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5 Ways the Formal Dress Code is Changing in the Post-Pandemic World

— June 24, 2021

As the pandemic has shown us that we can be productive and efficient while working in leggings, hoodies, and with no shoes on, the workplace dress code is becoming more focused on performance rather than pure, outdated aesthetics.

There are those who swear by the old adage to “dress for success” and genuinely appreciate wearing power suits to important meetings, and those who cherish their freedom to work from home in their PJs. This spectrum might have always been there, but during the pandemic, with more companies turning to remote work, the style tide has shifted to casual wear and less formal work dress codes. 

In large and competitive business markets the likes of Australia and the US, employees and business leaders alike are rapidly turning to different types of attire in the wake of the health crisis. Suddenly, the drop in high-heel sales and the increase in athleisure sales have indicated a trend that has been a long time coming in the professional world. So, what’s going to happen when employees start going back to the office, if they choose to, and how will the workplace adapt? Let’s cover some of the most essential trends and employee preferences that are changing the office dress code. 

Performance-focused dress code choices

Employers are always looking for ways to help their employees feel less stressed and more productive in their work environment, be that at home, or at the office. If your job doesn’t strictly depend on wearing a particular garment, for safety as well as productivity, then most managers in the modern workplace are slowly reshaping their dress code policies to accommodate the employee.

As the pandemic has shown us that we can be productive and efficient while working in leggings, hoodies, and with no shoes on, the workplace dress code is becoming more focused on performance rather than pure, outdated aesthetics. If you work better wearing comfortable jeans, your boss is likely going to support that decision moving forward. 

Discovering the style equilibrium 

As so many brands have started working remotely during the pandemic, their dress code suddenly changed from being formal to completely casual. In cultures where fashion is already based on comfort, such as Australia, professionals have found different ways to mix and match what’s aesthetically appealing with their own take on comfort.

With heatwaves and sizzling summers to deal with, most of the latest women’s workwear in Australia is designed to reflect every professional’s need for more comfort, with a stylish edge to boot. Women in leadership roles in Australia gladly go for more comfortable, but no less fashionable combinations such as jeans and cotton shirts, light tunics and blouses, or wrap dresses. Striking that fine balance is what Australian women are famous for, and the global professional fashion scene is quickly catching up. 

Comfort and durability in the spotlight

Over the course of the last several years, some of the biggest global brands, such as Home Depot from the US or IKEA from Sweden are rapidly changing their policies to adopt more sustainable practices and go green. This culture shift has also had an impact on the microscale in the behavior of employees who are encouraged to contribute in many ways – attire included. 

Modern businesses today appreciate more than style. They appreciate individuals who pick garments made of sustainable materials and in an ethical manner. In a similar way, they recognize their employees’ need for more comfort in the workplace, allowing them to choose garments that enhance that comfort. Corporate expectations are changing. Employees are no longer expected to wear a different suit every day (which used to be an unspoken rule for so many) – values are what’s in the spotlight, and employees are taking note and gladly choosing more sensible attire. 

Considering the culture and the profession

Image by Christina, via
Image by Christina, via

Let’s face it, some professions that haven’t changed on a grander scale will still demand formal attire and uniforms. They are there for the sake of practicality, performance, but also for the sake of recognition. Can you imagine a police officer on duty in the streets dressed in a gown? Or an EMT that you cannot recognize? 

While some professions have been able to adapt to remote work and send employees home, others have remained fully active and relevant despite the crisis – and they don’t fall under remote-friendly occupations at all. 

We should also keep in mind that certain diverse cultures like the one in the US allow for more possibilities for those professions that do come with such flexibility in dress code choices. There’s no need for a marketing manager to wear a suit to the office unless it’s somehow affecting their productivity, which is slowly becoming a matter of office culture as well as personal choice in most US-based companies. 

Flexibility reshaping the workplace dress choices

Being open-minded is a factor that allows companies of all shapes and sizes to thrive and to adapt even in the most difficult of times. Now that we can anticipate the crisis to be over soon, can you rely on your own common sense, but also your creativity and sense of comfort, can you find a way to adapt your style according to different situations?

Even formal events like cocktail parties and conferences are no longer, strictly speaking, all that formal. Especially in warm climates like our beloved Land Down Under, businesspeople are quickly shifting towards comfort-based attire even on the most formal occasions. Depending on your work culture, you can allow yourself the freedom to adapt. Maybe one particular event demands a fancy little black dress and heels, but another one might be casual enough for jeans and a t-shirt. 

The modern professional is changing, both due to the global health crisis that has had a major impact on the entire world, but also due to the ever-growing flexibility and diversity needs for all modern employees. Whether you’re running a legal office, or you have your own retail business, the dress code policy you set up should take these trends and changes into account. It will help you make your employees happy, grow a healthy culture, and of course, allow your business to keep up with the times. 

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