THE ART OF RITUAL

By: Kelly Talamas

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While 2020 might be the year that changed the world as we knew it, it might also be the year that saved us from ourselves. It’s been said that rituals are powerful tools to combat anxiety, stress or grief. If sartorially speaking, 2020 was the year of the sweatsuit, I’d argue that perhaps on a societal level, it was also the year of ritual revival, or better yet, ritual replacements.  

In two weeks this seemingly endless year will draw to a close, and as the holidays near, there’s a kind of optimism in the air we heaven’t felt in a while. In light of the approaching new year, nostalgia has sent my mind back to the start of this madness, to that moment when we were first advised to cancel plans and stay at home for the foreseeable future. Yes, there was fear in overwhelming amounts, but for those of us fortunate to have our health intact and our loved ones safe, there was also a sense of relief. It’s true, many things were taken away from us, but we were also granted the gift of time, and for that brief moment, what we chose to do with that time was completely up to us.

In lieu of stressful rituals I once unconsciously took part in- incessant packing and unpacking of suitcases, waiting in airport lines, sitting in traffic jams and senseless rushing to and from, I rediscovered the joy in small rituals at home, like sipping a morning coffee on my balcony before starting the work day, setting a beautiful table for dinner just because or reading through a full chapter before bedtime. In addition to my family and the constant reminder of our blessings, of course, it was the soothing power of these rituals that saved my sanity.

 

There have been trade-offs as well– we’ve installed offices in our homes, virtual parties have replaced social gatherings, and online shopping has become a new pastime. Yet in a moment of so much change, technology has proven it could bring a society together in more ways than we thought. It’s been enlightening to witness the ingenuity of others with businesses adapting so cleverly. And comforting, as well, to welcome into our homes, albeit digitally, a bit of the normalcy we missed from the outside world.

Today I’m delighted to write this for a new digital version of an old friend, a place that’s been a home for and a relentless supporter of the local fashion industry– St.DOM. While we all hope to rejoin in person soon, it feels refreshing to have a digital experience that transports us to our favorite street in Cartagena or Bogota, and that reunites us with the fashion friends we’ve been missing. 

As movement has slowly trickled back onto our streets, and gatherings, however small, are resurfacing, I’m once again discovering the effectiveness of rituals. In this case, the fun to be had when shopping or getting dressed. Somehow over the years and despite my work in the fashion industry, without realizing it, I lost that excitement. Perhaps it was my infinitely expanding schedule of events leaving me pressed for time, or a consequence of the boring practicality of adult life, but before I was inevitably forced into wear sweats for a year, my wardrobe choices were less about intentional pieces I chose with gusto, and more about just getting dressed, showing up and hoping to look presentable.

This year our Christmas and New Year parties will be more intimate than ever, and yet I’ve put equal parts thought and effort into planning my wardrobe as I did on my wedding day. I’ve found excitement in digitally browsing through the options on St. DOM, and imagining where I can wear this dress or that. I’m consciously selecting pieces from independent brands who could use the extra support, and turning to designer friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile– Leal Daccaretts’s Buenavista dress for Christmas and Pepa Pombo’s Orange dress for New Year’s. I may not see these friends this holiday season, but I know wearing their designs will make us feel connected somehow.

I’m intentionally choosing accessories or statement pieces charged with significant emotional meaning instead of a fleeting trend. Mola Sasa’s Camino clutch, handwoven by the Guna community of artisans, or Aguel’s Taraza top that celebrates the Colombian ancient technique of the calado. Even choosing thoughtful, considered gifts has sparked more joy than I could have imagined, such as the artwork Colombiana by Andres Millan or Now by Colectivo Mangle, which my loved ones can hang in their home to reming them of a time we all came together under such unique circumstances.

The calming effect of a ritual is equivalent in strength to the power the act of dressing up can have on our mood, which is why, whenever possible this season, I’m taking the time get dressed or shop with intention, and linger a little longer while doing so. In the end, it’s about making ourselves feel good and learning to control the things we can in an unpredictable world. It’s about applying a sort of wearable, tangible optimism, and I hope that in the act of doing so, I can eventually spread that cheer to others as needed.

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