Has the pandemic changed office fashion forever?

2020 was the year of pyjamas, sweatpants and slippers, preferred items of leisurewear for workers being forced to retreat to their home office. With nowhere to go and with kitchen tables, couches or beds being the prevailing workstations, what was the point of wearing formal wear?

However, with vaccines circulating, employees are now facing the possibility of returning to work and may sadly have to ditch their casual slacks for smarter, work-appropriate outfits. Or do they?

Fashion fit for the workplace is rapidly evolving since suits, once a mandatory corporate requirement, have been replaced with flexible workwear.

The onslaught of COVID-19 has changed people’s views on office wear even further, choosing comfort over appearance every time. In this article, we’ll discuss how office wear has changed in the last century, how fashion might look in a post-pandemic world, and why dressing down for work is the new normal.

Workwear doesn’t exist in a vacuum

It wasn’t that long ago when business suits dominated the workforce, where jackets and ties were symbols of professionalism, and comfortable alternatives were unthinkable.

Calls for change came soon after the end of the first world war, with returning Australians demanding less restrictive work attire better suited to the hot, harsh climate.

Globally, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the casual wear revolution truly took off, with workers beginning to question conventional workplace dress codes and defy the corporate image.

Since then, barring some sectors, casual wear in the office space has become widely accepted. However, it wasn’t until lockdown where pyjamas formed part of our work wardrobe rotation. So, the question on everyone’s lips is if the prevailing work style will extend to private offices?

The short answer is no, probably not. But working under a pandemic has challenged the way we think about the clothes we wear while we’re on the clock and may further test work mode in the following ways.

So, the question on everyone’s lips is if the prevailing work style will extend to private offices?

Comfort is pivotal

Being forced into lockdown has left many with little to no desire to prepare a fresh outfit every day, especially when no one will see them but their cats. And for professionals jumping onto Zoom calls, seeing your colleagues wearing super relaxed garments and tousled hair is a common and accepted sight.

People’s relationship with clothes has shifted substantially, where comfort and convenience have become a high priority. There’s no good reason for sitting around in scratchy clothes when you can don comfy clothing instead.

Called loungewear or leisurewear, these practical wardrobe must-haves also let working individuals juggle work and home life or even leave the house without feeling judged.

... for professionals jumping onto Zoom calls, seeing your colleagues wearing super relaxed garments and tousled hair is a common and accepted sight.

Smart Clothes Don’t Optimise Your Work Performance

Casual and flexible dress codes were already on-trend pre-COVID-19. Now, many don’t think twice about paring down their wardrobes before starting their workdays. Professionals have begun to realise that what they wear doesn’t affect the quality of the work.

Additionally, with all modern businesses being results-orientated, bosses don’t mind how their employees look, so long as deadlines are met, and a high quality of work is achieved during crunch time.

People Get A Kick Out Of It

Zoom shirts have become so commonplace that formal definitions can be found online. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’re probably guilty of having one hanging over your chair. It’s that smart piece of attire you throw on over your pyjama top seconds before accepting a video call from your boss.

The objective behind that strategically placed Zoom shirt is to create the illusion of appearing smart when only your top half is suitably dressed for formal meetings. What’s not seen on camera are your shorts and bare feet.

There’s a thrill to knowing that you’re getting away with wearing yesterday’s clothing without the person who’s paying your salary being any wiser. Remote working may well be a permanent working solution for several industries, so who is it harming anyway?

Are There Disadvantages To Maintaining Quarantine Styles?

You miss formal wear! Dressing up in a suit or dress accompanied by heels or loafers might be a point of pride. Donning something fancy might feel like you’re more accomplished or dressing for the high-profile job you’re working towards.

It may also enhance your office vibe and uplift your mood when you’re feeling demoralised.

Changing workstyles doesn’t only mean adopting a whatever fashion code where “anything goes”, with the perception that the going dresswear comprises tracksuits, sweat pants, throngs, and hoodies.

Instead, having the freedom to wear what you want has become the home office norm; whether that’s dressing to the nines, wearing days old sweatpants or something in between, it’s for you to decide.

Returning to the office presents an occasion of slipping on your favourite heels if that’s your prerogative. However, you must take care of your feet. After months wearing flats, slippers, gym shoes or nothing at all, our feet aren’t conditioned to wearing heeled footwear overnight.

Peeling off your office clothes and slipping into something cosy signifies the end of a workday and the start of a hopefully relaxing evening.

Wearing the same clothing item all day or across several days can blur the lines between when we do and don’t work.

Returning to the office presents an occasion of slipping on your favourite heels if that’s your prerogative.

Looking at the Fashions Ahead

As much as we’d love wearing our favourite pair of slippers to an office space, it’s probably still a style dubbed too casual or inappropriate for the workspace.

However, that’s not to say that we’re going to resort to stiff and starchy office wear. We’ve come a long way since the suit-wearing days. Except for a few industries, traditional corporate wear has been given the boot.

With workers returning to the office, fashion forecasters anticipate that loose clothing made from breathable materials is coming back in fashion.

Forget Casual Friday; every day of the week should now be dedicated to dressing casually, comfortably and in line with your personal style. The bottom line is that you can be practical with what you wear but still dress well.

When pondering your back-to-work style, you might want to invest in sustainable clothing, not waste your money on formal wear you wear occasionally, but classic pieces that you can see yourself wearing outside of the workplace.

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