2020 has been the year that no-one could have predicted. Many of us have seen our worlds turned upside down, our work-life completely transformed, and our social life confined to a Zoom screen for a large chunk of the year. Just like many other things in life, our wardrobes have undergone somewhat of a transformation.
In the early days of the first lockdown, we witnessed a loungewear revolution, as people switched out shirts for sweatpants and signed onto virtual business meetings from the comfort of their sofas. But surely there’s been more to 2020 fashion than a surge in sweatpant orders? Not only has lockdown changed the clothes we wear but, for many of us, it also changed our attitudes towards shopping. Both customers and brands alike have had to rethink their approach to fashion, and these changing circumstances and mindsets are set to accelerate some big trend shifts.
If there’s one thing this year has taught us, it’s that we value comfort and happiness over restriction. We’ve already felt confined to our houses, so being stuck in the constraints of uncomfortable clothing has not been an idea worth entertaining. Although we’ve seen a small shift back to ‘reality’ recently, people are now once again being encouraged to work from home ‘if you can’, so loungewear is set to triumph over traditional workwear, at least for the near future.
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Fashion historian, Valerie Steele, explains that “seismic world events usually accelerate changes that were already occurring”, and it’s true that loungewear was already making a comeback while the traditional suit had been seeing its gradual demise for a while now. The lockdown has simply sped up inevitable fashion trends—our fashion choices have been veering towards the more casual end of the spectrum since the 1970s after all.
Year on year, we were already seeing a 40 per cent decrease in women’s workwear offering and a 20 per cent decrease in sales. So, it’s clear that although lockdown might have sped the process up, casual fashion was already beginning to spell the downfall of traditional workwear.
One casual fashion trend we have seen accelerate during lockdown is hybridisation, the idea of building comfort into clothing types that have typically been constricting and rigid. Smart trousers with an elasticated waist is one example of this or jeans made of softer materials that are designed to feel more like tights when worn.
As well as impacting how we dress on a daily basis, the experience of lockdown has made many people and businesses question where they get their clothes from. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the UK, many international retail supply chains were disrupted, forcing brands and consumers to look closer to home for their materials and products.
We will likely see a continuation of this trend as we move forward, and digitalisation, as well as diverse sourcing, will completely transform fashion supply chains and where we get our garments.
In the UK, the growth of e-commerce has been extraordinary over the past decade. Since 2013, the online retail market grew by 54.9 per cent and this growth is forecasted to increase by another 34.5 per cent by 2023. During lockdown, this growth saw a real boom, and COVID-19 is thought to have contributed £5.3 billion to e-commerce in the UK through 2020.
Needless to say, online retail will continue to dominate the fashion market even as we come out of lockdown. Many people are even ordering their glasses online from sites such as Eyeglasses.com, rather than trying them on at the opticians. With this continuing trend, we’re set to see the popularity of certain e-commerce-friendly garments continue. One example that has been particularly popular during lockdown is the tent dress. Easy to wear and high on style, the tent dress can be seen as the ultimate online shopping piece as it is loose-fitting, yet stylish. Dresses and other loosely fitting garments are becoming more popular when it comes to online shopping, as shoppers are far less likely to have to send them back due to a bad fit.
Another trend that we’ve seen blow up over lockdown, especially among the Tik Tok generation, is getting creative with garments. During time spent in the house, we have seen a real resurgence of tie-dying, kitting, and other forms of customising, with celebrity influencers leading the way and eager crafters sharing their creations on social media.
For many, lockdown certainly unlocked a spirit of creativity, and this artistic flare is likely to see consumers continue to get crafty with their clothing as we move forward.
Finally, let’s talk about where our vital fashion inspo has come from this year, amid a socially distanced world. For a while now, the world of fashion and the events that make it what it is, such as Fashion Week, has been veering towards an online future, but COVID-19 has, once again, sped up the process.
Events like London Fashion Week have been held exclusively online, merging menswear and womenswear and featuring digital showrooms. In the age of Instagram influencers and fashion bloggers, we’re no longer strangers to looking towards the internet for style inspiration, but now that lockdown has accelerated the digitalisation of the fashion industry, we can only expect to see this trend increase.
Although we can attempt to forecast trends as we head towards 2021, this year has taught us to expect the unexpected! However, you can certainly bet on a drastic move to online, and a continued rejection of formal workwear for the foreseeable future.