How the pandemic changed wardrobes and the fashion industry

BOSTON — The pandemic has changed just about every fact of day to day life, including how we dress.

The focus is on comfort these days as many people continue to work from home and can secretly hide the bottom half of their body during Zoom calls or virtual meetings.

“It changed the industry completely,” said Donielle McKeever, founder of Thread Tech in East Boston, an incubator for budding designers.

McKeever says the advice she gives has changed.

“Don’t do anything denim and don’t do anything suiting," she said. "Do business casual.”

She says people are stressed enough these days and want to be comfortable.

“Logged into Zoom all day with your best business suit on? It’s not happening,” McKeever said.

Traditional conservative retailers like Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor have both filed for bankruptcy in recent months.

Target sees an opening. The retail giant is marketing “video conference outfits” to help shoppers complete their “virtual statement look.”

“Good brands solve problems for people,” explained Lauren Beitelspacher, a marketing professor at Babson College. “One of the problems we have right now is how we set ourselves up, to look our best and be professional in this screen.”

Beitelspacher says Zoom has been a wake-up call for some people.

“It’s kind of unsettling and you realize there are a lot of things that I could do to make that better,” she said.

This so called “Waist Up” strategy works now, but what happens when workers head back to office at some point?

“I do think there’s a tipping point where we won’t get too comfortable,” said Beitelspacher. “I mean I do think that at some point people will start to police themselves. People aren’t going to come to work in pajamas, hopefully. Maybe pajama bottoms.”

That said, Beitelspacher doesn’t believe the workplace will ever be as formal as it once was.

One of the big fashion winners is “Athleisure,” comfy clothes that look better than sweatpants and slippers.

Lululemon stock now sells for about $300 a share, up 50 percent in the past year.

Beitelspacher believes Athleisure could evolve and end up looking less like workout gear and be more appropriate for the office.

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