Some fashion observers are calling it “power casual”. Others prefer “comfy-smart” or “business comfort”. However you describe it, there’s no denying that our approach to workwear has changed in the wake of the pandemic – much like our approach to work itself.
Australian workers have been straggling back to offices since the beginning of the year, but even now, it’s estimated that 40 per cent of employees still work regularly from home, with many expected to do so indefinitely.
What does that mean for workwear? You guessed it: more elasticated waists, plenty of relaxed, slouchy tailoring and lots and lots of flats, says stylist Lucy Wood, who styled this story.
“I think that, post-Covid, we’re all trying to hang on to that kind of comfort that we got used to while working from home.”
But for many women, post-Covid workwear isn’t simply a matter of dressing more comfortably. Returning to work after two years in activewear has seen many women undertake a wholesale review of their wardrobes – reappraising which clothes make them happy and how they want to present themselves in a post-lockdown world.
We spoke to three women – all with different jobs and tastes – about what they’re wearing to work in 2022.
The WFH founder: Caitlin Judd
Caitlin Judd is the effervescent co-founder of LadyBrains, a podcast and networking group for female founders. On any given day, she might find herself working from a co-working space, café or her home office. “So, I need to wear things that look nice but that I can sit around in and feel comfortable,” she explains.
For Caitlin, who recently moved from Melbourne to Sydney, returning to work has been a fresh start on multiple fronts and her workwear reflects that. “In Melbourne, black was such a go-to… but now, on the other side of Covid, I’m probably experimenting with more colour. My style has evolved in other ways… before Covid, I was never a sneaker girl. But now I don’t mind a sneaker.”
“I think that post-Covid, I’m also more conscious of my mood and lifting my mood, and it’s nice to do that with clothing and colour.”
The professional: Jennifer Mulheron
For Jennifer Mulheron, returning to the office coincided with the end of her first maternity leave and a move from corporate lawyer to in-house counsel for a health tech scale-up.
As a result, her wardrobe underwent some changes, too. “Pre-Covid, I was in heels every day. I was one of those people who would have worn a pair of flats to travel into the office, but then as soon as I got in changed to heels.”
Nowadays, it’s flats or kitten heels all the way. Meanwhile jackets or trousers like these crease-resistant and soft pieces from Australian brand Eupheme tend to be paired with more casual pieces, like slouchy pants or knit tops, rather than worn together.
Not that Jennifer has completely relinquished her corporate ways. “I like to look more polished,” she explains, adding that returning to work – and workwear – was a culture shock – “but in a good way!” – after maternity leave and the pandemic.
“I felt like the Jen was back,” she laughs. “It’s empowering… like putting on your power suit.”
The creative business owner: Laice Bollen
For the first time in two years, event planner Laice Bollen is excited about fashion. “I actually want to invest in pieces because I know that I’ll have somewhere to wear them. Last year I was hesitant to spend at all.”
For Laice that means a mix of staples from Zara and COS, along with colourful heels from the likes of Gucci and Bottega Veneta. “I love that you can be professional, and wear an all-black suit, but then show your personality with a colourful heel.”
As a wedding and event planner, who worked in fashion before launching her own business in 2020, Laice appreciates the power of colour. “If you have an interesting colour palette you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money,” she observes.
Post-pandemic and now that she’s her own boss, she is embracing colour more than ever. “In the past I’ve been tied to [fashion] brands [I worked for]. Now, I can be a lot more me.” Amen, to that.
Stylist: Lucy Wood
Photographer: Kristina Yenko
Hair and make-up: Joel Phillips
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