After a year of pairing Zoom-appropriate tops with pyjama bottoms, it’s only natural that you might be a little reluctant to return to your less comfortable, traditional office wear. You might catch yourself staring deeply into your wardrobe one morning, questioning whether last year’s loungewear is appropriate office wear in 2021. To help you decipher office dress codes post-pandemic, we’ve created a guide for how to dress for the office in 2021.

How To Dress for the Office Post-Pandemic

As many businesses around the world start to transition back to office life, one can only wonder: Will relaxed office wear become acceptable workplace attire? Or, will the trend swing in the other direction as people look to swap their slippers with stilettos, pyjamas with pencil skirts, and messy buns with manicures. 

How fashion impacts your brain

The pandemic has produced a shift in how we interact with fashion. As Katie Attardo wrote in a piece for Marie Claire, “with shutdowns preventing us from leaving the house, the absence of social interaction focused on how clothing made us feel instead of their visual appeal.” Naturally, this resulted in a focus on comfort. 

According to Attardo, clothing influences how we perceive ourselves in three ways: the individual we choose to be right now, the individual we want to become in the long run and the individual we worry we will become down the road. Our connection with fashion is ultimately pleasurable because what we choose to wear (or what we avoid wearing) allows us to travel among these three perceptions of ourselves. In short? Clothing can help us to convey different aspects of our personality, or even take on a different persona altogether. 

Our style has an influence on how people see us and, as a result, how they treat us; it has an impact on how we feel about ourselves, our talents, and how we behave. Clothing may be used as a tool to improve our emotions, inspire memories, and spark joy–all of which were desperately needed in 2020. 

Post-pandemic office wear trends

As a result of the pandemic, the fashion world has been flipped upside down. Previously, the top fashion designers determined the style trends from one season to the next. Now, however, designers are taking their cues from the consumers, listening to their post-pandemic needs and wants. Bright colours, soft fabrics, and relaxed silhouettes are in high demand, and we’ve even seen new terms like “workleisure” and “power casual” rise in popularity.

Workleisure

We’re seeing suit designers creating relaxed-fit pants and activewear companies, like Lululemon, creating slightly more structured pants that could pass for appropriate office attire. They’re making yoga pants that look like dress pants, work-appropriate T-shirts, and a more classy variation of cork-lined shoes called the “Work Birk”. 

With the designs that these brands are creating, you wouldn’t even know that the pieces were created with a comfort-first focus.

Warpstreme™ High-Rise 7/8 Jogger, $128 – Lululemon

Simply Effortless Jacket, $128 – Lululemon

Power casual

Generally, what we are seeing in post-pandemic workwear is a resurgence of the casual look. Although office wear trends were generally headed in that direction prior to the pandemic, relaxed dressing is becoming more appropriate in an office environment and so the term “power casual” was born–that is, pieces that provide practicality and functionality, without compromising on style.

Similar to workleisure, power casual is comfortable clothing that allows free movement, yet is durable, sustainable, and structured. The stylish loungewear that was fashionable at the outset of the pandemic might  be replaced with comfortable dresses. Chances are, we’ll see men ditch their ties and suit coats in favour of more relaxed button-ups that have appeared in recent months.

Barcelona Dress, $153 – L*SPACE

Oversized Dresses and Unstructured Tops

Fashion generally has moved away from the tight skinny jeans era of the 2010s, and we’re seeing more oversized and unstructured pieces. This trend has taken off in office wear too, and softer and natural fabrics – notably wrinkle-resistant ones – are becoming the new go-to.

Bon Voyage Dress, $142 – BB Dakota by Steve Madden

Wide-Legged and Elastic Waist Pants

Adios to fitted and highly structured pants! It’s time to embrace wide-leg trousers and slacks with stretchy waistbands as post-pandemic office wear. 

Maeve Pants, $128 – Anthropologie


Essential Linen Pants, $99 – AERE

Leggings

While leggings aren’t really a new item in most of our closets, they did play a significant role in our pandemic wardrobe. These practical, yet comfy, pieces make a comeback in the post-pandemic era, and expect to see them being jazzed up a notch–think: thicker fabric, thoughtful detailing and added structure. 

Align™ High-Rise Pant with Pockets, $128 – Lululemon

Fun colours and prints

There’s nothing like putting on a bright colour or a crazy print to lift your spirits when you’re feeling low–and, let’s face it, we could probably use a little mood-boosting after last year.

If you found yourself falling back to muted or darker hues while working from home, investing in some more out-there pieces could be just what you need to add a dose of fresh energy, optimism and joy into your post-pandemic work wardrobe.

Dear Coral Pant, $229 – Gorman

Lawn Daisy Pantsuit, $269 – Gorman

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Colour-Blocking

Mules and slides

Forget about high stilettos and pumps–your feet deserve to be comfortable too! Slides are not only super easy to slip on and off, but they also look great with most power casual outfits.

Madeira Basketweave Mules, $129 – KAANAS

 

Adjusting back to “normal” life

Many of us want to experience the joy of fashion again after spending so much time cooped up at home (and spending a little too much time online shopping for outfits we couldn’t wear during the pandemic). After months spent working from the dining table, couch and bed, the very thought of getting dressed up and feeling human again is so appealing right now.

Not surprisingly, comfort has remained a key component of how to dress for the office post-pandemic, and most of us will find it difficult to give it up anytime soon.

Let us know in the comments below: What are your post-pandemic office wear staples?