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.
Lockdown as we know it is over, and after each of us had all the time in the world to reevaluate our mere existence, it seems like we are now ready to turn over a new leaf. One reflection in particular that all of us took part in during quarantine, in some way or another, was one that focused on our relationships in general, but as we crawl back into the world, we’ve noticed an impressive rise in romantic breakups, the breakup phase of lockdown perhaps—which makes us question if lust is the new love. To find out why so many couples are breaking up during and after lockdown, I spoke to a few people and found common (and a little less common) reasons.
To visualise the three types of relationships I’ll mainly be talking about, I give you, exhibit a) The vase. The strong and sturdy relationship that once held pretty flowers—but knocked off their perches, were smashed into smithereens. Metaphorically. Think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold lacquer. Or in other words, the ones still fixing their otherwise broken relationships.
Then we have exhibit b) The lightbulb. The clear cut moments of truth. The ones that dumped, or did the dumping. The ones that suddenly realised by seeing clearly, they were better off without each other. I feel for them all, but let’s be honest here, if you can’t make it work during an end of the world type scenario, then they probably weren’t the one for you.
Finally, exhibit c) The bathmat. The one we don’t enjoy investing much in, but buy anyway. The soft, comforting luxury of a relationship that rose and fell in lockdown.
So, who dared to enter the no exit zone of their confined spaces for what felt like never-ending months? Who probably saw sides to their partners they wished they could unsee? There was no place to hide, with no pubs to go to, no brunches with friends, no hungover lunches at family gatherings—just two people stuck together, indefinitely.
Bowel movements became part of the entire household’s agenda. And for those of you out there that like a Hollywood wax to feel sexy, I have extra sentiments for you. Life got real traumatic, the at-home wax almost turned into a trip to A&E, and the over-priced epilator you ordered after scrolling through Amazon recommendations is now gathering cobwebs.
Let’s talk to exhibit a) The Vase, who had a slightly irrational, but somewhat humorous reason to break up—in hindsight. This no longer couple admitted that they simply wanted different things for comfort when things got tough, but it took time in the bedroom to realise that this was the case. Let’s just say, the positioning was just not quite right.
One half of my anonymous interviewees confessed their side of the problem. “I just didn’t want to do anal. Ok?” which is fair enough, but is it enough to break up over? They added that “Just because we were experimenting, spicing things up not to get bored, does not mean that I have to sit on the ultimatum of our relationship based on the fact that I won’t voluntarily leak shit onto the sheets… Glad he asked now and not 5 years down the line locked into a house because of a newborn child.”
What really stands out here is “locked into a house,” with a side of frustration over a bed of newly discovered differences. The vase is a stark example, however it is one that stems from bottled up energy, and that can be related to many of our situationships.
The tensions that rose within relationships of all kinds this year aren’t necessarily surprising, a global-pandemic is enough to send all of our stress levels through the roof.
Now, the all-familiar exhibit b) The light bulb. This no longer couple broke up because one of them suddenly had the urge to ‘live their life’ and ‘figure out what they wanted’ when lockdown was lifted. The grass is always greener on the other side, right? A heartbreaking illusion, or a matter of fact.
Last but by no means least, exhibit c) Our dear bathmat. A relationship that rose and fell during lockdown, the good old FaceTime dater. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, there is no space—no space at all, on a FaceTime call for an awkward silence with someone you barely know. Blame the bad signal all you want.
And the excitement of those ‘what’s your favourite’ something or other texts? It quickly wears off. Then, when you finally meet as lockdown lifts, you’ve exhausted all your chat, both forcing fireworks because you’ve spent so much time on the damn idea of this person that you can’t just back out for boredom now.
In truth though, you can just back out. Of anything. Lockdown has made a lot of people realise that you don’t need to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s made a lot of us more patient in day to day tasks but short-fused when it comes to our affection and time, because we value it more than we did before. I guess we have to ask ourselves, is this person better than all that came before? Now, If this was the end of the world, why stay with a pressure to love over a freedom to love? Beats me.