The Coronavirus is turning the world upside down, forcing millions of us into quarantine. It's a scary time, and as we look for ways to comfort ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, we might find ourselves living in our pajamas. If you're not leaving the house, fashion might seem superfluous, and getting dressed might not seem worth it. But what if what you wear has a powerful effect on how you feel? Living in your sweats for a week might not be a big deal, but what if we're stuck inside much longer than that? We asked fashion therapist Stephanie Gisondi-Little of ComposedCo to share her perspective.
What is fashion therapy and how did you get into it?
‘Fashion Therapy’ is a term I coined when I realized that what I was doing with clients was as much about emotional investigation and support as it is style and organization. I know that as a former salesperson and lifelong consumer of fashion, you have to connect with a garment on some level to make it appeal and work. Often, I find clients purchase randomly and are then confounded about how to make those pieces work. Ultimately Fashion Therapy is figuring out who you are in this moment of life and approaching all outfits, shopping and wardrobe organization with that awareness and intentionality.
Ultimately Fashion Therapy is figuring out who you are in this moment of life and approaching all outfits, shopping and wardrobe organization with that awareness and intentionality.
What's a session with you like? How does it work?
All sessions begin with the same approach, whether in person or virtual. The client fills out a brief form around primary personal goals of the session, the lifestyle they lead and the style they are looking to cultivate. It’s easier than it sounds given some simple prompts, and then we are ready to hit the ground running at our appointment.
With these answers in mind, we approach every single garment and accessory a client owns. This lens distills the decision-making process and makes it that much simpler. We isolate pieces to keep, tailor, sell, and donate, trying on as necessary to help make those decisions when there is doubt.
From what we keep, we create outfits that multiply the ways in which garments can be used, getting a better bang for your buck and broadening the scope of the wardrobe without increasing the number of pieces in it. We take pictures of outfits for reference and draw up what is usually a shortlist of pieces that complement the existing wardrobe. I source these for people if they like with online or in-person personal shopping. (I prefer online for sizing and options, and the current COVID19 situation makes that necessary.) Under normal circumstances, I handle the physical donation and tax forms, and sell valuable items for clients. A one-month check-in video call is included, too.
The Coronavirus is driving many of us into quarantine, and we imagine that means a lot of us will be wearing nothing but sweats and yoga pants. What do you think the impact of that will be?
I started ComposedCo in response to realizing the power of dress for myself. As a new mom, I was utterly overwhelmed by the relentlessness of motherhood that made getting dressed seem like a waste of time. Yet I realized wearing sweats and pajamas was not going to cut it for me, that I needed to carve out something for myself, and my lifelong joy and interest in clothes could boost my mood and productivity. The deeper I have gotten into the study of Social Psychology around dress, the more validated this gut instinct has been, and I think it’s best expressed by the concept of Enclothed Cognition which states that we become what we wear.
Getting dressed seemed like a waste of time, yet I realized wearing sweats and pajamas was not going to cut it for me.
How can we use our wardrobe as a tool to stay positive during this scary time?
As a person who loves to schedule and organize, I say plan for your new day to day, simpler though it may be. Nothing is more overwhelming to me that a calendar with nothing in it. This is the same way I approach dress ANY time, and I think carrying it on during social distancing is incredibly important to feel grounded. Schedule your workout, meal planning, work, meditation, Netflix binge time, etc and once you know the lay of the land for the day, you can dress appropriately and with intention.
For myself, I will be dressing and putting on makeup as usual for virtual meetings. Other days, I plan on making myself as comfortable for exercise and meditation as possible and letting my skin breathe without makeup. My family is doing an at-home fitness challenge during the course of this break to see how we can grow our strength (primarily because I know if I do not move, my cabin fever and anxiety will creep up and that my boys are like puppies that need to MOVE). I’m wearing my favorite workout clothes so I’m ready to drop and do a plank, then later situps, then later walk on the treadmill or around the neighborhood. I do not need any further mental blocks to skip exercise, so I bear in mind data to help with motivation; when Stella McCartney dressed the British Olympic Team, the athletes reported better practice times in her thoughtful uniforms as opposed to their usual gear. Wearing designer clothes isn’t the point—wearing something that makes you feel empowered, like your best self, is.
Wearing designer clothes isn’t the point—wearing something that makes you feel empowered, like your best self, is.
What role do you think fashion plays at a time like this?
‘Fashion’ is often perceived as an exclusive club or hard to demystify. I’m here to tell you that with even a little guidance, it is not. There are no rules except to wear what you like and what makes you feel good. That is the crux of what I hope getting dressed becomes for everyone regardless of budget, gender, body type or personal taste. We must dress, and together we can make doing so a powerful tool that supports and motivates you where you are in life at any stage, no matter the occasion or lifestyle. Even during a pandemic.
About Stephanie Gisondi-Little: Originally from CT, fashion has been a passion since childhood. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over two decades and worked as an executive in both the entertainment and fashion industries. During my time in retail and wholesale fashion, I worked with noted designers Emanuel Ungaro and Nicole Miller, and as an e-commerce founder selling LA based boutique designers. I am here to demystify ‘Fashion’ for all, to cultivate thoughtfulness around clothing and provide concrete tools that stick in the face of life’s inevitable transitions. My ultimate goal is to educate and leave clients with a boutique-looking closet that minimizes decision fatigue and a wardrobe that empowers them daily. The benefits truly go well beyond ‘just clothes’ to build confidence and personal expression, reduce stress, and save time and money every single day.