Office workers rush to refresh their wardrobes as companies begin to call workers back to their cubicles. But after months at home in pajamas, returning workers are looking to swap their traditional office outfits for more comfortable ones. Pencil skirts, dress pants and classic black are out. Today’s office worker is dressed in bright colors, focusing on loose, loose clothing and softer fabrics, according to major U.S. retailers.
“As a company, we’ve evolved our merchandising to talk more about ‘power casual’,” Sarah LaFleur, CEO of women’s workwear company MMLaFleur, told NBC News. “Formality-wise, it’s a bit lower than business casual. There is definitely something underneath, it’s still a dress code similar to how women who work in the media or the tech space might dress.
The company’s new line, which includes a “jardigan”, or a blazer made from a soft cardigan, is booming. Before the country’s lockdown last spring, casual workwear accounted for about 25% of MMLaFleur’s sales; now it’s 60 percent.
Retailers were among the first to be hit by the pandemic, with dozens of retailers filing for bankruptcy, including iconic brands such as Lord & Taylor, J.Crew and Neiman Marcus. Other stores were forced to shutter thousands of locations.
But as vaccination rates rise and federal public health agencies relax masking rules, buyers and workers are eager to get back to life in person – and with that comes the urge to wear something new. and brilliant, according to analysts and retail brands.
“We think the world is back,” Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III Apparel, which owns brands like DKNY, told investors. “People go out, people party. They don’t just wear their fleece leisurewear. They wear denim, and they wear jeans, they wear stretch fabrics, and they wear sculpted products.
Salaried shoppers plan to spend more in all categories, including casual and formal wear in men’s and women’s clothing, compared to last year, according to data from retail analytics firm Prosper Insights & Analytics. But consumers say they also plan to spend more on comfort style brands like Levi’s rather than luxury brands like Calvin Klein or Coach, the data shows.
“The ‘work-from-home’ consumer always has a preference for ‘comfort’ brands over ‘dress to impress’ brands,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of Prosper Insights & Analytics, in an email.
Retailers and brands are betting that all-round comfort is likely to stay. Shea Jensen, executive vice president and general manager of merchandising at Nordstrom, said some of his brand partners have adjusted their products to be more comfortable.
“Loungewear and comfort are always important to the customer. Some of the new pants for the season have incorporated an elastic waistband or a looser leg.
“Loungewear and comfort are always important to the customer,” she said in an email. “Some of the season’s new pants have incorporated an elastic waist, a looser leg, or super soft materials without sacrificing fashion and novelty.”
Second-hand clothing has also become more casual and comfortable, said Doug Howe, Kohl’s director of merchandising.
“For example, in men, tuxedos were traded for suits, suits were traded for khakis and dress shirts, khakis were traded for jeans and polo shirts,” he said. “Among women, we are seeing an interest in jackets and third layers. Think boyfriend blazers, cropped jackets and oversized cardigans to complement new proportions in looser bottoms with denim a key complementary element.
But even denim has become more forgiving. As people go out and socialize, retailers like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle are seeing increased interest in looser, looser and more relaxed fits for both men’s and women’s jeans. Kohl’s has also seen growth in high and curvy cuts.
Even shoes are experiencing a resurgence. Tapestry, which owns Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, told investors in May that outside of handbags it had seen positive growth in footwear, driven by increased demand for apartments and sneakers. casual.
“You can’t go back to the office with your slippers on,” Rist said.
But shoppers aren’t just looking for comfort in their clothes. After a year in gray jogging, the colors and prints are an opportunity to change your outfit. Gen Z is largely behind this trend towards maximalism, going against the minimalism of their millennial counterparts. April report Pinterest found that Gen Z had 14-fold searches for “zebra pants,” a 12-fold increase for “pleated plaid skirt,” and a 133-fold increase in “60s and 70s fashion” between Q1 last year and around the same time this year.
“We’re back to school, work, dining and traveling – and what does that mean for retailers? Said Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association group. “The answer is, this is a great opportunity because maybe your clothes don’t fit or your style has changed, and retailers are in a good position to help bring customers back to life. “
StitchFix, the custom-styled subscription company, announced on Monday that it now has more than 4 million customers, which is 20% growth from the same period last year. The company’s clients are request stylists for more holiday-related items, jewelry and workwear, while demands for loungewear are down 60% from last fall, the company reported.
Online clothing rental company Armoire said sales increased as people needed help finding clothes to wear when the country reopened, said Kristin McNelis, the company’s chief marketing officer.
“Basically, you put your closet on hiatus for 18 months. Then when you go back and wear what’s in the closet, it’s not stylish or it doesn’t fit or you’re just fed up, ”McNelis said. “So people are really thinking about where to find new clothes, but maybe they don’t want to buy new clothes. “
Laid-back Friday may have gone the power suit route.
“I’m much more comfort conscious,” said Martha Shaughnessy, who works in San Francisco. She recently quizzed her office of 20 on what to call their day to wear comfortable clothes when they get back to the office. Some candidates include “too tired Tuesday” and “mushy Monday”.
“We used to have a big reunion and I wore a pencil skirt blazer and everything,” Shaughnessy said. “Being comfort conscious has been a gift this year.”
The company never had a dress code, but for meetings with clients or new hires, it wore formal work clothes. But she plans to remove the skirts for a maxi dress or the heels for the sneakers, setting the tone for the rest of the business that a comfy dress is OK.
“Not saying out loud that expectations have changed can be confusing,” she said. “A lot of people worry about this stuff, about the expectations that come back home. It’s going to be hard already.