Remember wearing proper trousers? Let me jog your memory | Fashion | The Guardian

Remember wearing proper trousers? Let me jog your memory

Not all trousers come with a matching sweatshirt. At some point you will want to dig out a smart pair again

Jess Cartner-Morley in smart pink trousers and black top
‘Smart trousers have been my wardrobe’s most neglected department since the pandemic began.’ Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian
‘Smart trousers have been my wardrobe’s most neglected department since the pandemic began.’ Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian
Jess Cartner-Morley
Fri 5 Feb 2021 08.00 EST

Life skills I suspect I may have lost through what is heading towards a year of neglect include, but are not limited to: small talk for parties, lifts and chatty Uber drivers; how to survive a work day without uninterrupted access to a fridge; where anything is that is farther than the other side of the local park. Also, how to wear proper trousers. As in, the kind that don’t come with a matching sweatshirt. Remember them?

There is no urgency to relearning any of this, more’s the pity. But I can feel the gap between the old and the new me widen with every lockdown day. So rather than leave the full gamut of life-skills revision to the last minute, now seems a good time to get a jump on a few basics. Such as: how to do trousers that have fastenings and require you to choose a top. Smart trousers – the kind you wear to go to work rather than just work in, or to eat in a restaurant rather than pad about the kitchen – have been my wardrobe’s most neglected department since the pandemic began. When your public-facing persona is visible only from the waist up, top-loading your outfit is common sense. Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

The challenge of getting back into proper trousers (and this is assuming the waistband does up, which isn’t a given at this point) is that there is no matching top half to reach for. And unlike jeans, they don’t always work with a hoodie, so it is up to you to figure out what to wear on top. Shirt or sweater? Tucked in or left loose?

Stay within your comfort zone by replicating the proportions you’ve been wearing in lockdown. If you’ve been living in a tracksuit, a boxy jumper like the ancient favourite navy one I’m wearing here, with flat-front trousers, feels reassuringly familiar. If you’ve been in leggings and a big T-shirt, then team an overshirt with stretch trousers.

I am hoping that relearning how to wear trousers will jog my memory of how to be a fully functioning adult human, just as method actors wear cowboy boots or crocodile loafers to get into character. When I put on trousers, I feel like the me who had a go-to coffee shop order, rather than an obsessive attachment to a certain tea mug. One day the world will restart. And I intend to be dressed and ready to go.

Jess wears trousers, £240, harriswharflondon.com. Heels, £150, reiss.com. Jumper, her own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson, assisted by Peter Bevan. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Oribe and Hourglass cosmetics.

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