Gwyneth Paltrow has long exhibited commendably high levels of body confidence. Releasing a candle smelling of your own vagina, as she did through her Goop brand in January, is not for the faint-hearted, after all.
She celebrated turning 48 this weekend with a further act of self-love: posting a naked “birthday suit” shot on Instagram.
In the image, Gwynnie gleams with good health – or, as she claims, liberal amounts of Goop’s new $55 (£42.50) body butter. Her long, supple limbs are dappled with sunlight as it beams down through the greenery surrounding her. It’s a bit Garden of Eden, very goddess among mere mortals and not very relatable. (Laying aside physical appearances, and the fact that you’re decidedly less sculpted than Paltrow, the garden she is posing in appears to comprise an extensive orchard.)
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But look at it another way, and Gwyneth is very much the everywoman.
For among other, far more serious things, 2020 has been the year of nudity, or at least semi-nudity.
Lockdown robbed you of the need and the desire to get dressed. Zoom requires attire only from the waist up; the “working from home during a heatwave” look of summer involved nothing other than pants, a sweaty brow and a handheld fan. You can also take the edge off fraught meetings by luxuriating in the bath – simply mutter something about a “poor connection” and switch your webcam off.
Even when you weren’t technically nude, your clothes were more of a cosy comfort blanket than a sleek armour with which to take on the world: pyjamas, tracksuit bottoms, old cardies. You used to laugh at how capitalism has managed to rebrand slobby clothing as the aspirational category of “loungewear”. Now you spend your evenings tapping the term into Google, credit card ready.
Nevertheless, now autumn is here, there’s a reluctant sense that we should sharpen up our act – both metaphorically (should lockdown 2.0 arise, most of us are resolved to make it more productive than the Netflix binge it was last time) and literally (if we’re trying to maintain some level of engagement with the outside world, we should probably put on some clothes).
I’ve smartened up my outfits over the past week or so, and before embarking on the project I thought it would be difficult and tiresome – do I even remember what a bra is?
The change has made me feel more together. I’ve ditched my usual weekday combo of unwashed pyjama shorts and bikini tops (my bedroom/home-working office is warm) for structured jackets, snazzy skirts and footwear other than flip-flops.
Getting my autumn boots reheeled was, tragically, one of the highlights of my year. Newly polished and shiny as conkers, they make me look like I’m going places, even if tighter restrictions should hit London and that destination ends up being no further than the corner shop.
This marks out the key difference between phase two of pandemic dressing and its predecessor: while spring and summer looks were about hiding from our fears, seeing as they took their inspiration from activities you can really only do indoors (pyjama parties), our autumn look is about squaring up to the crisis.
It may not be safe to go back to normal yet, but we’re dressed to do so when it is. While optimistic, there’s a sense of realism to the style, too.
Most of us have by now come to the sorry conclusion that working from home doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work at all, and have accordingly made our attire more professional.
There’s another practical matter at play, too: the weather. Extra layers are vital when temperatures plummet.
So while I’ll still be copying Gwyneth’s birthday look, praise be that mine doesn’t come around until next summer.