Are you ready to ditch your quarantine sweats?
During the pandemic, conventional beauty standards have noticeably relaxed: People have ditched makeup in favor of a bare-faced look, and loungewear became a normalized fashion staple for many — even outside of the bedroom.
“At the start of the pandemic, people were always a little more eager to find ways to incorporate casual clothing items into more circumstances” D.C. Commissioner of Fashion Arts and Events Emilia Ferrara tells USA TODAY.
She recalled seeing a “strict diet” of more casual, comfortable looks during lockdown: for instance, sneakers and slippers in lieu of heels and pumps, or sweats and athletic shorts over dress pants or denim jeans.
“It was almost as if people’s most comfortable clothing, that (you) would’ve worn on the night you chose to stay in, was constantly on recycle with zero opportunity to come up for air,” says Ferrara, who has promoted fashion and beauty events in D.C. and written about trends in beauty, fashion and magazine industries.
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But it looks like that’s going to change. As vaccine rollouts are accelerating and restrictions are easing, people are looking forward to acclimating back into the “real world.” This includes adjusting to “real clothes.”
Sonya Abrego, a New York City-based design and fashion historian, acknowledges that this may be a difficult transition for many.
“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,” she says.
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The brighter, the better – plus accessories
As the country approaches the light at the end of the tunnel, Ferrara said she’s observed people becoming more eager to dress up — an “extreme reaction” to the clothing they wore in 2020.
Overall, expect more risk-taking in the form of bright, experimental colors. This preference for “aggressively colorful, neon and bright colors” in the next few months may “make up for the fact that we lost a year of sticking to the minimal, comfortable looks,” Abrego says.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of geometrics, bright patterns and stripes as opposed to pastels,” Ferrara predicts. Whether you’re going to brunch or running errands, she said “we’re going to see outfit after outfit after outfit.”
“It’s going to be experimental, it’s going to be colorful, it’s going to be creative, it’s going to be fashion-forward,” Ferrara adds. For those who feel hesitant to ditch their pandemic wardrobe, she suggests doing some spring cleaning to purge the volume of unwanted clothes.
“It’ll be more energizing for you to get back into your regular closet,” she says. “You’ll re-appreciate things like jeans or peppy formal options that we glazed over during the pandemic.”
Ferrara adds that accessories have stood out to her most “in this sort of reopening and high vaccination period.” This includes bright colored handbags instead of tan or black ones for that “pop of color,” as well as longer necklaces that are more visible on the chest.
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And don’t forget footwear: Abrego predicts flats will replace stilettos on a night out, and Ferrara expects that platform sneakers to stay as well.
“It’s a way to elevate your look and feel sexier and peppier, like you’re purposely dressing to leave the house without going as far as wearing a stiletto,” she says.
“I’m also seeing enormous earrings, big earrings, statement earrings, overall fun earrings,” Ferrara says.
Don’t worry: Comfort is here to stay
That being said, you won’t have to completely ditch the casual look.
Celebrities including Selena Gomez and Khloe Kardashian helped popularize matching sweats at the start of the pandemic, and athleisure is no longer exclusive to physical exercise, eventually becoming a staple quarantine look.
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“At first, there was almost a playful showing off of people’s comfy clothes during the pandemic,” Abrego says. Wearing these casual pieces meant to be loungewear “felt novel and silly” for many during these unprecedented times.
However, over a year into the pandemic, Abrego and Ferrara both believe that the more casual trends are here to stay. One unexpected spring/summer look that Ferrara has been seeing is the “stretchy dress,” which combines style with comfort.
“They can be mid-length, maxi or mini, but I’m actually seeing more stretchy fabrics — something with spandex in it,” Ferrara says.
“I think there are companies experimenting with these types of dresses, because they know people still want to feel comfortable as they’re coming out of their pandemic laziness. But (people) also feel guilty about not making an effort to leave the house looking more presentable,” Ferrara says.
Abrego says you don’t have to be “formal” to “stay stylish,” and suggests a combination of comfortable and more peppy looks in the post-pandemic era.
“Don’t go from wearing sweats all week to dressing formally every time you go outside,” Abrego says. “Ease into it.”
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Say goodbye to stuffy suits and uncomfortable heels at work
Workplace fashion will be changing as well.
Many people have been working from home due to quarantine protocols at the start of the pandemic. As a result, business formality started to change: Slippers replaced heels, and loungewear replaced pencil skirts.
This growing acceptability of working from home may influence what business casual will look like post-pandemic, Ferrara says.
“We as a culture have started to accept that working from home is totally OK,” Ferrara says. “There’s no longer this sense of separation between work and home. There’s more of a bleeding. It’s more common now to see a mom go into work and wear something more casual to her son’s soccer game, because it’s no longer a formal, stuffy suit with gray colors.”
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What does this mean for our looks? Less traditional heels and blazers, more comfortable footwear and looser, forgiving fits.
“Comfort will definitely stick around,” Abrego said. “I think we’re going to see women wear less tailored clothing, or tailored with more stretchy material.”