Power Casual: A new way of dressing for the office

Here it is, the beginning of your new, exciting office job, but you find yourself frantically scouring your wardrobe trying to find something appropriate to wear. You want to fit in, but you want to stand out. You want to show your personality, but still look professional. You want to look chic, but still be comfortable. It really is a minefield.

Since offices in the UK have started to open their doors once again after lockdown, we have seen a change in office dress codes from Power Dressing to Power Casual. But what is Power Casual and how has lockdown influenced this change?

Power Dressing: What did office wear used to look like?

Power Dressing first evolved as a trend in the early 1990s, with women typically dressing like men in order to look equal. The main theme of Power Dressing was to enhance your silhouette and make yourself look bigger. This was achieved by using shoulder pads, big hair, large two-piece suits and heels to take up more space, thus gaining authority. The truth of the matter is that this trend was extremely uncomfortable. Sitting for excessive hours in the day whilst constrained in tight, non-stretch fabric is not something that promotes productivity.

Power Casual: How the pandemic has changed the way we work

With the Office for National Statistics stating that 46.6% of people in employment did some work from home last April, it is no surprise that the way people dressed for work was a little more relaxed. Suits changed to joggers, shirts to t-shirts, jumpers to hoodies; formality went out the window and comfort was key. But now the world is opening again, and employees are venturing into the office once more, power and casual have created a hybrid:Power Casual. So here is how to dress to fit the new normal.

There is still an expectation that standards are met within your workplace – with client meetings and CEOs roaming around, you still want to look like you mean business. So, how about switching a shirt for a blouse? With more material and softer fabrics, you have more room to move freely. Gone are the days of buttoned up suit trousers, try elasticated trousers, a comfortable yet smart alternative to a suit. Switch the tight pencil skirt for a loose-fitting dress, chic yet comfortable for a day’s work. Finally, switch the heels for smart flats – comfort is key!

Through this movement, employers have realised that productivity is not defined by clothing and, whilst it is important to maintain standards in the workplace, a more lenient dress code can be negotiated. As Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci states, “no one is prepared to be uncomfortable anymore” – and he is so right.

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