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Maybe every era gets the fashion it deserves. In the ‘80s, when there was oodles of cash around, ads displayed a dozen models lounging on a yacht or going on a safari donning Ralph Lauren. In the ‘90s, heroin-chic teens leaned against walls in pared-down fashions that said, “less is more,” because on that much sedation, who could be bothered with accessories (or you know, buttons)? And over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the culture of hip hop, gender fluidity and body acceptance all reflected back in our clothing. Now, during these social distancing times, fashion brands are leaning into our desire to escape. And I, for one, am all about it.

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You see, lately I’ve been visiting (virtually, of course) a place again and again, called Dôen. Media inebriates may remember this Cali-made brand and the attractive corn-fed-looking-beauty sisters behind it from a 2018 NY Times article called Pioneer Women Are Roaming the City (what we wouldn’t give to be able to just randomly roam the city now, amiright?). Or perhaps you've seen the feminine, romantic designs on the likes of Busy Phillips or Lily Aldridge. Their dresses are thin cotton or silk, smocked, in mini or maxi lengths, and wouldn’t look out of place in a cult threshing circle or the bargain bin of a vintage shop in Topanga canyon.

doen brand minetta
Courtesy of Doen

I have one of these dresses and it’s lovely, easy to wear and surprisingly not too winsome for a grown-ass woman such as myself to pull off. And welp, the brand is now offering practically immediate gratification, thanks to Dôen's new same-day weekday delivery option for L.A. peeps (opt for it at checkout when purchasing online). But lately it’s also the web site’s mise en scene I am lusting after. I’m longing for some time in a deserted estancia with weathered frescos, like the woman wearing this $338 Minetta dress. Or perhaps I’d like to stretch like a long-legged solo stork in the $188 Ode dress, taking pictures of the bamboo. Or dance like no one’s watching—because, during social distancing, no one is—between the tide pools in the $198 voile Bird Top. I imagine myself barefoot on my rooftop deck watching the city stilled below, having just tossed on the $298 silk paisley Tybee dress.

doen tybee
Courtesy of Doen

Are these women in the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills? Are they in Cuba? Maybe they’re in a Tuscan villa? No, they are in an alone-but-not-lonely place with sunshine and fresh air and, in the case of the Marina dress, enough warmth to be able to hang laundry, when in reality the SoCal sun has been blocked by teary rain for the past week. Is it any surprise that as I’m stuck indoors, gazing at my soggy yoga mats hung over the deck chairs and trying to convince the dogs to do business in a downpour, that I’m coveting something altogether more whimsical? (FYI: In real life, the photographer shot the catalog in Merida, Mexico, which prompted a move to aid and assist asylum seekers.)

And it’s not just the backdrop I’m lusting after. The Dôen woman looks relaxed yet put together. She’s wearing walkable sandals, donning cozy socks with her dresses and looks perfect with her slightly unkempt hair tied in a wide bow. In the kingdom of Dôen—unlike in our own homes these days—the children look clean and happy, and aren’t all up under us, demanding food, entertainment and the freedom to roam outside. No, the Dôen woman isn’t cooking or cleaning or worrying about civilization and its discontents. Rather, she’s sitting at a piano barefoot or having a twirl by the outdoor koi pond. And just for a few minutes, I like to imagine that I am, too. Because even though I moved to Los Angeles a decade ago, I am still looking for that Hotel California louche weekend, the ‘70s era gumshoe noir fantasy, the ladies of the canyon experience that would be chill, funny and not at all uptight, man.

doen marina
Courtesy of Doen

But…I’ve never found it. Even before the current troubles, there was the issue of reality versus perception. There was our house with a deck that required 30-foot deep concrete to be poured after a mudslide, the industries that fed us then imploded and stretches of ungentle sickness and ugly silences between friends and lovers. And yet, I’m still chasing that Cali dream. Little hits along the way have kept it going, like the totally arresting Linda Ronstadt documentary, or a few summertime shows under starry skies at the Greek Theatre. Or seeing an early model Mercedes sports car taking the curves fast through the hills toward the Valley from West Hollywood. In the words of the Lady Mitchell, it’s life’s illusions I recall…not the hard work and the sometimes-scary confusion of life on life’s terms.

So, come what may, I’ll be saving a little bit of time before sleep, or in between deadlines, to look at Dôen, to see what floaty leisure my lady has got up to.

Look, I know it’s not sewing a face mask or making a soup to freeze or home schooling my recalcitrant teen, but here’s the thing: I’m so very tired. And I think of Thornton Wilder’s “optimistic catastrophe” The Skin of Our Teeth, which premiered during World War Two and won the Pulitzer Prize. It's a story about the end of the world in three acts and at the end, the lovable, flawed Sabina, who has been missing during wartime, greets the family she keeps house for, after they emerge blinking against the sun once peace is declared. Pretty soon, Sabina asks to be excused, even though there's lots of housekeeping to do: “Only I've got to go to the movies. My nerves can't stand it," she explains. Well, Dôen is my movie, my secret garden, my little slice of Cali heaven that I’m looking forward to searching for, again, when all this is over.

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