The pandemic has shifted perceptions of traditional workwear, fashion experts say

Apr 2 2022, 12:21 am

As more Canadians return to the office, it begs the question: does traditional workwear still have a place in our lives?

Getting a taste of the remote-work life has led to the realization for many that our day-to-day tasks don’t need to be performed in rigid suits and shirts. “Workleisure” emerged as a new work dress code over the pandemic, a mix between traditional workwear and athleisure, with a key focus: comfort.

“When zoom meetings and working from home became a part of our daily lives, it proved that working from literally anywhere could be a reality for many fields of work. Therefore, it was only natural that this fluidity in environment would translate into the attire,” explained broadcast host, producer, and on-air style expert Mana Mansour.

Not being able to see anyone put a greater focus on getting work done, she notes, “rather than the traditional performative rituals of the office that the work was once done in.”

Courtney Watkins, the owner of luxury consignment store Mine and Yours, says her clients are asking for elevated basics. “We are working hard to bring in top brands like Chanel and Goyard for staple luxury investment handbags as well as more affordable workwear pieces from Aritzia and Revolve in an effort to meet their demands,” she told Daily Hive.

“With some companies going back to the office, we have clients coming in wanting a total closet refresh, and our personal stylists are making that process enjoyable. While some are still wearing the ‘power suit and corporate dress,’ almost anything goes.”

Watkins says while comfortable fabrics and styles will continue to trend in a post-covid world, people also miss dressing up. “Everyone is looking to come out of the pandemic feeling their best, and dusting off their favourite pieces in their closets is a way they can do that,” she notes. “I predict a lot of ‘high-low’ dressing this year. Pairing your favourite statement dress with your comfortable, trusty sneakers would be an example.”

In terms of brands that are doing comfortable, professional apparel well and at a “fantastic price point,” she lists Maje, Babaton, Wilfred, Ulla Johnson, and Jil Sander, which Mine & Yours carries in-store and online. These brands have come out with “a new take on the classic office dress pant — the dress ‘jogger,’ if you will, being paired with strappy heels and a crisp statement blazer.”

For a Canadian company that does comfortable yet classic work attire at affordable prices, Mansour recommends RW&Co. “For more investment pieces, another Canadian company is Judith and Charles. Their fabrics and cuts are amazing,” she said. “Massimo Dutti is another great option.”

When asked what she anticipates for the workleisure trend in the future, Mansour says “comfort level mixed with traditional workwear fabrics like glen check plaid will become a mainstay (just look at all the stretchy waistbands on work trousers these days), as well as if the garment is transitional.”

She added, “More and more people will want clothes that can be worn at work but also on the weekend, running errands etc., and the trends will reflect that.”

Mansour notes that her own style evolved during the pandemic. “It’s almost as if we’re appreciating and yearning for fashion even more so than before,” she said.

Watkins tells us she has always gravitated towards more of a flowy dress for casual wear over athletic gear, but earlier in the pandemic, she began “loving the two-piece silk sets you can wear as loungewear or add a bag and some accessories and wear it for [the] night.”

“If no one sees you, and therefore is not judging you, does wearing a suit become all that necessary? Not so much,” offered Mansour.

We couldn’t agree more.

Catriona HughesCatriona Hughes

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