Will Americans go shopping for dressier clothes as the COVID-19 threat is reduced?

Discussion
Photos: Neiman Marcus
Apr 23, 2021
Tom Ryan

Sweatpants may represent the wardrobe of the pandemic, but coming out of it, you might expect people to want to dress up as they re-enter public life. Will they?

Many may continue to crave the cozy loungewear, sneakers and other relaxed styles they’ve grown more accustomed to during the pandemic. COVID-19 may have only accelerated the shift towards casualization trends over the last few decades. Any shift toward work-from-home will further prioritize comfy clothes.

At the other extreme, some are predicting a “Roaring 20s” comeback as pent-up demand to socialize brings back sequins, stilettos and mascara. Retailers, citing the return of dresses and denim in recent quarterly conference calls, have heralded a return to more stylish dressing.

Nonetheless, many fashion insiders see at least a transition back to pre-pandemic style and aren’t expecting consumers to quickly forgo the comfort and versatility they’ve grown used to. Bright colors in more relaxed silhouettes and fabrications, stretchy dresses, more comfortable footwear, and looser, forgiving fits are some post-pandemic style predictions.

“I think it’s going to be hard to go to older standards of formality now that people are so used to doing their jobs in more comfortable clothes from home,” Sonya Abrego, a design and fashion historian, told USA Today.

“Personally, the relentless sameness of quarantine has deepened my appreciation for anything even slightly offbeat,” wrote Hilary George-Parkin for Glamour. “Give me clashing prints and bright colors. The more personality, the better. With so much bleakness in the world, fashion feels like a vital sign.”

She added, Twelve months of couch clothes have also made me utterly intolerant of discomfort, though, which rules out nearly all my heels, a large swath of my dresses, and any bag too fussy to wear while riding a bike.”

“Women are absolutely going to want to get dressed up,” Carolina Herrera creative director Wes Gordon told Vogue Business. “But I think what fun clothes and special occasion pieces mean for 2020 and 2021 and beyond is very different from what they meant in 2019 and 2018.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will people be eager to dress up when they can safely socialize again? Do you see the relaxed dressing trend seen during the pandemic having a short or long-term negative impact on the dress and formal wear category?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"There’s definitely a pent-up demand for snappier outfits and for self-care. Let’s get dressed up again!"

Join the Discussion!

21 Comments on "Will Americans go shopping for dressier clothes as the COVID-19 threat is reduced?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

From all the data I have seen, there has already been something of a return to dressier styles as consumers start to reengage with the world. However these garments are mostly being purchased for simple social occasions such as going out to eat or meeting with friends. We are still in a transitional phase. Formal workwear, such as suiting, remains in the doldrums and because of the shifts in working from home will not get back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. What’s also interesting is the shift in styling and fit: there is a definite trend towards looser items and aspects such as the sweatpant silhouette showing up inmate formal pants. The pandemic has most certainly had a long-term impact on how we dress and the styles we choose.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Even pre-pandemic the trend in suiting was down. I image NYC would have the most formal work wear and pre-pandemic, one was hard pressed to see someone fully in tie and suit, even in banking or law.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
12 days 32 minutes ago

There is definitely a pent-up desire for socialization and social events. Prior to the pandemic, the fashion trends had already accelerated to a more casual approach to apparel. I don’t see a big shift back to more formal or dressy attire for socialization or work environments. However most people will at least ditch the sweat pants and t-shirts and pick it up a notch for public social interactions.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

There’s dressy and there’s dressy: The movement toward returning to the office will drive a renewed demand for office-appropriate clothes, even if that means business casual. (Especially for those carrying some extra “COVID weight” around.) But it’s hard to say whether the demand for new apparel will translate into “out on the town” clothes.

The return to restaurants, bars and performance venues may drive a recovery in dress-up apparel, or it may strike people as a dispensable luxury after the last year. Shoppers have learned the hard way what they can live without, and what their priorities are.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

For over a year, we’ve all worn the same clothes we’d wear to wash the car. I find it hard to believe that heels are coming back, but there’s definitely a pent-up demand for snappier outfits and for self-care. Let’s get dressed up again!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I bought heels last Saturday.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Looks like I’ll have to up my game!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

LOL

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I am a purist and more conservative on this particular issue and I certainly hope so!

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Boy, I don’t know, sure is nice being surrounded by soft cotton vs. a buttoned down collar on the tight side. Sure, we’re all going to get somewhat more dressed up — we’ll have to, but one of the upsides of the pandemic has been the realization that you can do just about anything in awfully relaxed apparel.

That said, I don’t think there’s any doubt that there will be a pretty big boost to apparel sales across the board. I mean, at the very least, we all need to upgrade. Even the sweatpants are beat up now! Then there’s the thought of going out. Think of it, we’re going OUT! But in the long run, the casualization of America, started in California by the like of the Gap and others, will continue, maybe even expand.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Wait. Mascara was out? How does that make sense when the only thing that shows above a mask is our eyes? And sequins are back? According to companies that dress women over 50 sequins never left. I wish they would.

Personally, I can’t wait to get back to live presentations. I have already purchased new apparel for when Rich and I can hit an actual stage again. And judging from what I saw at the mall last weekend I am not alone. There were comfort clothes available, but also an assortment of nice tops, jeans, blazers, shoes and accessories. And women were buying.

There is a direct correlation between what we wear and how we feel. We’re ready to feel better again and if new clothing helps, let’s hope retailers rise to the occasion.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Absolutely people will want to dress up again, but at the same time we will be redefining what dress up looks and feels like. People may want to forego the office uniform for something a little more fun and expressive. Hopefully we see a shift to color and comfort. Color is an easy way to express upbeat feelings and there can’t be any doubt about the new emphasis on comfort. There is a big opportunity here for different segments of the apparel business to express some real creativity. Dressing up denim and dressing down the suit should give people the opportunity to be newly expressive and shake off the doldrums of a year we all want to move on from.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust
I remember when people dressed up to go to a Broadway show. Me in a tie and jacket, my wife dressed to the nines. Today (well pre-pandemic) people were wearing sweats, t-shirts, sneakers and even shorts. While I don’t imagine the old ever returning, it would be nice if it does. I believe the pandemic has affected dresswear eating out. While even in the nicest restaurants people were moving to more casual attire, the pandemic has dressed us down to sneakers and jeans. I imagine that dressing down will remain. How about the office? Early in the pandemic there was much talk, even with companies agreeing, that we have forever changed to work from home. After a year the vast majority of companies have changed their position and will be demanding people come back to the office. They have found that they lose to much interaction having employees separated. We may see an uptick in office apparel, but not too much as dressing down was the trend pre-pandemic (not jeans and sweats). So, Mr. Retailer,… Read more »
Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I agree with the comments posted – I think people are ready to at least get back to being business casual instead of spending their days in sweats and that comfy t-shirt that hasn’t been laundered in a very long time. I still see shopping online as being more prevalent that actually going into a store – at least for a while.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Absolutely yes, we will start shopping for more fashion in our world. That being said, it won’t come like a tidal wave, but as gentle winds. As shoppers pick up items, they will feel better in how they feel and look. And that growth is exactly what will fire a wonderful resurgence of fashion for all instances.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

There is pent-up demand for dressier clothes in social settings coming out of the pandemic but I anticipate there would still be a huge demand for casual/leisure wear as people have been conditioned to put comfort above fashion. Brands can tap into this behavior by designing clothes that look dressier but are also extremely comfortable.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

As people go back to the office, they will go back to typical office attire. We’ve become more and more casual over the years, but I don’t think we’re going to see “work-from-home-casual” in the office environment.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust

Yes, people are eager to dress up. I listened to a panel of Gen Zers last week, they were ready to dress up. And one of the panelists works at a boutique and said there has been elevated interest in dressing up, with people being tired of sweats.

I actually think there will be a blended approach to the next wave of fashion; evolved and new innovations, by designers and manufacturers. The availability to look dressy with better materials that are more flexible and comfortable. The change comes from a subconscious mindset shift to get this behind us.

Peter Smith
Guest
11 days 22 hours ago

There has been a years’ long trend to more pragmatic dress. From my own perspective, that meant fewer suits and more jeans — but still with a nice shirt, jacket and dress shoes. Nordstrom was, and might still be, the best example of that. As I get back to visiting customers, I expect to dress the same way. The sizes might just be a little bigger — yikes!

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Yes, Americans will go out clothes shopping. No, they will not abandon (completely) their COVID-casual clothes. We can expect Americans to increase their shopping, but their habits will reflect a changing lifestyle, workplace and approach to what they are wearing.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The only people predicting a “Roaring 20’s” are those who have a vested interest in there being one, so I tend to discount their “predictions”…100%.

As for fashion — and I use the word for want of a better one — there might or might not be some short term revival, but the long term doesn’t look good … at least to judge by the past fifty years (of increasing slovenliness).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"There’s definitely a pent-up demand for snappier outfits and for self-care. Let’s get dressed up again!"

Take Our Instant Poll

What’s the likelihood that dressier fashions undergo a notable resurgence as vaccine rollouts accelerate and restrictions ease?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...