Post-Covid, office clothes and other clothes are redesigned as we all try to remember how to dress
All the outfits I’ve made look fake. I don’t have shoes that I like, no pants that flatter me. After a year of Zoom-ready sweatshirts and blouses, my closet before the pandemic looks like the wardrobe of a woman I’ve heard of but only vaguely remember. She was wearing tight pants! She loved the belts! She put her evening essentials in a bag too small to contain what she really needed!
As we come out of our year of isolation, it’s clear we’ve all been changed by the pandemic – and our clothes are another reminder of this unintentional and undeniable transformation. So far, dressing like me in January 2020 as I return to society in mid-2021 has made me feel like I’m putting on a costume. My old clothes seem too restrictive and too dull at the same time. Too bulky. Too embarrassing. Too much not me. I am different now; it makes sense that my clothes are too.
The way I feel is not unique; for the record, most of my friends have expressed a similar dilemma. Take a look on the internet and you will find countless strangers confused as to how to dress for their return to work in person (the consensus seems to be something a bit below business casual – a “jardigan” can -to be). Get out on the town, and the excitement is all over the place. Bright colors, flowers, prints and great silhouettes: after such a sad year, it seems everyone wants to dress happy, everyone wants to take up space, everyone wants to present themselves as themselves.
And the real selves seem to be the direction in which fashion is headed.
“Complying with dress style and beauty standards will be a choice rather than an expectation,” Jennifer Dasher, assistant professor of costume design at the University of Florida, said of post-pandemic fashion. “Self-expression, cultural expression and a continued desire to be comfortable will be essential.”
âI expect to see a lot of color,â agreed Gail Brassard, who has taught costume design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Covid was a life changing event – like a war or an economic crash – that its effects will be profound on all visuals and especially in the arts.”
Brassard anticipates more “fantasy dressing”, “tall figures” and clothing with a “playful” quality. Judging by the exuberant shapes and vivid colors on the catwalks at Venice Fashion Week, they’re both right. In short: Fashion is changing at a rapid rate, and the new look will be a reaction to what we have just experienced collectively. People are happy to continue to feel comfortable in their clothes (at least I am) while not just sticking to sweats. Meanwhile, there is a palpable energy of optimism to be harnessed, and that too shines through in the clothes.
Throughout history, major world events – war, disease, depression, revolution – have had a direct impact on what we wear.
âTimes of greater change in fashion are in sync with big changes in society,â Dasher noted.
Some of these moments are easy to pinpoint: the splendor of the Roaring Twenties after the end of World War I and the Spanish flu; women’s pants after WWII factory fashions.