Back-to-office wardrobe

As Covid-19 forced people to work from home, they discovered the comfort of pyjamas even while attending meetings. However, as offices gradually open, what will be the dress code for work in a pandemic-ridden era? Will loungewear prevail, or will it be back to formals soon?

Back-to-office wardrobe

Comfort wear, such as biz-leisure and loungewear, may remain in for sometime, but formals will make a comeback, along with the inevitable masks. istock

Manpriya Singh

As the home became a virtual office and corporates turned to Zoom meetings, heads mattered, heels didn’t. However, as we get back to normalcy and work, the post-pandemic era is confusing for everyone, including the fashion world. By now, the majority is habituated to shorts or pyjamas, but longing to doll up.

A faux leather jacket is low-maintenance as it is easy to clean

and disinfect.

As the fall transitions into winter and work from home (WFH) transcends into sporadic office visits, many creative heads in the industry predict that work wear in the post-pandemic era would more be on the lines of business leisure.

Fashion elements necessitated by pandemic

  • Multi-pocket garments to stock up essentials like sanitisers and masks.
  • Clothing and footwear which is fuss-free, (easy to wash), germ-free (anti-bacterial fabrics) and durable.
  • Designer and matching face masks as bona fide accessory.
  • Long sleeves as protection from contracting the virus from surfaces, desks in work spaces and tables around canteen.
  • Fleece jackets have almost become business casuals as they are somewhat waterproof.
  • Hoodies with attached masks are the new norm.

Urvashi Kaur’s LFW collection showcased relaxed androgynous apparel.

Designer duo Abraham and Thakore though agree that it won’t be easy to get rid of the tees and track pants, how we actually return to work could go either way. “After months at home in sweat pants and tee shirts, comfort is going to be an important factor in how people choose to dress when they return to office. But that also means that one’s desire to dress up could be intense after months of being dressed casually.”

Global impressions

Autumn/Winter collections this year were conceived in a pre-pandemic era. These were showcased in February just before lockdown restrictions in Europe. Everything has since changed. However, there are some takeaway trends that should remain relevant in post-pandemic world, including formal silhouettes and comfort fabrics, PU leather coats, fuzzy cardigans, teddy coats and knitwear. WFH looks, as recommended by Victoria Beckham, include elasticated waistbands, two-piece knitted sets which, as she said, “are warm, comfortable and versatile”. Ralph Lauren’s 2020 Fall collection focuses on classic pieces that can be repeated and have longevity. Think tweeds, wools and plaids.

Mishé sketch for LFW 2020.

Biz-leisure meets loungewear

Designer Ridhi Mehra expects business leisure to stick around for the initial few months of going back to office. “Loungewear has been a favourite with the working masses across the globe for their WFH routine. However, as things pick up pace, formal business wear is going to make a comeback and with more elegance and sophistication, plus the inevitable masks.”

WFH and lack of office parties has directly affected the formal wear sector. “Given the current scenario and the stark market changes post-pandemic, an overall shrink in demand has become the reality,” shares the designer whose collection was recently showcased at Lakme Fashion Week 2020 Digital First Season Fluid Edition.

Several other designers showcasing their collections at LFW 2020 agree with this new reality. “Dress code at work has drastically changed during the past few months. The rules of dressing will not change, but it might take some time for everyone to get back to their pre-pandemic office dressing code,” says designer Punit Balana, who has turned the pandemic into an inspiration. “Covid-19 has inspired my recently launched collection Muneer.” He feels, “Initially the vibe would incline towards business leisure as people are yet to get re-acquainted with their old lifestyle.”

What’s in vogue, what’s not

It is the return of practical clothing like never before, shares a stockist of a global athleisure chain. “Fleece jackets have almost made it to business casuals, courtesy their being somewhat waterproof. Multi-pocket garments have also been in huge demand. Ahead of the winter season, we are stocking them with vengeance,” he says.

Customers, too, are in search of garments that can stock up preventive items like masks and sanitisers. Sonika Dhamija, a Ludhiana-based mompreneur agrees. “I am looking at practicality and lots of pockets in clothes I would buy now. Pockets keep masks and sanitisers handy, which is the need of the hour,” she says.

According to Ishaan Sachdeva, director, Alberto Torresi, “Heading back to work is going to be a huge change and challenge — new precautions, new rules, new hygiene measures, new norms. Masks are mandatory in the new dress code for office post-Covid. Most consumers would prefer clothing and footwear which is fuss-free (easy to wash), germ-free (anti-bacterial fabrics) and durable.” He adds, “More and more consumers are preferring espadrilles and loafers more than formal shoes.”

Chahatt Khanna from Ammarzo, a ‘made in India’ lifestyle brand retailing from most e-commerce platforms, nails it when she says, “Prolonged experience of working from home has taught us that there are myriad ways to dress professionally. There was a time when casuals were acceptable only as part of Friday dressing. The pandemic has, at least temporarily, thwarted fashion’s gradual shift back towards a new formality. The concept of business leisure or b-leisure is native to the travel industry, but one we can be inspired from,” she feels. She also emphasises on the return of the basics and a decrease in demand for heels and formal shoes.

Long sleeves for better cover-up

Designer Gaurang feels there’s a concrete shift in dress code. “A face mask is a bona fide accessory now. Another big change is long sleeves, as protection from winter as well as from contracting the virus from surfaces, desks in work spaces and dining tables around canteen, will be paramount. Though there are those looking forward to flaunting new clothing and have the urge to binge shop as soon as they can.”

“We have also discovered new ways to reach out to customers through our e-stores. This gave us an opportunity to tap into new markets and clients hitherto difficult to reach out to,” adds Gaurang.

For the duo Abraham and Thakore, creativity responds to every situation differently and it usually thrives on challenge. For a post-Covid world, “We are working on clothing that is easier to wear and crosses the divide easily between formal and casual, loungewear and dress up.”

Covid influence on ramp

While internationally the business-wear segments of major fashion houses stuck to safe monochromes to reflect the sombre mood, at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week 2020 Digital First Season Fluid Edition, designers had myriad interpretations of Covid and as many ways of battling it. Young designer Anmol Sharma’s collection matched the current global scene through hoodies with attached masks, while the embroidered backs of the boiler suit and jacket declared ‘Never Give Up’ in thread work. Urvashi Kaur’s Tahul collection showcased relaxed androgynous apparel.

Fashion influencer Shraddha Gurung aka Lil Miss Gurung, who has 112K followers on Instagram, accurately predicts the mood of the WFH brigade. “We may have fallen in love with our pyjamas but are looking forward to every chance to dress up. I believe the cuts and fits will be more relaxed while the overall look will be more dressed up.” Practicality in outfits will be a major factor, “especially the practicality of fabrics and materials. Faux leather seems to be quite a low-maintenance material that would make sense when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting our clothes. It comes in various cuts that would work seamlessly into office wear.” For those for whom style still remains the mantra, she sums up the sentiment, “I’ve always been a dress-up-to-feel-better kind of person. However, now the choice of outfit has taken a 360 degree turn. I’d still want to be fashionable though.”


After months at home in sweat pants and tee shirts, comfort is going to be an important factor in how people choose to dress when they return to office. But that also means that one’s desire to dress up could be intense after months of being dressed casually. Abraham and Thakore | Designers

“Masks are mandatory in the new dress code for office in Covid times. Most consumers would prefer clothing and footwear which is fuss-free (easy to wash), germ-free (anti-bacterial fabrics) and durable.”— Ishaan Sachdeva | Director, Alberto Torresi

“We may have fallen in love with our pyjamas but are looking forward to every chance to dress up. I believe that the cuts and fits will now be more relaxed, while the overall look will be more dressed up.”— Shraddha Gurung | fashion influencer

“A face mask is a bona fide accessory now. Another big change is long sleeves, as protection from winter as well as from contracting the virus from surfaces, desks in work spaces and dining tables around canteen, will be paramount.” — Gaurang | Designer

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