Every morning, when Ariella Baron searched her closet for something to wear to work, she mentally went through her diary to calibrate her clothes to the tasks that the day had in store for her.
But the manager of a Toronto accounting firm says dressing has become much simpler since the COVID-19 pandemic closed offices to transform homes into makeshift work spaces.
After weeks of working on T-shirts and leggings, Baron, 26, dreads the day she has to dust off her shirts and blouses for the ride – but lately, it's hard to imagine how she and her colleagues will do it. back to business, as usual.
"I feel like people were starting to see that it was unnecessary to always have to wear business casually. It's more a matter of being comfortable," she said.
"This could be the thing that pushes the limit."
Baron is one of the many former inhabitants of the table who exchange trousers for sweatpants, as the era of work at home has loosened corporate dress codes.
As employers in some regions gradually reopen offices, designers and trend watchers say the clamor for professional clothing that people can feel at home can lead to an increase in "work and leisure" wear.
"People are just as productive as, if not more, when they work from home and feel comfortable," said Vancouver designer Jess Sternberg.
"There is no reason not to adapt some of these lifestyle changes to the new world in which we will enter the office."
The owner of Free Label said e-commerce sales doubled as the basics of the sustainable clothing brand proved to be the perfect fit for professionals who renovate their wardrobes with items they can use while walking in their office rooms. be or meet with customers via video chat. .
Sammi Smith, founder and designer of Toronto-based Soft Focus, said online demand for her sleepwear-inspired silhouettes skyrocketed during the blockade. The success may not be surprising, since the line started with Smith's transition from corporate fashion work to starting his own venture at home.
Looking for suitable styles to run a business from his sofa, Smith began designing clothes for women who want to "dress in pajamas". Depending on how you wear an outfit, Smith said that a collar nightdress can become an airy blouse, or a fluffy sweatshirt can serve as a cozy touch in the classic suit.
"Sometimes I joke that elegant pajamas are the show's economy uniform," said Smith. "Maybe they will also become the uniform for the new work at home protocol."
Big name clothing brands also seem to have noticed that comfort never goes out of style.
Uniqlo Canada recorded a more than 200% increase in sales of comfortable clothing, according to marketing manager Sehee Kim. Top sellers include crossover fashion at home, such as draped drawstring pants.
Lululemon Athletica has also expanded its selection of sweat-absorbing work clothes as the stock price of the Vancouver-based company reached its highest level on NASDAQ this month.
Retail analyst Bruce Winder said the rise of "work and leisure" is a rare plus in a bleak industry scenario.
Statistics Canada reported that sales of clothing and accessories fell more than half in March – the biggest drop ever recorded in a month – and Winder said the forecast for April looks even more bleak.
Even when stores in some areas are slowly starting to get customers back, Winder said the closure of COVID-19 could be the starting point for "yesterday's brands", particularly those associated with buttoned office fashion.
For example, Reitmans is seeking protection from creditors after an unsuccessful attempt to attract young career women saw its Smart Set banner closed in 2014.
Carolyn Levy, president of technology at human resources consultancy Randstad Canada, said that suits and ties were out of fashion in most workplaces a long time ago. But as people dedicate themselves to working in sweatpants, she predicts that the effort to relieve workers from the constraints of waist straps will accelerate.
Even in the weeks since the pandemic elevated professional life, Levy said that early efforts to maintain decorum during the Zoom conferences had given way to sweatshirts and baseball caps, and even people who appear to be mounted on camera may be hiding out of sight. frame.
Although she does not expect to see bathrobes in the meeting room anytime soon, Levy suspects that the days of taking off an itchy and ill-fitting outfit when you walk through the door may very well be behind us.
"It will be about other fabrics that you can use that are comfortable and that still look presentable," said Levy. "They have a casual touch, let your personality show, but you feel good."
Ben Barry, president of the Ryerson School of Fashion, said traditional workwear is tailored to fit a white, western and masculine ideal of those who look "professional" and exclude many types of bodies.
Now that COVID-19 has challenged corporate conventions, Barry has asked companies to take the opportunity to remove tailoring barriers, so that people of all sizes, abilities and genders can let their talent shine through work and wardrobe.
"Discovering that the hybrid between work clothes and leisure clothes will open up access for many more people to feel at home in their bodies," said Barry.
"I think that, ultimately, it leads to feeling more connected to the place where we work, to a greater sense of creativity and to more people able to bring their whole selves to work."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 31, 2020.