After more than a year of wearing stretchy pants and hoodies on repeat, the prospect of putting on a dress — much less a formal gown — seemed very far away to Sarah Studley.
But when it came time for her long-awaited coronavirus vaccine appointment, the Baltimore woman decided that the momentous occasion was worthy of a momentous outfit. So she slipped into her unused wedding reception dress.
"I hadn't gotten gussied up in the past year, so I wanted to take this moment to celebrate for myself," Studley, 39, said.
She entered the M&T Bank Stadium mass vaccination site in Baltimore last month wearing her retro, white, A-line satin dress with polka-dot tulle. She paired it with peep-toe pumps.
It's the outfit she would have worn to her wedding reception, she said, had it not been canceled because of the pandemic.
Studley and Brian Horlor, 39, got engaged in November 2019. They set a wedding date for a year later and planned an elegant, 100-person celebration in San Diego. Of course, plans changed.
"It became very clear that it was going to be a very bad idea for us to proceed," Studley said.
The couple did, however, get married anyway in November. In an unglamorous civil ceremony — though they did wear traditional wedding attire — the couple tied the knot outside the San Diego County clerk's office. That was followed by a small dinner with immediate family and a cake from Costco.
"It was not what I would have chosen," Studley said. "But there were definitely things about it that were wonderful."
Still, the couple wanted a larger reception to celebrate with extended family and friends. They started planning an event for June, and Studley bought a polka-dot wedding gown to wear to the party.
When the vaccine rollout was lagging in January, though, they pulled the plug.
"It seemed like it was not going to be possible to have a reception that was both safe and fun, so we decided to call it off," Studley, a lawyer at a D.C. nonprofit organization, said.
That meant the polka-dot dress would hang in her closet indefinitely — or at least until there was a suitable occasion to wear it. For Studley, her first vaccination appointment seemed precisely that, she said.
She was inspired to whip out her wedding reception dress after reading a tweet of someone wearing a full-length sequin gown to a vaccine appointment in February, because getting vaccinated is the "EVENT OF MY YEAR," the post said.
"It was an excellent idea," Studley said. "It resonated with me so much because things have been really dark and the idea of getting a vaccine is such a bright moment."
"It's not a cure, it's not the end of the pandemic, but it's certainly an important turning point," Studley said. "For me, personally, getting a vaccine means being able to hug my 81-year-old father without worrying, and going grocery shopping without worrying that I'm going to infect the workers."
So Studley pulled her hair back into a bun and wore a pair of pearl earrings. She even applied eye liner, which, she said, she was glad she remembered how to do after spending months makeup-free. Then she zipped up the gown.
People at the vaccination site got a kick out of Studley's bridal get-up, she said, especially the staff.
She encourages others to dress up for their vaccine appointments, too.
"Make a celebration of it. It doesn't have to be fancy," Studley said. "Seize the joy in the moment."