26 In Styling Tips

Coming up with shelter in place wardrobe guidelines

What I wore to the backyard

Have you been struggling with your shelter in place wardrobe? Something about that sentence sounds like the opening line of a TV ad spoken by a fast-talking fella hawking a must-have product, and there’s an 800 number flashing at the bottom of the screen.

A couple of weeks ago, I wouldn’t have conceived of starting a blog post with that sentence. A shelter in place wardrobe would have been the silliest thing, something we don’t need like that product on the screen with the 800 number.

But the inconceivable is here.

You may have experienced a shelter in place wardrobe without realizing it.

A shelter in place wardrobe is the items you choose to adorn yourself in while not leaving the house. Let’s also throw in the grooming habits (or lack thereof) while staying home. It’s how we’re put together when no one outside of our family is looking.

I wouldn’t have called it this, but my shelter in place wardrobe could happen naturally one to three times a month. I love a weekend day where I’m puttering around the house. I’m creating tabletop arrangements or sorting through papers in the office. I’m doing laundry, watching an old movie on TCM, the Turner Classic Movie channel, and maybe taking a nap. At some point, I’m covering my cowlicks with a baseball cap and taking a walk in the neighborhood. I add sunglasses and lipstick, but don’t wear any other makeup.

We stay in for dinner and watch something together on TV.

Walking outfit

I love a day like that. Would I enjoy days and days of that, weeks and weeks of it? No, never. That would be a horror movie in my book.

But here we are, doing our part. We’re not going out, we’re staying in while managing the emotions of living in the unknown.


Here’s how one person is dressing and grooming herself in this pandemic.

I got a text from a friend. She said, “I have been channeling my mother and been inspired by you during these challenging times. I’ve been wearing a favorite pair of pants with a sweater I like because of the color or texture or look–not fancy, just a feel-good piece. I add a little makeup and earrings even though I’m not going anywhere.”

Another text came from a friend who said, “I never thought about it before, but I realize how interactive clothing is with the rest of the world.” With her world confined to her home, she’s wondering how to not fall into a “why bother?” rut.

Does it matter what you wear when no one sees you?

You may think no one sees you, but someone does. Every day. It’s you. You see you every time you pass a mirror in your house: your bathroom mirror, the mirror in your bedroom, a decorative mirror in your living room. You may not be looking at yourself directly, but you see yourself out of the corner of your eye.

Your response to that brief moment will give you feedback about how to dress during this period of staying put.

Here’s my question to you, be honest: In that brief moment, seeing your reflection, do you feel uplifted by your image? Are your spirits raised? Or do your spirits fade or sink?

How I looked in my house

In the first few days of shelter in place, I was in shock. I did get dressed when I went to the grocery store and told you how that went. (Well.)

With nowhere to go for the rest of the week, I delayed getting dressed in the morning. That probably changed after day three or four. To feel a sense of control in my life, I started getting dressed the minute I got out of bed.

Before this, I’d get up, make coffee, do my writing, make breakfast, take a shower, and then get dressed and go to work.

Getting dressed in real clothes that I quite like has a stabilizing effect.

Watching my grooming habits slip

Two things can get out of control if I’m not paying attention: my hair and my nails. I have cowlicks galore, and they need taming every day before I leave the house.

For a few days, I let the cowlicks get the best of me. But then there was that moment when I caught my reflection and said, Come on, Brenda. Pull yourself together. This won’t do.

Untamed hair
It looks worse from the front.
In need of a manicure
Chipping away at my self-esteem.

Same with the nails. I realized I could go with chipped nail polish a lot longer when no one was seeing me than when they were. But is that good for me?

Making adjustments and feeling better.

The same day I battled the cowlicks and won was the same day I gave myself a manicure. I went even further and wore a necklace. A beautiful necklace all day long. I felt like a new person.

It’s amazing how taking control of the things I can–even in the smallest ways–can help me face the things I can’t.

What’s on your essential list?

We’re only going out for essentials, right? I think we need to create an essentials list of what we’re doing while staying in.

What’s essential for you to feel good or pleasantly surprised when you catch your reflection in the mirror. Is it wearing makeup? A pretty accessory? A color you love? What would be on that list for you?

Wear what you love.

Maybe more than any other time, it’s important to wear what you love. It’s good medicine to be buoyed by your reflection in the mirror rather than dulled by it.

necklace by Angela Clark

I’m planning to wear the good stuff. Why not? Some things on my list are:

My vintage Chanel sweater
My lace pants
Velvet leggings
A patterned silk blouse
Pretty necklaces, including this pearl necklace by Angela Clark

My formula for feeling better

I want to feel good. Looking at least a bit north of half-way decent needs to be my bottom line. If I slip south of half-way decent for more than a day or two, I’ll feel defeated. And damn it, I don’t want to feel defeated.

What are you doing about your wardrobe and grooming during this shelter in place period? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Can you dress to feel better? What does that look like? Are you getting by with the minimum and doing okay? Does what you wear and how you look affect your mood? What’s going on where you live?

Sending hugs and air kisses your way!


Viv says hi.

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  • Reply
    March 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Hi Cutie Viv and Brenda! I so agree with you, have fun with your outfits, get dressed right away, accessorize and yes, wear the good stuff. It’s times like these that remind us, “what are we waiting for?” Enjoy every moment, get creative, look, feel and decide to be your best in this moment. Sending love and hugs to you and all!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    March 24, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Bonjour Lady Vivianne. Are you inspiring MommyFoxy to wear some pretties just for fun? At least on a video call? I was wondering if Brenda was not seeing her Precious One Viv during this time. A drive by? From today’s post, I see that Brenda is doing better in the dress-to-uplift catagory. Fashions at home are very relaxed. Scarves help. I have put on makeup only twice since staying at home and it was minimal since I had a cold (no virus!) I had my first Zoom phone call with three Santa Clara University pals. I wanted to show-up looking alive. We had a blast and talked for over two hours. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have even noticed or cared that I was wearing fun fuchsia lipstick. I enjoyed it–so it was only for me. Is there a tutorial for makeup and colors that work best in a video phone call? I’d take notes for another post if other Brenda Readers are interested. My slippers are getting a workout. UGG moccasins are feeling just right–no socks and they deliver all day pleasure. I’ll have to get back to Spring shoe transitions. This year I’m loving some Vionic leather slip-ons. I had not tried Vionic brand before. Great support and comfort. Jewelry lasts only half days. I keep removing it mid-task. Maybe try some brooches since they stay put as I putter around the house. Thanks for the inspiration Brenda. Your necklace is super gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Judith Lowery
    March 25, 2020 at 2:04 am

    Thank you as always Brenda. Too right, nails are a disaster if I don’t tend them very often especially now I’m doing extra gardening. And you are so right, a glance in the mirror if I’ve not bothered is pretty horrid. So, clean t shirt, often striped and jeans, also clean, and bothering to do my hair. And a spray of perfume, when I’ve got my sense of smell back. We thought of dressing for supper! May do that at the weekend, to mark it out from the weekdays. Funny how we are really looking at self care in a big way……interesting times. Keep safe all

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 3:42 am

    We have “stay home stay safe” in Michigan. I’ve been working from home for the past week and a half and am trying to stick to my routine as much as possible, while commuting to the dining room. I wore makeup the first week, and then it felt wasteful, so I’ve stopped. I have been dressing but substituting comfy pants for jeans since I’m sitting more each day. Slippers are my new shoes. I touched up my own roots since my hair appt was cancelled – that more than anything, makes things feel somewhat normal.

  • Reply
    Patricia mcadams
    March 25, 2020 at 4:47 am

    I wear eye makeup and lipstick and get dressed. Hair is a problem with no hairdressers, but I use coloured tights wrapped around my head like a Hair band it does the trick. Your undone hair looks very punk from the back brenda.

  • Reply
    Nancy Molstad
    March 25, 2020 at 5:04 am

    During this pandemic and kitchen renovation (!!) I dress nicely—as normal—to remind me of what is/was normal.
    “Getting your normal on,” as one of my brothers say.

  • Reply
    Sara Brumfield
    March 25, 2020 at 5:18 am

    I’ve been on a ton of work video conferences, so there’s always that reason to put some color on or near my face. Earrings and a necklace are nice too. There’s nothing like staring at yourself in the little video window to make you up your game!

    In Texas this is the transition between cool and hot (it will be in the 90s this week), so I’ve been putting away my winter clothes and pulling out my summer ones. It’s always exciting to see favorites that have been put away for months! And the comfortable dresses that are my summer go-tos are the perfect balance of shelter-in-place comfort and pretty.

    Stay Well.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 6:05 am

    I have been dressing halfway between ‘dressed up for work’ and ‘completely casual.’ I am not wearing sweatpants or leggings, but I am wearing jeans and corduroys, along with a t-shirt and a sweater or a ‘nice hoodie’ (maybe that’s an oxymoron?). I put together a Project 333-style ‘COVID-19 wardrobe’ and moved by work clothes and going-out clothes to the spare room closet for the moment. I didn’t need to see them every day. I am quite happy for the moment with my small coordinated wardrobe.
    My ‘coworkers’ (young kids and husband) are doing the same – everyone has to get dressed in a ‘reasonable’ outfit every day – no pyjama lounging. I am not doing make-up or jewelry though….I did that the first day and then it just felt uncomfortable. I don’t have videocalls with colleagues so I figure I am safe in that regard. I do use hair products every day though so that my curly hair doesn’t get too messy.

  • Reply
    Diane B
    March 25, 2020 at 6:17 am

    Viv’s little teeth are soooo cute! Very glad you are able to see her whenever you need. As for the nails, I have started to change my colour every couple days just for fun, and also all the hand washing and cleaning is nasty for nails so change to a new colour. I am going through a lot of hand cream as well, and when I went out for our groceries this week, decided to try a couple of their body butters just for a little pampering as well. Keep up with the feet as well…you never know when they will be out for viewing again. I have been experimenting with makeup a few days as you said, I wondered why I looked a little pale then realized I did not have my eyebrows and liner on. I makes a difference to ME. Thanks for keeping up with the fun.

    • Reply
      March 25, 2020 at 7:48 am

      I’ve made a point of wearing tops that too often I’ve saved for special. Choosing fun spring colors and putting on basic makeup lifts my spirits. I’m also getting outside to enjoy sunshine as often as possible. The sun reminds me that this too shall pass and will pass faster if we keep a positive outlook rather then one of gloom & doom. Take care all., and thanks Brenda!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 7:32 am

    Your post today made me literally laugh out loud! Thank you for that! Your message was so true. I recently retired and so this period is somewhat like “another day at the office for me “. I love being at home, but somehow having to be at home feels different now.
    I wear a bit of makeup everyday for myself. I am an artist/art teacher, so I actually enjoy putting it on. I have “demoted” or maybe that should be “promoted” all of the clothes that I used to wear out into the world to stay at home clothes if they are comfortable. I always wear earrings at home because I love jewelry and they don’t get in my way. Kimono type tops are great because you can wear them over a knit top and yoga pants and look like you tried.
    In closing, I want to tell you that I have read your books and blog and want to thank you for your fashion wisdom and delightfully humorous way of writing. Keep up the good work. We need you in the trenches,( even if it is just the ditch in your back yard!)

  • Reply
    Linda S
    March 25, 2020 at 7:44 am

    Brenda, I so love this outfit on you. It really expresses your personality. It’s cool, and shows a young-at-heart attitude. The pearls make it. I’m in Day 2 of a 3-week stay-at-home (also in Michigan). Wearing sweats again. Hope to change that at some point. Look forward to your posts. Linda

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 8:00 am

    I am retired and still shower every morning, do my hair and makeup and dress well. No pajamas or sweats all day. In fact, I don’t own sweats. I find that when I pull myself together I feel so much better. I remember when Gayle(Oprahs friend) was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t find a man and Oprah told her to quit going to get her morning coffee looking like a “slumpadinka” in sweats and no makeup. I live in Oregon and go for a walk around my neighborhood every day and I want to look nice even when I only go to the grocery store. Love your pictures of baby Viv! Hang in there. This to will pass!

  • Reply
    Susan S.
    March 25, 2020 at 8:03 am

    Excellent article. I am self-employed and work from home even before this crisis came upon us and I’ve always made a point to have a daily hygiene routine and dress for comfort at home. When I would go out I would change into my “going out” attire depending on where I was going, errands, church, etc. Now, even though I’m only going out to shop for groceries at this time, I make it a point to wear some color, but it a top or scarf accessory. What a difference it makes to one’s wellbeing to look and feel presentable in these times we are in. Stay safe and take care.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 8:05 am

    First, hi Viv ❤️ Secondly Paul says my cowlicks this morning in Columbia MO were worse than yours but I did put on my Vitamin c, tinted spf, mascara & lipstick before leaving the hotel for our last day of travel to Fargo. Can’t wait to do some facial plucking in my magnifying mirror when we get home.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 9:33 am

    My first few days, I was in sweats. Lazy. It made me feel like I was home sick. Now, after my morning meditation and yoga (no rushing through it to get started with work), I get cleaned up, put on my eyebrows (lost to chemo) and face the day looking like I actually want to be alive. It does make a difference to me and to my husband. Yesterday morning, I walked into the kitchen and he said “You look so nice. Going somewhere?” “Just visiting you”, I said, smiling.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Great post, Brenda! I live in the high desert of New Mexico. We are under a stay at home order. It’s not as drastic as California’s shelter in place order, as we can get out for groceries, walks, and other “essential” reasons. I work part-time in a field that requires “ smart casual” dressing, so these days at home I am wearing minimal makeup — enough to not scare myself as I pass mirrors—my everyday jewelry: silver stud earrings and a necklace with a teeny, tiny Mother Mary medal and other charms that are meaningful to me. I’m reaching for soft, comfortable clothes that make me feel hugged. Think: stylish, but very soft, t-shirts; cozy vests and sweaters; stretchy jogger pants. I’ve been getting on the floor to follow along with YouTube stretching videos, so stretchy clothing is required. Oh, and there’s this, I haven’t worn a bra in at least six days. It’s been liberating (‘70s allusion. Get it?) I could start a revolution— a wiggly, jiggly revolution. Maybe?
    Brenda, to you and the community here: Blessings and prayers for healing, peace and joy in these trying times. May we seek and find the good that will surely come of all this.

  • Reply
    Julia Purtill
    March 25, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you Brenda for posting your uplifting encouragement! I notice some baby teeth on little Viv!!! I am keeping up with hygiene and always wear lipstick even if I do t do any other makeup. It’s getting warm in Houston so I switched closets meaning I hauled winter stuff upstairs and brought down summer. My big worries are my roots and my toes. I’m going to attempt a self pedicure soon, haha! I know I’m spoiled! Fingers I can do easily. Does anyone do their own roots? I don’t even know what to buy!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    Loved this post, Brenda! Thank you for being such a bright light among all of the darkness and uncertainty. My big takeaways were:
    1) “But, is it good for me?” I think for me that will be about not letting my grey roots show. Fortunately, I had a hair appt just before the SIP order came along. I suspect I will miss my next appt but fully intend to use the powdered root cover up stuff. I know some people are using this as an opportunity to see how they feel about the grey, I can tell you I am not going do that. I will do that sometime but now is not that time.
    2) The essentials list. For me, taking a shower every day is essential. How much time I spend on my hair afterwards varies. I feel so much better when I wear makeup, I so I have been trying to do that daily. I got out to go to the grocery store today and did hair, makeup and wore a nice outfit. It felt good.

    Loved seeing Baby Viv and her little teeth!!!

  • Reply
    Barbara Kraus
    March 26, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    I’m getting dressed but wearing slippers. I started wearing lipstick and concealer once I saw myself computer screen size on a Zoom meeting.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2020 at 9:24 am

    I’m getting dressed but much more casual. No need for suits at home. However I like your idea of wearing the special. And having fun with those casual outfits.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2020 at 8:37 am

    I read this post and went straight to the mirror to look at myself. I didn’t need to change my outfit, but I tucked in my top, buttoned my cardigan properly, brushed my hair and put on earrings and lipsalve. Much better. Thank you Brenda. And thank you Viv for being so cute and reminding us all how important our families are.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    I used to wear eyeliner every day until I reached a certain age when my skin, including my eyelids, got crepe-y. I decided the other day, that this was the perfect time to try it again, since no one would see me, and to find out how I felt about that person looking back at me. It doesn’t look as bad as I originally thought. As you said, I caught my image out of the corner of my eye, and I didn’t look like a cat-house Madame and I didn’t look scary, á la “What EverHappened to Baby Jane”. I also don’t look as droopy and tired, as without. I don’t know if I will go back to wearing it every day, but I will add it to my “special events” make up.
    Sometimes it’s the little things.

  • Reply
    Cindy La Ferle
    April 1, 2020 at 5:10 am

    Brenda, greetings from Detroit, where the virus spread grows worse by the hour. It is such a lift to read your blog and think about something else. You’re spot on — as are the women commenting here — about continuing to enjoy our clothing, wear things that make us feel good and show our self-respect. Right now, for me, it’s all about self care and staying calm so that I can be supportive to my husband, who had a serious accident/injury just as the national emergency was announced a couple of weeks ago. Scary times, trying to get medical help of any kind in the midst of a pandemic! As for dressing, I opt for comfort at home, of course, but I have decided to wear “the good stuff” that I used to safe for wearing out to lunch, etc. I have been wearing my Eileen Fisher slouchy pants and other EF knit/jersey items that look nice and make me feel good — even just for my husband and me. Lately, I’ve been doing Zoom meetings with my journalist pals, as well as my neighbors, so I make sure I am wearing a nice (but cozy) top and keep my hair and nails groomed. Having worked from home as a journalist for a few years, I’ve always believed I do my best work when I don’t look like I just rolled out of bed 🙂 All of your tips are exactly right — thank you and please be safe and healthy!

  • Reply
    Luanne Kleiman
    April 2, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Oh yes…so yes! The first few days I was wearing the soft bra they gave me after a partial Mastectomy and reconstruction, (comfy but not flattering) and ‘yoga’ pants with a tee shirt, no make up, hair just yuck…SO NOT ME! I now put on a real bra, jeans a tee shirt that is NOT for cleaning the house. I style my hair a bit every day (it’s curly/wavy so it’s no big deal) , use one of my scented lotions and sometimes put on some make up. It’s not my usual make-up, perfume, every hair in place look but it makes me feel much better and I get more done. My husband and I are retired so we don’t even have Work From Home to keep us busy. It’s very easy to fall into a bump on the couch!

  • Reply
    Nanette Ferguson Rufo
    April 24, 2020 at 11:58 am

    I am laughing over my hair. My husband just gave me a haircut, a new style too: Covid 19 hair cut—-a blunt cut along the bottom of my hair. The “trim an inch” came out more like 2-3 inches off. But it looks fine and released more curls than I thought possible. I took a picture of my cut so we can laugh about it in the future.

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