The way we dress is determined by our lifestyles, and there is no greater change to how we are living our lives than what 2020 has brought upon us. With the pandemic, day-to-day dressing has evolved.
If you had looked through Instagram during lockdown early this year, you would realise how fashion staples have evolved. Loungewear rose to astronomical popularity, with chic pyjamas being the chosen go-to.
Even as life now trundles back to near normalcy (or at least, it attempts to), the way we dress remains very different. Fashion’s new fixation with casualness is being celebrated.
With everyone encouraged to stay at home, fewer people are heading out – unless they absolutely need to, of course. Even big festivals and celebrations, like Hari Raya, have been a more muted affair this year.
So, what happens to evening dresses and formal suits? They have been replaced with loungewear. Elaborate haute couture designs are being given the pass for comfortable choices like the humble pyjamas.
“Sweatpants Forever”, reads the headline of an article by The New York Times. The piece (which ran in early August) then asks the question: “What happens now that no one has a reason to dress up?”
“In the absence of dress-up events, there’s a surge in demand for comfort, ” comments Business Of Fashion in a June story.
Such claims are not baseless. Sales of pyjamas online surged 143% in April compared with March, according to data by Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions from 80 of the top 100 retailers in the US.
Additionally, sales of pants fell 13%, as people turned to video conference calls, where only tops are visible.
“We will see fewer dress-up or occasion-wear. And more of athletic, loungewear and casual clothing from the fact that people will be working from home more, ” chimes in Malaysian couturier Khoon Hooi.
“This is definitely the era of the rise of loungewear. Everything centres around the context of self-care.”
Khoon Hooi has adapted. He recently launched a lifestyle collection comprising of pyjama sets, mandarin-collar maxi dresses, maxi robes and matching kaftans for both adults and children – as well as items like yoga mat bags and hair scrunchies.
“Comfy knitwear can be a great layering piece for a coffee run on a chilly night. Pyjama pants can also serve as stylish bottoms, by throwing on a longer top to hide the elastic bands, ” he advises.
“Loungewear these days doesn’t have to be boring and frumpy anymore! Silky pyjama tops are super elegant, especially when worn with slim pants and heels. Wear feminine camisoles under a sharp blazer, and you’re ready for a fancy event.”
Face masks are also very much a fashion thing now. As an accessory, it is part and parcel of a whole look. Fashion designers, both in Malaysia and around the world, have all released their own beautiful and chic versions.
Workwear vs homewear
For men, it seems that the business attire is being made obsolete. Suits, or even the general shirt-and-tie look, can be considered as no longer relevant. A lot people are still encouraged to work from home.
“The line between ‘corporate attire’ and professional image has been blurred and this makes it far easier to loosen dress codes and expand casual Friday, ” says Jon Cohen, who leads talent, culture and human resource leadership for BrioHR.
“With the changing times, the business suit is no longer as powerful a symbol as it once was and wearing a more casual attire gives the same confidence boosting effect for many people.”
Cohen, who is based in Kuala Lumpur and has prior experience leading talent acquisition teams and as a human resource consultant, however says that pyjamas are for sleeping. He is not really on board with the whole trend.
“Getting dressed for work can set the tone for your day, ” he explains. “Since your normal routine is interrupted when you work from home, it can help you ‘get into work mode’ if you wear something a bit closer to what you would normally wear at the office.”
At the moment, no one can predict whether working from home will be a permanent option. The same goes for business wear. Will it make a comeback? Maybe. Trends after all, are essentially cyclical.
Hugo Boss, known for its crisply tailored menswear, has been reported by Reuters as saying that it expects demand for suits and formal wear to return as lockdowns ease – even as it adjusts to the rising popularity of casual styles.
“As an interviewer I don’t care if a man wears a tie or not, or if a woman wears high heels or not, but some interviews do care about these things, ” Cohen points out.
“First impressions still make a big impact. Corporate attire remains important in some industries and companies, but ‘smart casual’ is considered professional in others.”
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