What Will Women’s Workwear Be Like Post-Pandemic?

August 13, 2021
What Will Women’s Workwear Be Like Post-Pandemic?

Employers in the U.S. can now start planning a return to the office as, following a successful vaccine rollout, the country eases many of its Covid-19 restrictions. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 67% of American adults aged 18 or older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while about 59% are fully vaccinated.

CDC guidelines also allow those who have been fully vaccinated to go mask-free and forgo social distancing in most places. This marks a return to many pre-pandemic activities including ‘clocking in’ for Americans if they choose to do so.

According to MarketWatch, the number of Americans working from home has fallen to a pandemic low of 14.4% in June – the equivalent of around 22 million employees (by contrast, 35% of all Americans/50 million people were working from home during the early stages of Covid-19).

Despite dipping numbers, not all employees are keen to ditch their work-from-home setup entirely. 

A Weforum research shows that most employees want to split their time between the offices and home. Companies are also on board with this approach, with surveys showing 79% of the C-suite are open to their staff dividing time between corporate offices, their home and other environments like co-working spaces or cafés. 

Is Loungewear Still Popular?

The Omnilytics dashboard shows that American women’s loungewear has suffered a slight dip in popularity between April 16, 2021 and July 16, 2021 compared to the previous period. This is based on the trade movement of pyjamas, robes, joggers, hoodies and sweatshirts for SHEIN, PrettyLittleThing and ASOS Design in the U.S. market.

Having surged at the height of the pandemic when work-from-home consumers prioritised comfort, these SKUs have since recorded a 14% drop in sell-out. So are brands and retailers altering their assortment mix to cater to consumers’ post-pandemic fashion preferences? Based on the charts below, there has been a market shift towards going-out styles.

SHEIN’s, PrettyLittleThing’s and ASOS Design’s trade movement in the U.S.: The brands dipped slightly by 1.3%  for women’s pyjamas, robes, joggers, hoodies and sweatshirts in the past three months. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

The number of going-out style products such as dresses, blouses, skirts and jeans have increased in the past three months. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

The number of going-out styles has increased in the past three months. SHEIN, PrettyLittleThing and ASOS Design experienced double-digit growth for Total Products and New-in for the dresses, blouses, skirts and jeans categories. This indicates a market shift towards different outfits despite loungewear sales remaining strong. While consumers are looking forward to spending time outdoors this summer, they don’t intend to relinquish their loungewear collection anytime soon.

Fashion psychologist, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, expects the current emphasis on comfort wear to continue. “Comfort has remained an important fixture in our wardrobe and that’s something many will find hard to relinquish anytime soon,” Forbes-Bell revealed in a Marie Claire feature, adding that “workwear will be more functional than before with elevated loungewear pieces taking centre stage”.

Rise of ‘Power Casual’ Outfits

Omnilytics data shows an upward trend on elevated loungewear products including A-Line dresses, Wrap Dresses, Cami Dresses, Tunic Dresses, Swing & Trapeze Dresses, Co-ords, Coats and Vests.

These new looks are coined as ‘Power Casual’ by Roxanne Carne, a stylist and blogger,  who regularly appears on NBC’s ‘Daytime’. Power Casual outfits strike a balance between comfort and vibrancy, and Power Casual assortments’ chic yet comfortable styling make them suitable for commutes, sitting at an office desk, working from home and can be easily transitioned from a day look to a night look. 

‘Power casual’ outfits are trending up. The market is shifting from purely work-from-home loungewear to still-comfortable outfits that can be worn both at home and at the office. Meanwhile, the more formal shirt dresses and shift skirts have trended downwards as consumers look to strike a balance between being comfortable, functional and presentable. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

The Era of Relaxed Silhouettes

Most of these ‘Power Casual’ apparel that are trending upwards on the dashboard come in comfortable relaxed silhouettes, as consumers’ preference for comfort extends into the post-pandemic era.

Carne predicts that consumers desire an extension of their pandemic wardrobe lifestyle as they slowly return to the office – with relaxed silhouettes, as well as softer and natural fabrics that reflect hope as they step into this new phase of life.

Loose fits can be stylish, with flowing, supple fabrics on a variety of garments, from tops to trousers, and dresses as well. 

Relaxed silhouettes with Floral and Checks patterns as well as softer fabrics look set to dominate post-pandemic assortments. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

Floral Pattern Is in Demand

In the past three months, retailers have been stocking up on ‘Power Casual’ SKU’s with significant quantities of Floral and Checks patterns to reflect the post-pandemic cheer. 

In the chart below, the floral pattern took up 37.7% of contribution among the assortments for SHEIN, PrettyLittleThing and ASOS Design, followed by Checks at 8.3% and Conversational at 7.3%.

Pattern distribution in post-pandemic workwear. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

Benchmark for Post-Pandemic Fashion

The U.S. are not completely out of the woods yet amid recent reports of the Delta variant of the Coronavirus and slowing vaccination rates. 

If the country continues to ramp up its vaccination efforts and cases stay below alarming rates, the U.S. fashion scene can be the benchmark for countries emerging from Covid-19 gloom. 

Based on our dashboard analysis, comfortable apparel is here to stay. It’s been a vital fixture in our wardrobe for over a year, and that will be something consumers find hard to give up when and if they transition back to a pre-pandemic routine. Apparel with relaxed silhouettes and softer, natural fabrics have continued trending upwards. In the coming months, retailers can expect the market shift to elevated loungewear in the same vein as ‘Power Casual’ to continue.  Casual and functional yet presentable attire is the outfit of choice for the post-pandemic future. 

For more insights into the post-pandemic retail market with real-time data that are customised to benefit your business, check out the Omnilytics platform.

About the Author

Before her current fashion content writer role at Omnilytics, Aqilah Zailan was already decoding trends in the retail space. She now produces articles for Omnilytics’ blog and continues to keep a keen eye on shifting trends in the fashion industry.