Dress Down to Dress Up: Has Working from Home Forever Changed the Way We Dress?
by Craig Crawford
It’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on apparel retailers. Before this month’s insolvency announcement from TopShop, 29 retailers were already in bankruptcy just this year. That list includes Brooks Brothers and Men’s Wearhouse.
But has working from home changed forever the way we dress?
More Than Just Sweatpants
“In menswear, dress codes were already becoming more relaxed before Covid,” explains John Jones, freelance Style and Grooming editor for consumer publication The Manual and trade publication MR Magazine. “Last year, even Goldman Sachs relaxed their dress code, and the rise of the Silicon Valley hipster has been boosting the creation and sales of more men’s lifestyle clothing for the office. Covid accelerated this trend and a lot of menswear brands found themselves caught between what was being marketed and what was being made.”
Jones cites men’s fitness and premium activewear Rhone as a pandemic success story that is more than just sweatpants. “Rhone were designing workout-to-office looks pre-pandemic—stretch trousers with a cool t-shirt layered with a cool hoodie,” he explains. “For the guy who bikes to the office, they created a commuter pant—a natural extension of their core product based on performance fibers.”
Men were just getting used to wearing these types of fabrics and fibers when Covid hit, Jones explains. “Men were just feeling comfortable pulling off wearing a jogger or a stretchy pant with a jacket to work. Rhone was in the right place at the right time when the pandemic hit and were able to offer pants in these new fabrics that are better than just a sweat pant.”
Other menswear brands that offer comfort without sacrificing looking smart are Nicestuff, who specialize in clothes that stretch and 34Heritage, who specialize in denim for modern professionals, Jones says.
Does this mean tailored menswear is a thing of the past? Jones doesn’t think so; however, he does predict a market shift for tailoring to special occasion dressing rather than career wear.
“We’re hearing a lot of pitches from retailers and brands that ‘you’re going to want to dress up because you’ll feel more productive.’ But do we really?” he muses.
Relieving Decision Fatigue
For women, the transition to comfortable style has been overflowing with options and inspiration during Covid. Instagram’s #WFH has more than 2.5 million posts, and blogs on what to wear when working from home are now commonplace in magazines such as Vogue and Marie Claire.
“Everything now needs to reflect the person,” says Anne Slowey, co-founder and chief creative officer of Latitude, a mobile-first weather and fashion platform.
Beautiful widgets (PRNewsfoto/Latitude)
Slowey, former ELLE Fashion News director, has teamed up with Anne Christensen, former Glamour creative director and former New York Times T Magazine fashion director, to launch the app in October. Created around the science of happiness, the platform is designed to streamline morning routines, helping people to wake up to what is important and enjoy the day knowing they are dressed accordingly.
“All in one glance we give you the news, your horoscope, and a portal for happiness—what are you grateful for and a place to pause and meditate,” she explains “If the app doesn’t make your life easier while it’s entertaining you, there’s no point.”
“We are putting fashion into the other priorities of your life, your home, your family. We are taking a democratic view of fashion, re-writing the style narrative and re-working the relationship with your closet.”
According to Slowey, women on average spend 18 mins every morning in their closet.
“While home schooling your kids, you don’t need that stress. We relieve decision fatigue and the stress associated with getting ready for the day.”
“If you look overly made up or overly dressed up in a zoom call you’d be inappropriate. From a styling stand point for women, who haven’t been into uniform dressing, that feels old fashioned and out of place. Personality has driven a women’s workplace wardrobe for a while,” she says.
While weather is the utility aspect of the app, personalization comes from the virtual closet and the shopping list. “Our algorithms respond to what you like and need,” she explains.
“What does a female entrepreneur’s outfit look like? How is this different from the competitive workplace wardrobe?” Slowey asks. “Our app is relevant for this period we are going through. We are reflecting our value system. We aren’t wearing heels anymore. We’ve flipped the switch with all this time alone. We want to experience comfort without having to measure up to what others think.”
Slowey predicts knitwear for women as a growth category with combinations that are unexpected. “With Latitude, we want to de-weaponize fashion,” she says.
Craig Crawford is a 2019 Tabbie award-winning author and founderprenuer of Crawford IT, (https://crawfordit.com) a London-based consulting firm specializing in the digital transformation of brands; Twitter @getamobilelife; +44 07834584785