A popular discussion among many is what will happen to work fashion after the world fully opens up. There seem to be two camps. One camp believes we will never go back to getting “dressed” again. They believe we’ve swum too far into the world of comfort making going back unlikely. The other camp believes that after more than a year of dressing in elastic waist pants and relaxed tops, we will mimic the roaring 20’s and get dressed up just like they did after the 1918 Spanish flu.
Of course, I’ve given this a lot of thought and I don’t believe either camp’s belief is entirely accurate. What I think will happen is a new way of dressing, that is a different combination of both camp’s views, will unfold. Out of the gate, I think we will embrace dressing again. After a year-plus of not, the concept of this will feel exciting and fresh. Finally, we’ll be able to dust off our heels, wear something tailored, fun, sparkly, exciting. It will be fun…until it’s not, and it won’t be long before we’re reminded how much about dressing up the way we used to sucks. We’ll remember how uncomfortable Spanx can be, how much our feet hurt after a long day in heels, and we’ll be saddled with the very real struggle of actually putting effort forth again. On the other hand, after a year of our comfortable home clothes, we will want a reason to get dressed again making it unlikely the camp that believes we’ve slipped into a permanent comfortable clothing coma not realistic either.
Instead, as I said, we’re going to find a hybrid that will be built on just how much we have all intrinsically changed. The pandemic altered us. So to say that we’ll go back to something familiar in regards to clothing is naive. We’re different people, with different priorities and completely different perspectives. We’ve learned to value and hone in closely on what is important and let go of fluff that doesn’t matter. We’re survivors. We’re tough. Therefore, I can’t imagine any of us allowing ourselves to be victimized by the dos and don’ts of fashion. We’ll no longer be people who will get a consensus over whether or not to wear pantyhose. We’re beyond that.
The pandemic also brought to light just how unfairly women have been treated in the workplace. Women have lost the majority of jobs due to COVID-19 either due to layoffs or choosing to off-ramp to care for their families. While devastating, it brought to light the ugly truth of just how much more effort it takes for women to compete with their male counterparts. Women have always known this, it was just never discussed as candidly before COVID. Now it is and women are now done with jumping through hoops just to be taken as seriously as men.
All this to say, women are heading back to the workplace as different people and I think that will change the way women dress. While we will enjoy dressing again, a line in the sand has been drawn and that line will be different for each woman. I believe women will look for ways to look professional and comfortable at the same time. What will be created are new types of hybrid work looks. Not every woman will want to wear sneakers to work, especially if she never liked sneakers in the first place, but I think we’ll start seeing these interesting and creative looks that meld the life we lived for a year in lockdown with the world we once knew and are finally living again.
Certainly, just like the two camps that have predicted the future, I am doing the same. But where all camps can agree, is we’re different people, with different priorities, different outlooks navigating a new post-pandemic world.
SNEAKER LOOKS FOR THE WORKPLACE
That said, my rambling dialogue of predictions introduces today’s post, wearing sneakers to the workplace which is an example what I mean by hybrid of pairing comfort with professionalism and what I see for the future. Check out the looks and shop for some more styles at the end of this post.
We’ve been seeing more and more creativity in sneakers, like this leopard pair from Cole Haan. When choosing sneakers for the workplace, the same thought should go into them as goes into wearing denim to work. Sneakers should be clean, not gym sneakers or a tattered pair you wear to run errands on the weekends. Sneakers for work should be cared for the way you would any other shoes you wear to work.
I styled these Cole Haan sneakers with a pair of black pleated ankle pants from COS, a short sleeve blouse from Everlane, and finished the look with a black belt from Nordstrom, and mother-of-pearl drop earrings from Jenny Bird.
Styling pleated maxis and midis with sneakers have been a popular look for some time, so much so that any millennial looking at this outfit would call it yesterday’s news. I’m not entirely sold that this outfit would look anything but dumpy on the average woman over 35 given how tricky pleated skirts can be to wear, but on the right person, it’s quite cute. As a Gen X’er, I am often perplexed by the viewpoints of the millennial generation, but when it comes to blazing their own trail with workplace fashion, I do have to hand it to them, they do know how to disrupt.
For those who don’t mind breaking the bank for their sneakers, this elegant pair of brown suede sneakers from Jimmy Choo don’t compromise professionalism when styled with these camel pants and almond-colored belted cardigan from M.M. Lafleur. I layered the cardigan over an ivory washable silk t-shirt from Quince and finished the outfit with a tortoise link necklace.
While the outfit in look #3 represents, to me, represents a hybrid look for a more professional work environment, this outfit that I styled with MICHAEL Michael Kors blue tonal sneakers represents what would work in a business-casual work environment where the workplace is already laxer. I styled the sneakers with wide-leg cropped pants in navy from Veronica Beard, a knitted polo from Everlane, and large hoop earrings from Open Edit.
In this last look, the sneakers will become a new way to style summer work dresses for women who want to pair comfort with professionalism. I styled this salmon shirt dress from Mango with khaki sneakers from Vince. I finished the look with a coral statement necklace from Lele Sadoughi.
Shop for Workplace Sneakers
If sneakers will be part of your work wardrobe once you return to the workplace, check out these additional styles.