop will be the library. I’ll return my books, and chat for a bit to our very voluble librarian. He’s lovely, but man that guy can talk. Then I’ll pick up my dry cleaning and chat to Hassan who has run the dry cleaning shop since I first moved to Manotick in the eighties. He will ask after Hubby and talk about his grandkids. Then I’ll pop into the liquor store to buy a special bottle of wine for our Easter dinner.

Coffee date outfit during social distancing. Vince sweater, Burberry scarf, Moncler coat, Rag and Bone pants, Stan Smith Adidas.
More suitable for the a coffee meet-up in March weather.

And finally I’ll meet my walking buddies at 692 Coffee Bar on Main Street in the village. I love this little café, which is located where the historic Lindsay and McCaffrey’s General Store used to be. It’s wonderful that the owners have kept the feel of the original store, refinishing the plank floors and even using some of the general store’s old hardwood counters. I remember going in there to buy seed with Hubby; it was still a general store when I first moved to Manotick. So my friends and I will sit by the fire, drink our coffee, maybe have a scone, and catch up on everyone’s travels. And we’ll talk about resuming our weekly walks when the snow melts and the trail dries out. Then it’s hugs all round as we trundle off, having sated our need for gossip, good coffee, and a few laughs.

But of course I wasn’t going out for coffee. Café 692 is closed along with everything else, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. I won’t be able to meet up with my friends for quite some time, although we did have an interesting flurry of 4-way texts the other day, everyone checking up on everyone. Instead, I changed into my jeans, and pulled on my Hunter rubber boots and my fluffy hat. Hubby and I were going for our walk.

Walking outfit during social distancing. Vince sweater, Burberry scarf, Moncler coat, Paige jeans, Hunter boots.
Vince cashmere sweater, Paige high-rise skinny jeans, Burberry scarf, Moncler anorak, Hunter boots

Can I pause here to say a word about Hunter rubber boots? Hubby bought these for me years ago. We’d been looking for fishing boots that would fit me. My feet are narrow, and most rubber boots just slip off my foot. After a few minutes of walking, my feet slide around so much that I end up with my entire sock bunched into the toe of the boot. Not comfortable! But these boots saved my fishing bacon, so to speak. They have a solid construction, good arch support, with a small heel, and my orthotics fit into them perfectly. I can walk all day in these babies. And a few years ago when Hunter boots became fashionable I was amused, and then kind of chuffed. I can even wear them to town. And some days I do.

I highly recommend them if you like to walk in the wet and mud like we do. You can find them here and they’re on sale, too.

Walking outfit during social distancing. Vince sweater, Burberry scarf, Moncler coat, Paige jeans, Hunter boots.
More more suitable outfit for today’s activity.

Yep, this is what I wore for my non-fictional activity yesterday. I was tempted to change up my good coat and scarf for my old Gortex jacket for our tramp across the golf course near us. But there’s nothing wrong with being the best dressed woman on the course, is there? Make that the only woman on the course. Ha.

I love walking in my boots in the spring. I slosh through every puddle in my path. There’s just something so satisfying about being able to do that. Hubby and I are very lucky to be able to get outside, to watch the geese on the river from our front lawn. We even saw a family of otters the other day, popping up at the edge of the ice. Today we will tramp across the golf course, and then onto the farmer’s fields behind. We’re lucky to have lots of open space around us, makes social distancing so much easier.

Walking outfit during social distancing. Vince sweater, Burberry scarf, Moncler coat, Paige jeans, Hunter boots.
Only a few geese on the river this morning.

But unlike Hubby, who would be perfectly happy if he never had to go into the city, I need my town fix. I need to dress up a bit and head into town, see people, chat, meet friends. Just be part of the energy and bustle of the city for a time.

And these days, in my view, even an imaginary outing is better than no outing at all.

I’m amazed at how much better I felt after I wrote about my lovely imaginary afternoon downtown. It reminded me of an old post I wrote a while ago about a fantasy tea party where I invited all my favourite authors. Gad, by the time I was finished writing that I almost felt as if I had experienced it. “Oh, yes, I’ve met P.D. James. Well, Phyllis, actually. She’s lovely. She and Barbara Pym have so much in common, don’t you know. And that Margaret Drabble, who knew she was so funny. And not intimidating at all.” Seriously, I feel as if I’ve met them all.

So, next week, I’m off to take fictional high tea at Zoe’s in the Chateau Laurier Hotel, here in Ottawa. They do a lovely afternoon tea. And one of my former students works there as a waiter. The last time he served me and my friend Susan, who also taught him, he took very good care of us. The Chateau Laurier is located just a hop, skip, and a jump from Parliament Hill, and the National Gallery, and across the street from the Rideau Centre. Lots of scope for pre or post tea activity.

And if you’d like to join me, you’d be most welcome. Just let me know via e-mail here by Thursday next week. And, if you are so inclined, please include in the e-mail a photo of yourself in the outfit you will wear to join us for tea. Fancy or casual, there is no dress code. Come in whatever you want. I’d love to be able to include photos of some of you in my post. That would be so much fun.

Now, I’ll need to make a reservation for tea, and probably book a bunch of rooms at the hotel for those of you who will be jetting in from other places. Oh, I’m excited already.

Walking outfit during social distancing. Vince sweater, Burberry scarf, Moncler coat, Paige jeans, Hunter boots.
Okay, off we go.

You know I’m kind of ticked at myself, I mean the me that was so grumpy earlier in the week, berating myself for being silly. For acting like a teenager, enthusing about spring outfits. Okay, maybe I was acting as if I were still thirteen. But I seem to recall that my thirteen-year-old self was pretty creative. And never at a loss for something to look forward to, even if it was something small. So if my love of fashion, and dreaming up fictional activities and what I’d wear, helps me to cope with social distancing, and even isolation, then so be it.

Of course it’s shallow; I get that. I know that I am very lucky; many people I know and many, many more that I don’t know have it so much worse. Have worries that are more urgent than mine. But I can’t bring myself to write about that, or about the dark thoughts that plague me in the middle of the night. Not when I’m trying so hard to avoid sitting around in my sweats feeling glum.

Now, I have to go and do some real stuff, like fold the laundry, and put another load in the washer. And of course give some thought to what I will wear on our outing next week. Hope to see you then!

P.S. If you click on an affiliate link in this post and make a purchase, I will earn a commission.

Linking up with Cahterine’s #IWillWearWhatILike.


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47 thoughts on “Outfit Love in the Time of Social Distancing”

  1. I share your pain. I bought new shoes I can’t wear to go out with my new Talbots blazer. Blogged about it today on boomerbroadcast.net if you’re interested. Love your posts, Sue.

  2. I say whatever floats your boat and keeps the spirits up is perfectly acceptable and somewhat enviable, as some people are so overwhelmed by the status they can hardly process. I would love to attend your tea party, and will be emailing my RSVP. As one of my yoga teachers said today, self-care and grace towards ourselves is the key to getting through this. So maybe self -care looks like a tea party this coming week, maybe next week we post hilariously past-due hair styles and how we are coping with that!

  3. I can hardly wait for the real lunch at Play and a tea at Zoe’s. It seems like forever, although it has only been a few weeks, since we (people in general) could enjoy these kinds of jaunts. First world regrets, I realize, but regrets nonetheless. Geese are flying and honking daily on their way to the Ottawa River. Wonder if they spent the night at “your”golf course.

  4. I love the idea of an imaginary outing, since that’s all we have right now? I’m working on a blog post myself at the moment, and flipping through outfit photos made me think about how much I miss my clothes – talk about first-world problems, eh? I spent the day doing very dirty work on the farm, and when I did fly into town to get to the pond supply store just before they closed, I was filthy, sweaty and practically wearing rags! And ran into the grocery for sushi for dinner, and met no one I knew, praise God! (also unusual in our small town – whew!)

    1. I’ve never heard of a pond supply store. Hubby is doing our shopping, every 8 or 9 days, and he says that there were many fewer people out and about this past week… which is good.

  5. i have never been to Canada so the idea of attending your hypothetical tea party is very appealing!
    i am a home body and enjoying having the family at home but, like you, i like to get dressed up and have an adventure even if it is just a trip to the library and a coffee. i did enjoy your fantasy outfits
    all the best to you and yours at this difficult time.

    1. Thanks, Noreen. Hope you’ll join us for the tea party, I’m excited to put faces to the names of readers who I meet here in the comments.

  6. Some great understated but chic outfits there Sue & I love those jeans . A virtual get together , what a great idea . I’m in a quandary now – what to wear ? I guess it’s still chilly in your area so I’ll get wrapped up . I shall have to drape my ‘ very much needing a trim hair ‘ carefully round my head . Might be easier to chop my head off ? When do you want our scary pics by ?

    1. Wendy, are you reading Hillary Mantel’s The Mirror And The Light? Where did you find the inspiration about chopping your head…I’m very sorry to remind ,but in self-isolation you are not allowed to socialize with unknown Calais executioners right now…
      See you at the tea party

    2. You pic will not be scary… I’m sure of that. My hair is well past it’s cut date and soon I’ll be wearing a hat in all my pictures. 🙂 If you could e-mail the picture by Thursday, that would be great, Wendy. 🙂

  7. I find visualisation,or writing lovely scenarios,of our future life,very useful and helpful-there have to be wonderful things to look for….like a tea party in Canada!
    Love your outfits,especially your checked R&B trousers and Frame jeans- spring outfits don’t have to be multicoloured to be lovely

    1. I find Frame jeans fit me better even than Paige, which used to be my go-to brand. It’s good to find a brand with a cut that suits us. Looking forward to seeing you at the party. If only in a photo.

  8. I love the idea of a virtual tea party, wish I was tech savy enough to join in. At the moment I’m not giving much thought to clothes – very unusual for me. I’m helping my husband with our smallholding, so most of the time I’m in muddy boots and a waterproof, it’s been very wet here. Actually I really don’t mind putting fashion on the back burner for a while.Stay safe everyone.

    1. I hear you. When we go camping I feel the same. Happy to have my hair be a mess, in my fishing clothes, with no make-up. If you change your mind you’ll be most welcome to join us.

  9. This was very uplifting. I’m also craving a people fix, but alas, we are on a stay at home order. So reading about your imagined outings was fun. My hair is about the same length as yours, and my salon closed just before my scheduled cut and color. So I will now be 12 weeks (!!!) between visits, and I’m looking forward to what you have to say about your hair. I thought about buying a few headbands and clips the other day, but stopped when I realized I had no idea what to do with them except to pull my hair off my face as it grows more straggled. But I’m not brave enough to cut or color it myself. First world problems, though. 🙂

    1. I am not brave enough to cut or colour my hair either. Plus I can’t see me browsing the hair colour aisle at the drugstore when we’re supposed to be shopping for essentials. My sister has a drugstore and I know her staff are nervous enough at having to work without adding to their stress.

  10. I love your style and ingenuity (sp.) Whatever it takes to keep us afloat. On the weekends I make a date with my daughter to have a walk in Andrew Hayden Park which runs beside the Ottawa River (in Ottawa). Same thing last weekend. Hopefully it is a trend. Otherwise we are self protecting.

    1. Hubby and I have been walking a lot as well. My friend and I were planning a six-foot apart walk later in the season, when the trail is open enough to allow for it. Six feet of separation, so to speak.

  11. Loving fashion ( with closets full of outfits from all over the world) and having no place to wear it has been a daily struggle for me for years, way before Covid-19. I have been working from home and then retired for many years, after a career as a top executive. My tiny social circle is comprised primarily of working women, so having a lunch companion was a challenge at best of times. It was hard for others to understand the isolation I felt, and fear of becoming a women who no longer has the impetus to look nice. Nevertheless, every day for years I made the effort to wear a nice casual outfit and jewelry, even if I met no one. The change , now with the lockdown in Princeton,NJ, is that I wear more leisure outfits, which before would’ve felt to lax mentally.
    The virtual tea is a great idea.

    1. I remember feeling the same when I retired in 2013. Going from being in front of teenage students every day who always appreciated my fashion efforts, to a husband who really doesn’t notice such things was a bit of adjustment. Most of my friends are not that interested in fashion so this blog was a godsend. Hope you’ll put together an outfit and join us next week.

  12. Oh, my goodness, McCafferty’s a tea room now. I remember the cat on the counter. I probably passed you on the streets of Manotick in years gone by.
    Pls count me in for tea at Zoe’s. I have been there for tea and Sunday brunch, where do the years go…
    I think we all have to create our little bubbles of fantasy to get us through the next few months.
    As for what I will be wearing, I will have to think about that.
    See you next week!

  13. Your new straight-leg blue jeans are a great colour. Thank you for maintaining high standards. It’s yoga pants most mornings here – I’m practising yoga at home every second morning atm – and a simple cotton dress or sweat pants or jeans and tees when I “dress” for the day. I suppose it could be worse as I gather some people are staying in pyjamas all day. I would, of course, make more of an effort should any virtual events be added to my rather desolate calendar, but probably only if they were held via video-conference 😉

    1. Thanks, Maria. Please don’t get the idea that I dress up every day. Only when I’m playing blog post games. Most of the time I’m in sweat pants and fleece and sneakers… or rubber boots. 🙂

  14. I’d love to join your tea party, Sue! I’m working on a blog post about wearing our nice clothes instead of always saving them for special occasions (which usually means that they hang in the closet and almost never get worn). I’m going to be experimenting with dressing down some of my dress up clothes if that makes sense, so maybe I’ll come up with an outfit for your party. 🙂

  15. I am currently on day 7 of mandatory self isolation after returning from the UK to Sydney. I have decided to wear the good stuff to keep my spirits up. Also it means wearing things I may have passed over and creating new outfits. It has been fun getting dressed each day. I have started a donation bag as it seems there are good reasons why some items haven’t been worn recently. I intend to keep this up even when I can go out. We are heading into winter and I want to wear my favourite clothes even if is is to go out for essentials or a video call with family and friends. Take care everyone.

  16. Seeing what people do to pass the time fascinates me. And no, I don’t think you are foolish at all, but very healthy. Play is important to humans of all ages and so is creativity, especially if it keeps you buoyant. I love the idea of imagining a day out…I might get up early in London, go for a run/walk, then pop into the British Museum with my son for a couple of hours before we meet the rest of the family for a long, long lunch – Greek, I think – and then stroll along the river to walk it off. How smart my new Kelly bag will look! Since this is imaginary, I can have one, can’t I? And shiny loafers? Then into the Savoy for a cocktail or two. I feel better already. Stay sane and keep the conversation flowing. PS Susan sends her regards. She is watching me type this. It entertains her.

  17. Sometimes a bit of imagination and playing dress-up is just what is needed, no matter what our age. Or childhood selves were on to something. What a smile you inspired.

  18. Clothes in books beguile the mind (Harriet Vane’s black dress with its close-fitting sleeves ruffled to her knuckles, in Gaudy Night; or Barbara Buncle’s new ‘bottle-green coat with a fur collar and a hat to match’ in Miss Buncle’s Book; or the ‘delightful tweed suit in one of the soft shades between brown and sand with the least coral fleck in it’ that sets off Agnes Lemming’s personal revolt in Miss Silver Deals with Death) (Yes — I went to my bookshelf to refresh my recollection!). How much more beguiling clothes in our own wardrobes, and the stories we can weave with them! Thank you for sharing yours, and the idea of tea as well. I look forward to reading of it. KB

  19. Ann in Missouri

    I am RSVPing YES to your kind invitation to take tea with you and friends at the Chateau Laurier. A photograph of my ensemble is being sent under separate cover.

    Best regards,
    Ann in Missouri

    P.S. My otters will be unable to make it. Please relay their best regards to your otters.

  20. What a fun post and thank you for the kind invitation to what promises to be a delightful gathering at the Chateau Laurier, such a beautiful venue. Whether I will ever manage to make it from pyjamas to an outfit worthy of such an exalted event remains in question, however. At the very least, I will be with you in spirit (but/and possibly in sweat pants). . .

  21. My sympathy re tweaking your back again, Sue… Hopefully you’ll be pain free and we’ll be back to being about to dine out again soon 🙂

  22. Oh and I wore my first cashmere poloneck for the year with jeans and short heeled riding boots.

    …and yes, the collar was neatly folded 😛

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