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How COVID-19 changed office fashion in the United States

How COVID-19 changed office fashion in the United States


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When Chicago-based seamstress and designer Kristin Mariani goes to work, she notices a change in the way people dress for the office post-pandemic.

People are dressing more comfortably, says Mariani, an adjunct assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I rarely see a person in a suit and tie. I'll often see jeans with maybe a jacket and an open shirt.

Many Americans have spent the COVID-19 pandemic working from home in comfortable casual wear like sweatpants. Meanwhile, workers who still had to report to work in person also opted for a more relaxed look.

When we went remote and still needed to move forward with our daily operations, casual office attire became the dominant office attire, says Hillary Stone, a professor at Kent State University's fashion school.

Ten percent of workers ages 18 to 24 don't know if their employer has an office dress code, according to the

Ten percent of workers ages 18 to 24 don't know if their employer has an office dress code, according to “IWG Study: The Changing Office Fashion in a Hybrid World.”

According to Stone, this trend has continued post-pandemic. Apparel companies have adapted to meet the needs of a workforce accustomed to dressing comfortably while they work. One way to do this is to make traditional office pieces from more durable materials.

The unstructured suit jacket is really in right now, as are wide-leg pants, Stone says. They are adopting traditional conservative designs and replacing the fabrics they were so accustomed to seeing. This creates a softer appearance. This creates a more casual appearance. It's not as conservative. It's not as rigid.

The pandemic has also made people think more about sustainable fashion, especially since many haven't shopped as much during lockdown. And supply chain issues have prompted companies to examine their processes.

Companies, designers, marketers think differently about how to create, develop, produce and the delivery system for products, Stone explains. And I think that's where we see the difference. Sustainability is paramount. The circular economy is critical today because we need to think smarter about what we use and what we make and how to reuse it.

As more employers implement a hybrid schedule, employees feel encouraged to wear clothing that is more comfortable and better reflects their individual style, according to the

As more employers implement a hybrid schedule, employees feel encouraged to wear clothes that are more comfortable and that better reflect their individual style, according to “IWG Study: Changing Fashion in the World.” office in a hybrid world.

After the pandemic, many people shifted to hybrid schedules, working part of the week from home. A recent report finds that what is considered appropriate office attire has evolved, with an increased emphasis on individual style and comfort.

“The pandemic made companies realize that workers felt better when they could wear outfits that reflected their personal style,” Diana Tsui, a stylist and creative consultant, said in the report. Post-pandemic, we all want to have a little fun. with our look, and hybrid working allows for creativity and flexibility.

And nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to what men wear to the office.

While 79% of those surveyed said they were dressing differently due to their more flexible work schedule, 85% of men said they had changed their work attire.

Men's fashion is exploding, Stone says. What men want now, they want alternatives. And they want something very creative, they want something clever and fun, and they want style.

With the return of longer dresses and skirts, office fashion may become more formal again, according to Hillary Stone, a fashion professor at Kent State University.

With the return of longer dresses and skirts, office fashion may become more formal again, according to Hillary Stone, a fashion professor at Kent State University.

And while clothing companies focus on providing casual office wear, there are signs that the days of ease and comfort may be coming to an end.

It's become a casual dress code, and it's backtracked slightly recently, Stone says. He's returning slightly, I don't want to say, to a more conservative aesthetic and appearance, but what he's doing is becoming more formal. So you see a lot of dresses, midi length, you see longer skirts, you see pants.

Mariani, who teaches fashion design to students, says COVID-19 has definitely relaxed expectations for office attire.

There will still be people who really like wearing suits, and they will wear a suit. And you'll be fine if you show up in a pair of khakis and a button-down shirt and just throw on a jacket when you need one, Mariani says. I think both of these will be recognized as valid ways of dressing. I think these rigid rules will no longer apply.




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