For the last year, my work wardrobe consisted largely of jeans, Birkenstocks and a Zoom-acceptable top. So with back-to-the-office looming, I went to an actual mall to catch up.
This is what I saw:
Elastic. A lot of elastic.
Gone, or at least diminished, were rows of sharp business suits I’d previously perused. In store after store, I saw women’s “workwear” that was long and flowing, soft and loose, stretchy pants and lightly cinched elastic waists forgiving of stay-at-home indulgences.
With the caveat that this sobering surge may alter return-to-the-office plans: What will dressing for work look like at this point in the pandemic?
Because already, we’re trickling back: The Tampa Downtown Partnership says at least anecdotally, property managers report about 30 percent of the workforce is live and in person. And many of us will return as employees who’ve been taking great comfort in soft cotton shirts and yoga pants.
Now: “workleisure.” (Which has to better than the “athleisure” that made it acceptable to wear gym clothes anywhere short of a formal wedding.) Clothing retailers and manufacturers that took a hit in the pandemic are pivoting.
“The style for the workplace has evolved into a fusion of comfort and polish coming together to address the modern woman’s needs,” Macy’s told me when I emailed to ask what’s next. “This year’s back-to-work trends combine workplace classics with more comfortable pieces we know and love to better fit hybridized work schedules.”
We should probably get used to words like “hybridized,” too.
Employers are evolving as well. Raymond James Financial, where the plan is to be back Oct. 11 to a hybrid work environment, just announced a new dress code philosophy: Dress for your day.