Casual Business Attire Remains Popular As Employees Return To The Workplace

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It’s all about comfort as remote employees transition back to the workplace, some having worked from home for more than a year due to covid-19 precautions.

Suzanne Douglas, style color consultant with Style Capital in Williamsburg, said the jump to a more casual workplace is reminiscent of when “Casual Friday” was embraced nationally in the 1990s. “It was a trend that snowballed and definitely went global,” said Douglas. “I think history may be repeating itself.”

She said that while many of Hampton Roads’ employees worked from their homes, sweats and leggings were embraced as the new norm in work attire. “These days, it’s all about comfort as people return to their offices because we all got used to being so comfortable at home,” said Douglas.

She predicts that high heels will be brushed to the back of the closet as women reach for more comfortable shoe wear in the workplace. She envisions matching jogger suits, stretch leggings, and low-heeled boots trending as people head out to shop this holiday season. She’s not sure that the jogger suits will make the transition to the workplace, but she’s confident the soft, jogger material usually reserved for sweats, will make an appearance in some form of attire.

Jamie Lavin, owner of R. Bryant Ltd. on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, said that men’s clothing trends have swayed toward business-casual regarding workwear clothing as well. Customers aren’t buying as many suits and ties as they did a few years ago. “Instead of suits, people are switching to sport coats, and instead of ties, people are choosing pocket squares and socks,” said Lavin.

Kelly Terracina, owner of Three Sisters Boutique on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, said many customers travel to her boutique from areas outside of Hampton Roads, and while it’s evolving to “business as usual” locally, not all of Virginia is at the same stage of employee return.

“I’m really surprised at the number of people in Northern Virginia that are still working from home,” said Terracina. “When they come to shop, it’s still for comfortable, from-the-waist-up clothing.” Locally, Terracina said the trends she’s seeing are classic, conservative and clothes with a loose, forgiving fit.

Terracina mentioned her shop experienced its best fall season to date, which was largely in part to people getting out of their homes and shopping in-person versus online from their homes. “I think people are ready to get out,” said Terracina. This holiday season people aren’t saying, ‘oh no, another Christmas party invitation’; they’re saying, ‘I get to go to another Christmas party! What can I wear?’”