Late summer in New York is reliably hot and steamy, but 2020 has felt particularly tropical. It isn’t just the 90-degree heat radiating from the sidewalks or the total lack of shade on certain avenues; what really drives you crazy is the thick, unavoidable humidity. It’s there when the sun rises and long after it sets, and there isn’t a linen dress on the planet breezy enough to safeguard you against the inevitable glisten.
This time last year, our biggest headache was dressing for the office without overheating on the subway; now, it’s dressing for virtually everything else. We’re working from home in our air-conditioned apartments, but the rest of our lives are happening outdoors: eating, drinking, walking, biking, socializing, exercising, getting away from our roommates… Needless to say, it’s putting our summer wardrobes to the test. My silk dresses are gathering dust in the back of my closet, too precious to subject to sweat, dirt, and spills. I’m short on clothes that look good and can withstand the elements of downtown Manhattan. Several of my friends have voiced similar dilemmas, sick of their denim shorts but unwilling to buy cotton dresses only to destroy them on a CitiBike.
What are we supposed to wear? Maybe “regular” clothing isn’t the answer: Maybe we should all be wearing swimsuits. Swimwear-as-ready-to-wear has been a thing on the runways for years, though it’s rarely made it onto the New York streets. In the past, we regarded it as a strange trend at best, a thinly-veiled marketing gimmick at worst—a brand’s attempt to wedge its opening-price-point items onto the runway. It only took a global pandemic to make it feel suddenly pragmatic.