People change their professional attire during COVID.

People change their professional attire during COVID.

Blazers made from knit fabrics, pants with drawstrings and elastic waists, as well as polo shirts, are the new buttons-down.

Welcome to the post-pandemic office dress code.

Many Americans are now rethinking how they dress after working remotely for two years in yoga pants and sweatpants. They are giving up the pencil skirts, zip-front pants, and structured suits they wore prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in retailers and brands scrambling to cater to workers’ fashion needs for the future.

Kay Martin-Pence (58), said that being comfortable is more important than being structured. She returned to her Indianapolis office last month wearing dressy jeans and flowy tops, having worked remotely for two years in slippers and leggings. “Why should I feel stiff and pressed when I don’t have to?”

Martin-Pence wore dress pants and blazers to work at the pharmaceutical company she works for before COVID-19. She has returned to heels but she is now wearing them lower and will no longer wear dress pants to work.

Americans were wearing more casual clothes at work even before the pandemic. Sweats were a key part of the transition from business casual to business comfort.

However, the return-to-office dress is still a social experiment according to Adam Galinsky, a Columbia Business School social psychologist who invented the term “enclothed cognition”, or how people’s clothes affect how they think.

Galinsky stated that “My guess is it will go more casually, but it might not.” “People will think about whether they are wearing the right clothes for the office. They’ll be thinking about the context in which they’re working and social comparisons to what other people are doing.

Steve Smith, CEO at L.L. Outdoor Sportswear. Bean said that people are moving out of their “typical uniform”, whatever it may be.

He said that employees will expect to have more flexibility, be able to work in a hybrid model and be as comfortable at home as possible. Some of the official uniforms and office wardrobes are changing. It doesn’t have to be permanent.

The shifting trends are reflected in data from NPD Group, a market research firm, and retailers.

NPD reports that wire-free bras now account for more than half of the U.S. total bra market. This is a significant shift in a long-term trend. NPD stated that although sales of dressy footwear have been increasing since 2021 they are still 34% less than in 2019. This is likely due to the return of social events and not the office. Casual sneakers are the most popular shoes for work.

Rent the Runway, a clothing rental company, said that blazer rentals increased nearly twofold between last year and February. This is a result of a return to work. Its customers are opting for pastels and lightweight tweed, linens, and twill fabrics. Anushka Salinas (president and chief operating officer) stated that “business formal” rentals, which are traditional workwear such as pencil skirts, blazers, and basic sheaths in pencil skirts, are about half the size they were in 2019.

Stitch Fix, which offers personal styling and shopping, observed that men are choosing to wear golf pants and hiking clothes for work. The revenue from this type of clothing increased nearly threefold in the first three months of 2015 compared to last year.

The collared button-down for men has been replaced by a polo shirt and pull-on pants are in strong demand, according to the company. In 2019, the ratio of elastic-waist pants to pants with buttons or zippers was one to one. Now it’s three.

Others, however, feel excited about getting dressed up again.

Emily Kirchner, 42 years old, is a communications specialist for a major appliance maker in Stevensville, Michigan. She said that she has been investing more in her clothes as she returns to work. In the pre-pandemic years, she used to wear Stitch Fix leggings and tunic tops. She now uses the service to purchase high-end blouses, blazers, and jeans.

Kirchner said, “It is kind of fun to dress down,” she added. Kirchner had a baby during the pandemic. She doesn’t want to look like a “frumpy mother” and wanted to be dressed up in clothes that would make her feel like “back-to-school.”

Retailers had to adapt to the changing needs of Americans during the pandemic, and again now with many people returning to work. Nordstrom, a high-end department store, opened a women’s denim shop to showcase its extensive selection, as more women are wearing jeans to work.

Ministry of Supply, which was trying to make work clothes as comfortable as possible, needed to make major changes. It was left with piles upon piles of tailored pants, jackets, and jackets made from performance fabrics that were not appropriate for remote workers when the pandemic struck.

Graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded the Boston-based company. They quickly re-engineered items by sticking in elastic waistbands and removing zippers. The company also slimmed the hems of pantsuits to make them more “sneaker” in appearance.

Ministry of Supply will continue to offer casual looks and sneakers for workers returning to work. It has permanently eliminated zippers and all of its pants now have elastic waistbands and drawstrings. It is also reinventing its tailored suit.

Gihan Amarasiriwardena is co-founder and president.

Brooks Brothers, a 200-year-old haberdashery, faced a greater challenge: it didn’t follow the casual office wear trend of a few years back like its competitors. The company’s new CEO Ken Ohashi and the owner has made it possible to offer relaxed styles after a bankruptcy restructuring.

Today, 45 percent of the company’s offerings are casual sportswear such as sweaters or polo shirts. Ohashi stated that this figure was 25% before the pandemic.

As workers return to work, he said that dress shirt are back in fashion. Brooks Brothers have a new twist on its cotton-knit shirts: it now offers a stretch version with the comfort of a Polo. Brooks Brothers also offer colorful jackets.

Ohashi stated that the guy is attracted right now to novelty, novelty color, novelty printed, and novelty patterns. He was wearing a black, charcoal, and navy suit. He wants to mix it all. That is why I believe it will be here to stay.”

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