Having stayed out of Cork city since the day lockdown was declared back in March, I ventured in last Friday afternoon with the intention of browsing and possibly shopping.
I read somewhere that browsing in clothes shops wouldn’t be allowed, but an essential component of retail therapy involves trawling through clothes rails, looking for that must-have item.
I defy any store assistant to try and stop me from exercising my right to scout for potential purchases.
We don’t go into fashion outlets knowing exactly what we want. We go into them to be inspired, transported, imagining ourselves dressed in a whole new look. It takes time and dedication.
The thought of an assistant breathing down our necks as we’re “just looking” would be enough to merit a principled march out the door, never to return.
Between the afternoon ban on cars in Patrick Street and Covid anxiety, I wasn’t surprised that town was fairly quiet. That is, apart from Penneys where a queue of more than 30 people snaked along Robert Street, from the Oliver Plunkett Street end of the store to the main entrance on Patrick Street.
Not being a fan of false eyelashes and fake tan (the oft mentioned items on the shopping lists of loyal Penneys’ clientele), I didn’t join the queue.
From the cheap-as-chips shop to the upmarket Brown Thomas, I headed to the Mac counter where they were selling lipsticks for €20. (Relatively speaking, this was good value, although you could buy a whole outfit for that amount in Penneys.)
But you’re not allowed to test lipsticks anymore and, as every woman knows, just because a shade is described as velvet plum, doesn’t mean that it will resemble the colour of a plum. It may be a dark pink when applied.
But the days of the tester are gone so lipstick sales may drop. (Not to mention the pointlessness of lipstick when wearing a face mask.)
There weren’t many people in Brown Thomas. The assistants, all made up, had their glamour spoiled, however, by face masks. (Some designers are bringing out supposedly stylish face coverings but I’ll eat my hat if they ever take off.)
I have a few white ones and a plain grey one. Who seriously thinks fancy face masks are an attractive fashion accessory?
After BT, I headed over to Opera Lane, and seeing that there was no queue outside H&M, I decided to go in. But I was directed away from the main door to the Academy Street entrance — where there was a queue. I cursed silently but calmed down once I saw how quickly it moved.
I browsed and browsed, held items against me in front of mirrors and chose a shirt as a birthday present for a friend. Then I spotted a floaty dress, marked down to just €10. And while I’m trying to cut down on buying cheap tat, I couldn’t leave it there.
And besides, I hadn’t bought any clothes since before lockdown.
Not being able to try on clothes in our strange new world is a bit of a pain. But the dress was ample — no need to return it.
While clothes shopping in town in the time of Covid-19 is challenging, we really should try to support city centre stores and independently-owned boutiques. How else will our cities survive?
Needless to say, online shopping increased during lockdown. But I don’t buy into it. You have to guess sizes by looking at photographs.
A friend recently bought several items of clothes online in a sale. Not only did they not fit (she ticked the large size box but said that the linen trousers she purchased wouldn’t go over her arm), but she was waiting weeks before the items arrived.
Now, she has to return them but fears that because she bought the clobber in a closing down sale, she may be left high and dry. All of which proves that you’re much better off doing physical shopping rather than clicking online.
Cork city needs your custom. With its worrying number of boarded-up buildings and the closure of Debenhams and Monsoon, it needs to reinvent itself.
With plans for restaurants on Princes Street to serve customers outside as well as inside their premises, Cork could really capitalise on its epicurean qualities.
Between social distancing and the appeal of socialising over food, outdoor dining could be the answer for restaurant proprietors, driven demented over the two metre distancing rule (or is it one metre now? It’s hard to keep up).
On my way home from town , I was delighted to see the Casanova gelato cafe open, albeit with all the seating gone.
I ordered a cookies and cream cone. You can’t do that online!