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Pandemic brings low-key fashion to work

Loungewear emerging as ‘pandemic-fitting’ fashion trend

 
Fashion model Jung Si-hyun explains two-mile wear in her YouTube channel Passion Model. (YouTube screen capture)
Fashion model Jung Si-hyun explains two-mile wear in her YouTube channel Passion Model. (YouTube screen capture)

After all the year-end gatherings were taken off the calendar due to the COVID-19 resurgence, Kim, a 31-year-old office worker based south of Seoul, showed up to work wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Though a hooded sweatshirt might not even count as a minor rebellion for some, for Kim it was the first time she’d gone to work in anything that could be considered less than businesslike. She felt awkward and self-conscious about her casual fashion statement at first, but soon found her happy place.

“My daily itinerary has become really simple -- office and home. All the meetings and year-end gatherings had been canceled, so I rarely meet people besides my colleagues at work,” Kim said. “Also, going casual felt right as I have gained some weight during the pandemic lockdowns.” 

While the pandemic shows no sign of coming to an end here after almost a year, social distancing has become the norm. Moreover, the recent surge in coronavirus cases in late November -- one of the busiest times of year -- has forced people to cancel year-end gatherings. 

South Korean fashion brand Beanpole has showcased its new two-mile wear collection. (Beanpole)
South Korean fashion brand Beanpole has showcased its new two-mile wear collection. (Beanpole)

The pandemic has influenced the preference for low-key fashion. Terms “1-mile wear” and “2-mile wear” have become prevalent, a Japanese way of referring to wearing something suitable for any place within a 2-mile radius of home, including the commute to work.

“The ‘2-mile wear’ is actually derived from the natural look of Hollywood celebrities in track suits, sweats or hoodies snapped by paparazzi,” said Jung Si-hyun, a fashion model and a professor in the modeling department at Digital Seoul Culture Arts University, who runs the YouTube channel “Passion Model.”

“But with the pandemic simplifying our daily routines, the 2-mile look has prevailed among people at home and outside, which is comfortable and acceptable at work, home, grocery shopping and casual meetings,” Jung added.

For those who are not familiar with the comfy look at work, Jung recommends starting with all-black sweats that can be worn with coats, jackets and shirts. Accessorizing with a necklace or cap and spicing up the look with stylish shoes like Nikes or leather boots is also a good tip, she added. 

Yogawear, or athleisure, brands see popularity during the pandemic. (Barrel)
Yogawear, or athleisure, brands see popularity during the pandemic. (Barrel)

According to a 2021 outlook report released by credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service in early December, the “casualization of fashion” accelerated by the pandemic will continue, as will online sales and wellness trends.

Even luxury fashion brands and outdoor sports brands are presenting more casual or “athleisure” options. High-end fashion houses such as Dior and Fendi have launched capsule collections of loungewear, designed during the lockdowns.

Global fashion retailers such as Net-a-Porter have seen record sales of loungewear. The same goes for local e-commerce retailer G Market, which has seen its sales of home wear and casual wear increase by 38 percent from Oct. 28 to Nov. 17, compared with the preceding three weeks.

Many in the fashion industry predict that the trend toward a comfortable, casual look at work will continue after the pandemic.

“As long as we have experienced comfortable wear at work, we may want to continue the fashion after the pandemic, and the young generation has come to cherish their more natural needs in fashion due to the pandemic,” said Kim Eun-kyoung, a professor in the department of fashion design at Keimyung University.

“But the instinctive nature of fashion, which is to present one’s identity through what they wear, in other words, making a fashion statement, will not disappear just because people prefer comfy wear. The loungewear trend may bring a new fashion trend to express one’s individuality with a top with more characteristics while wearing relatively more comfortable bottoms,” she said.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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