ANNU D’INNOCENZIO – AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Blazers made of knitted fabrics, pants with ties or elastic waists and polo shirts as new buttons.
Welcome to the post-pandemic office dress code.
After working remotely in sweatpants and yoga pants for two years, many Americans are reviewing their wardrobe to balance comfort and professionalism when offices reopen. They enthusiastically structured the suits, zipper pants and pencil skirts they wore before the COVID-19 pandemic, and experimented with new images. This is forcing retailers and brands to rush to meet the fashion needs of workers in future jobs.
“Being comfortable is more important than being superstructured,” said 58-year-old Kay Martin-Pence, who returned to her Indianapolis office last month in beautiful jeans and flowing tops after working remotely in leggings and slippers for two years. “Why feel pinned and cruel when I don’t need to?”
Prior to COVID-19 Martin-Pence wore formal pants with blazers to the pharmaceutical company where she works. She’s back on her heels, but they’re lower, and she says she’ll never wear sweatpants to the office again.
Even before the pandemic, Americans at work dressed more casually. Time spent in sweat hastened the transition from “business everyday” to “business comfort”.
However, clothes for returning to the office remain a social experiment, said Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist with Columbia Business School who coined the term “closed cognition” or how what people wear affects how they think.
“I think it will be more everyday, but maybe it’s not,” said Galinsky. – People will consciously think: “Will I wear the right outfit for the office?” They will think about what they are doing, about the context in which they find themselves, and about social comparisons of what others will do. ”
Steve Smith, CEO of the sportswear brand LL Bean, said people are coming out of their “typical shape” – in whatever shape it is.
“They will expect a more flexible mode of operation, the opportunity to work in a hybrid model and be comfortable – as comfortable as at home,” he said. “Some office uniforms, office wardrobes, are moving and changing. There’s no reason why it can’t be permanent. ”
Data from research firm NPD Group and retailers reflect changing trends.
Wireless bras now make up more than 50% of the total non-sports bra market in the US, which is changing the long-term trend, NPD reports. Sales of beautiful shoes are resuming from 2021, but they are still 34% lower than in 2019 and are likely to be fueled by the return of public events rather than office, NPD said. But casual sneakers are now the most common shoes for work.
The clothing rental company Rent the Runway said blazer rents had almost doubled in February compared to last year, reflecting a return to offices. But its customers choose colorful options such as pastels, and fabrics such as light tweed, linen and twill. It claims that “business official” rentals – traditional overalls such as simple cases, pencil skirts and blazers – are about half as much as in 2019, said Anushka Salinas, president and chief operating officer.
Stitch Fix, a personal shopping and styling service, noted that men are increasingly choosing options such as hiking and golf pants for the office. In the first three months of the year, revenues from this type of clothing increased almost threefold than a year ago.
Polo shirts have replaced men’s collared buttons, and there is a high demand for stretch pants, the company noted. The ratio of work pants with an elastic waistband and pants with buttons or zippers on Stitch Fix was to each other in 2019; now three to one.
Other workers, however, feel happy to get dressed again.
Emily Kirchner, 42, of Stevensville, Michigan, who works in communications for a major home appliance maker, said that by returning to the office, she is investing more in her wardrobe. Before the pandemic, she wore tunics and leggings from Stitch Fix. Now she is turning to services for the sale of luxury jeans, blouses and blazers.
“It’s very interesting to get dressed,” said Kirchner, who gave birth at the beginning of the pandemic and wants to wear clothes that don’t make her look like what she calls an “indecent mother.” “It’s something like that feeling of going back to school.”
Retailers have had to focus on the changing demands of Americans during the pandemic, and now many are returning to offices. The upscale Nordstrom department store, for example, has opened women’s denim stores to highlight its expanded choice as it sees more women wearing jeans to work.
Even the Ministry of Supply, a company that seeks to make workwear as comfortable as sportswear, has had to make big changes. When the pandemic hit, she was stuck with piles of pants and jackets made of productive fabrics that were considered irrelevant to the remote workforce.
The Boston-based company, founded by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quickly reengineered items by inserting elastic belts and removing zippers. He also cut the hem of his pants to give them the expression “sneakers”.
When workers return to the office, the Ministry of Supply maintains this relaxed look and expression of sneakers and has eliminated zippers forever – all pants have elastic belts or drawstrings. He also invents his own tailored suit.
“A new challenge: how do I look presentable when I’m in person without sacrificing comfort?” said Gihan Amarasirivardena, co-founder and president.
The 200-year-old Brooks Brothers haberdashery had a more challenging task – it never followed the trend of casual office wear a few years ago like its competitors. Under the leadership of new owner and CEO Ken Ohashi, the company has succeeded in offering relaxed styles after a post-bankruptcy transformation.
Now 45% of his offerings are casual sportswear such as sweaters and polo shirts. Prior to the pandemic, the figure was 25 percent, Ohashi said.
He said the shirts come back when workers return to the office. But Brooks Brothers adds a twist: an elastic version of their cotton knit shirts with the comfort of a polo. It also offers multicolored jackets.
“The guy is now attracted by new products, new colors, new prints, new designs,” said Ohashi. – Historically, this guy came and bought a navy, coal and black suit. He definitely wants to mix it up and I think it’s here to stay. ”
Associated Press writer David Sharpe made his contribution from Freeport, Maine.
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