covid-19 vaccine

People Wear Ballgowns, Black-Tie to Get Vaccines: ‘Biggest Event of My Lifetime'

For some, wearing a fancy outfit makes the occasion of getting the COVID-19 vaccine even more celebratory

TODAY Illustration / Amy Lofgren/ Jenny Watts/ Kerry Breen/Leon Chase

During a year spent staying at home and social distancing, our wardrobes took a turn. Business casual became a lot more casual as office-wear was replaced by yoga pants and sweats.

Now some people are breaking out their best looks for their COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Dolly Parton was an early source of inspiration, donning a midnight blue cold-shoulder blouse to receive her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. And considering there’s just one rule when it comes to getting the shot — wearing something that allows easy access to your upper arm — the possibilities are endless.

For women like Ashlie Atkinson, 43, getting dressed up for the shot became an opportunity to celebrate the possible end of the pandemic.

Actress Ashlie Atkinson wore a sequined, floor-length gown for her first vaccine appointment.
Ashlie Atkinson
Actress Ashlie Atkinson wore a sequined, floor-length gown for her first vaccine appointment.

"I really wanted to celebrate what felt like a hopeful moment in a year of real stress and trauma and tragedy," said Atkinson, adding that she had bought the dress before the pandemic for an event that was later canceled. She paired the sequined, full-length gown with a pair of comfortable white boots, a set of vintage earrings and a floral matching face mask.

Atkinson's post went viral, and the comments were full of people who said that they were now inspired to dress up for their own vaccine appointments. Amy Aiello Lofgren, whose husband, Nils Lofgren, is a member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, said that the post inspired her decision to dress up in a glamorous pink ensemble for her 2 a.m. vaccine appointment.

"I got all dressed up," said Lofgren. "My friends were dying, they were laughing so hard. I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? This is the biggest event of my lifetime,' and I've been to some pretty fun stuff in my life!"

Amy Aiello Lofgren spent several days planning out her pink ensemble with sparkly silver sneakers to wear to her vaccination appointment.
Amy Aiello Lofgren
Amy Aiello Lofgren spent several days planning out her pink ensemble with sparkly silver sneakers to wear to her vaccination appointment.

I also followed in Atkinson's footsteps, donning one of my favorite quarantine purchases — the sleek black jumpsuit from the TV show "Fleabag" — to get my first dose of the vaccine.

In the week leading up to my appointment, I joked with family and friends that this was my major social event of the year, especially since I would be seeing my best friend getting vaccinated at the same time.

broke out a jumpsuit and boots purchased in quarantine and wore lipstick for the first time in over a year for my own vaccine appointment.
Kerry Breen
I broke out a jumpsuit and boots purchased in quarantine and wore lipstick for the first time in over a year for my own vaccine appointment.

It also came from a sense of not having anything exciting to dress up for in so long. After a year of casual clothes and comfortable outfits, wearing a jumpsuit and heeled boots (another quarantine purchase) was exciting and fun on top of the joy that came from getting the coronavirus vaccine in the first place.

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Amanda Levendowski, an associate professor of law and the director of the Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic at the Georgetown University Law Center, said that a vaccine appointment also gave her an excuse to enjoy some of her favorite quarantine purchases.

"I wore a bright blue, short-sleeved jumpsuit for easy vaccination access, and I wore it with a pair of light pink clogs," Levendowski said. "It was really great, and they were both kind of quarantine purchases, and so I felt very celebratory getting to debut them on such an auspicious occasion."

Dr. Jenny Watts, a lecturer in behavioral sciences at the University of Central Lancashire in England, said that her own vaccine outfit choice came from a mix of wanting to celebrate the occasion and wanting to be practical and warm, since the area she lives in is notorious for rapidly changing weather. In the end, she decided on a vintage lace black-and-white dress, a dark green cardigan, a faux fur wrap, leather gloves and high-heeled leopard print rain boots. Of course, she also perfectly coordinated her face mask.

Dr. Jenny Watts wore multiple layers and a vintage dress for her first vaccine appointment.
Jenny Watts
Dr. Jenny Watts wore multiple layers and a vintage dress for her first vaccine appointment.

"We have had so little to dress up for lately," Watts said. "When I was invited for the vaccine, friends sent messages of congratulations and we even discussed what (to) wear. It was as if a party or university ball was on the horizon. The WhatsApp group was full of questions: 'When are you arriving? What will you wear? Which face mask will you choose for vaccine day?' ... It was a pleasant change to be out of the house and dressed smartly."

Watts noticed that several other people at her vaccine appointment were also dressed up.

"When I reached the vaccine center, I could also see others who had clearly made an effort," Watts said. "There were colorful masks, new coats and attendees were seeing people they knew and calling greetings across the room ... I spotted a nurse acquaintance and I was practically jumping up and down and waving. We kept our distance for obvious reasons, but it was so nice to see members of the community again."

Watts wore heeled leopard-print boots for the occasion.
Jenny Watts
Watts wore heeled leopard-print boots for the occasion.

While Levendowski, Lofgren and Atkinson said that they were the only ones dressed up at their own appointments — something I also experienced — the vaccination sites still had a celebratory atmosphere.

"It was really lovely," said Levendowski. "All the people who work there are just so excited for everybody and they're super friendly. Everyone was in the waiting area bantering with each other and having casual conversations, the kinds of which we used to have all the time with people in the metro or people waiting for restaurants that we just don't have anymore. It felt so normal. It was such a weird environment for things to feel so normal, and that was really cool."

Atkinson said that her outfit became a conversation starter. "I chatted with a nurse, who said that she had seen several other people dress up for their own vaccines, and one other woman in the waiting area after we both received our shots, who said that she planned to dress up for her second dose," she said.

Watts said that she was already planning out what to wear for her second shot.

"I will definitely dress up for the second dose," Watts said. "In fact, I'm already considering outfit possibilities! This time I may add a hat, as if I was going to a wedding or to the races."

Lofgren, who has already received her second dose, said that she hopes to see more people dress up for their vaccine appointments.

"It seems like a solitary journey, but there's millions of us out there making history right now," she said. "It's really a celebratory moment."

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