Being casual at office

- May 28, 2023
| By : Asmita Aggarwal |

From Marlene Dietrich-inspired tuxedos to adding a quintessential sporty vibe, board-room dressing post-pandemic channels stronger elements with a softer, easier side

Big brands, retailers, e-commerce giants, and luxury houses are taking the innovation route to serenade those who have the 9 to 5 job

In a market tending towards recession, where jobs are few, showing up at work in appropriate clothing is one of the ways of securing one’s position.

The post-Covid hangover of jogger style has morphed into a sense of relaxed tailoring, with focus on detailing, which displays the small things being celebrated in the fashion space nowadays.

“Easy on the shoulders and all the way down is the way to step up one game,” says designer Narendra Kumar, who is also the Creative Director at Amazon India.

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After years of being in lockdown, people are returning to socialising with friends and work-mates, so the desire to look good prevails.

Designer Stella McCartney, daughter of singer Paul McCartney, gave power dressing a new definition with more colour and shine to celebrate self-care. The runway saw her abandon neutrals and launch flared suits for working women, blazers worn under bomber jackets to give a youthful vibe.

Big brands, retailers, e-commerce giants, and luxury houses are taking the innovation route to serenade those who have the 9 to 5 job.

Take for example Net-a-Porter, which has launched belted blazers, removed collars for more ease, realising that with lesser zoom meetings and more personalised face-to-face interactions, looking good is imperative.

Deepit Chugh, of the label Line Outline, who has worked as designer with Aditya Birla Retail and Raymond’s for their in-house labels for almost 10 years, believes people are dressing up to make their individuality shine.

“To make sure they are noticed—- the current trend is for instant appreciation. Having said that, majority of the workforce must dress according to their professions. Which I feel is great. Imagine talking to an investment banker in hot shorts and a hoodie! The fact is that casual wear has crept into the formal space post-pandemic — no ties compulsory for bankers, or a plaid shirt and chino still acceptable as semi-formal clothing. It has given way to somewhat designing clothes with multi-functionality or multi-use as a key driver,” he explains.

The formal space is now seeing T-shirts with blazers, at Line Outline. Deepit has made power dressing fun by infusing prints to tuxedos, as well as patch-work.

Saint Laurent took it a step further by pairing denims with blazers, and the emergence of the shacket (cross between a shirt and jacket), comfortable trousers with elasticated waistbands to take you through the day effortlessly.

The Stitch Fix project research was conducted to see how shoppers in England changed their dressing habits after working from home during the lockdown.

“The results were clear: The restraints of top buttons, cufflinks and heels are a thing of the past,” according to the Stitch Fix research, which identified that 72% of those asked now have comfort as a priority and wish for their work-wear wardrobes to be less restrictive.

A third of the participants hoped for “relaxed tailoring” to become the new norm and spoke of being more productive when working in casual clothing.

“At another end of the design spectrum, athleisure brands are looking at ways to upgrade sporty clothing for the office,” according to a report by Women’s Wear Daily (WWD).

Post-pandemic waves have mentally and physically made us stronger and more confident. Survival mode of past two years has sprouted this sense of armour dressing, combating each day — whatever battles we fight both personal, and professional.

With recession hanging over our head, with companies downsizing everywhere and Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing human intelligence, we are getting ready to face the worst and this attitude of being prepared, and equipped is reflecting in design collections around the world.

“Thus, power dressing is relevant and reflective immensely in our wardrobe and in post-Covid gloom. We are breaking the customs, rules and bending and blurring the line of formal and informal. Though work-from-home is still an option, many of us crave human interaction. In these two years, we have, in true sense, found our expressive side. We are more experimental, and embrace our individualism like never before. Thus, we aren’t afraid to explore, and experiment with new colours, shapes, patterns and prints,” says designer Aniket Satam.

Designers are looking at crafting pants that you can cycle to office in, wear for a yoga session, thus drawstring waists made from sustainable fabrics are a must-have. Fashion and psychology have a symbiotic relationship and it is a well-known fact that it is not about how your dress makes you look, but what is changing from inside. It is your feelings that matter when you wear it.

Kunal Rawal, who is a favourite among Bollywood celebrities for his sharp cuts and street-wear infused offerings, believes that there is a subterranean spirit of rebellion in dressing post-pandemic, especially in board-rooms.

There is a continuous change, as “everyone is a new version of themselves”. There is a variety in choices with a bent towards personalised clothing, which he does for Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan, who has recently launched his own brand.

“Street tailoring mixed with made-to-measure, fun with patterns, and with not just one shade of blue but 12 versions of it, make even the staid and predictable choices interesting. The new colour everyone is loving is ‘greige’ — a mix of grey and beige. Also, salmonella with a mushroom-y feel,” says Kunal.

Add to this, a diverse section of fabrics —from taffeta, jute linen to shunning the shirt and replacing it with a short kurta is the new trend.

Internationally, the circle of fashion has once again paid homage to the queen of androgyny, Marlene Dietrich, and her signature tuxedos. Koma AW23 was a gender bender with the runway blending male and female elements, shirting techniques and slim ties for women heading companies.

Sarah Burton at McQueen offered black suits, bold pinstripe, sharp suits, white shirts, black ties, and tuxedo-style wrap dress, but the effervescent Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior show was a quintessential take on the new board-room dressing –white shirt and thin black tie matched with super baggy jeans.