In Fashion

Casual is the New Couture

It’s Friday night and for the first time, I am going out. Like in actual public. With actual people. And while I haven’t worn that form-fitted romper with those chic hair clips for months, I’m going decidedly casual. 

I’m not going to brunch looking as if I had just crawled out of a laundry hamper, exactly, but I’m emerging from a year of upheaval, a year spent cocooned in knitwear, elastic waistbands and zoom-ready business-meets-leisure pairings. And it changed me. 

I’m not alone. Spending parts of a year in confinement with no reason to dress up has given us all pause for thought. This exciting new post-pandemic world offers a reassessment on how we now want to show up. If the world beyond our familiar doorstep doesn’t look the same anymore, why must we dive back into our wardrobe from “before”? We didn’t know how uncomfortable jeans were until we stopped wearing them (or for some of us, pants in general). Could we ever go back to our former sartorial choices? Can we finally just wear whatever the hell we want? 

Of course, trends still exist. But while we still debate whether hair should be middle or side part (call me a Gen Y traitor but I’m still on the fence), the notion that what we wear should be prescribed by fashion’s elite group of tastemakers from the top down, represents a final grip on a system that is losing relevance. 

As giants in the retail industry like J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penny have filed for bankruptcy, so comes the unraveling of the fashion industry as we know it. RIP luxury market, which many have claimed for years is a giant bubble heading toward collapse. But this isn’t news to anyone. While the demise of brick-and-mortar has been a long time coming, Covid just sped up the inevitable. 

Just as the fashion industry becomes ripe for innovation, so too, have many of us been busy reflecting on every facet of the lives we led before March 2020, all the way down to our outfit choices. Some of us took advantage of the opportunities that solitude lent itself to, whether it meant getting that extra piercing or exploring different styles and more edgy items that you wouldn’t have dared don in the office. 

Others began dopamine dressing, or wearing clothes that more consciously boost their mood. Whether it’s opting for bright endorphin-inducing colors or psychedelically 70s print, this kind of experimentation with bold styling is right up Gen Z’s alley. If this fall’s runway picks are any indication, these exuberant shapes and happy prints might not be just a summer trend. 

Still, while underdressed might be the new middle ground, many of us miss the glamorous days of dressing up and going out. The thought of going somewhere, anywhere, puts us all in a bit of a frenzied excitement. We relish the opportunity to express ourselves through what we wear again — albeit, that needn’t be via those wired bras we painfully recall wearing.

As society slowly reopens, it’s time to re-evaluate whether the items in our pre-pandemic wardrobe still resonate with who we have now become. What were the reasons behind the styles and level of comfort we chose? Does it vibe with who we are now, or is it something we wore because that’s what the old guard once dictated? Can we wear something that has fucking rainbows on it simply because it makes us smile? if it doesn’t have pockets, is it even worth trying on?

So what does your post-pandemic uniform look like? Maybe we’re all ready to start putting our needs first and dress in a way that reflects that. While the clothes used to make the woman, maybe it’s time that the woman makes the clothes.

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