After working through almost two years in a pandemic, people are quitting their jobs simultaneously, with more than 4 million Americans having resigned from their workplaces this past fall. Anthony Klotz, psychologist at Texas A&M University, calls this the “Great Resignation”. This unprecedented event has challenged the culture and changing characteristics of a rewarding job and career. These changes are affecting other areas of their lives as well, since employees are refusing to work nine-to-five. This includes clothing they’ve previously worn to perform their professional selves: Business-adjacent fashion trends like low-cut blazers, leather harnesses worn over jackets, and skirt suits so short you’ll never make it past your office entrance are rising in popularity.
Klotz says that since the pandemic, it has become evident that the office culture doesn’t work for everyone. “I must be fake when I enter the office. It’s more than wearing comfortable clothes. I want clothes that allow me to express myself.” He says that the norms at work don’t allow for this. People have been challenged by the Great Resignation. Klotz says, “When you decide to do something else, whether that’s working for another company, starting an entrepreneurial venture or pursuing a hobby, the power balance shifts.” Employees feel less attached to work and are more comfortable in the environment they find most comfortable.
Morgan LeCaer is the content lead for global fashion search site Lyst. “Our work life has changed significantly and so are the looks we consider to be appropriate for work.” “With the world slowly returning to work, we have quickly had to adjust to the new nine-to- five- while maintaining the comfort of loungewear for the past 18-plus month.”
According to the site, hybrid workwear was ranked as one of the most popular trends in its 2021 Year in Fashion Report. This is due to a 109% increase in demand of “oversized suits” in August 2021, and an 87% jump in July for “wide-leg trousers” compared with last year. LeCaer says that high-low workwear, and more relaxed silhouettes, have been very popular in the last six months.
Loretta Choy, general manager for women at Stitch Fix, said that 71% of customers feel striking a balance between style, comfort, and style is more important than ever before COVID-19. The site offers a subscription-based shopping platform and has seen a 39% increase in searches for “back-to-work” clothing since last year. Choy says that while shoppers are likely to be heading to work, they don’t necessarily want the same clothes. “The top business comfort style for women right now is soft, oversized boyfriend fits blazers. They also like elastic waist pants. Fly knit flats. And sweater dresses.”
In response, designers have reimagined what workwear looks like beyond fashion-forward athleisure .sets or designer sneakers that were trending even prior to the pandemic. In one of the most .buzzed-about spring 2022 runway shows, Miu Miu showed blue button-down shirts worn with cropped blazers and leather micro mini skirt suits – preppy, risque styling better suited for Constance Billard’s courtyard than your typical workday. But while the low-rise waistlines and barely-finished hemlines might have seemed inappropriate for the office in a pre-pandemic world, our priorities have changed. What is more important than the length of your skirt? Healthcare benefits, retirement options, and the coverage of your face are all more important.
Klotz points to another manifestation of the Great Rectification: the way people embrace uncertainty and often quit without a plan for the two weeks following their notice. He says, “It’s fascinating that people are moving into those in-between spaces which are normally frightening.” Although employees might normally dedicate a large portion of their wardrobe to workwear, there is no guarantee they will return to the corporate office. Hybrid clothes that can be worn for both professional and personal occasions are increasingly important to consumers.
Take, for example, Alexander McQueen’s spring 2022 collection, which showed blazer dresses with statement sleeves and suits with slits on the jacket that work just as well in a conference room as a night out. Peter Do’s spring 2022 collection featured a range of monochrome suits, some without shirts underneath, as well as silk shirts and pants that are perfect for both a year-long sabbatical or a return to work day. Choy observed a similar trend with Sitch Fix customers. She says that many of her clients are returning to work only a few days per week. This means that clients are looking for pieces they can wear at work, but also something they can use on their travels.
People are also putting away their business suits as they hand in their resignations. Klotz states that employers will have to change their past practices (including office dress codes) if they want to retain their workforce.
We can be sure that mini skirts will soon be in fashion if runways are true. Will they be going to work or heading home?