While the media buzzes about an exciting post-pandemic summer and young people are looking forward to getting back out on the town, many professionals have something else on their minds: heading back to the office. With staff vaccinated and new protocols in place, traditional offices are reopening. As a result, people, especially women, who have spent the past year and a half decked out in loungewear are now reconsidering their wardrobes, and in many cases, they don’t fit in their work clothes anymore. That makes right now the perfect time for an office fashion upgrade.

The Buzz To Buy

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Before looking at the particulars of what people want to wear in this post-pandemic, back-to-work moment, it’s helpful to look at just how much traffic clothing purveyors are seeing right now because a lot is happening. In an interview with TODAY, the founder of Rent the Runway, a high-end clothing rental company, described the current excitement around style, saying that “The clothing that is being rented right now on our platform, across age segments and across geographies, is the most fashion-forward we’ve seen rented in 13 years. The inventory itself is the boldest, colorful clothing we’ve ever seen — more mini dresses, more crop tops, more patterns, more fashion.”

Even if most people aren’t wearing mini dresses or crop tops to the workplace, the emphasis on patterns and other bold, stand-out looks is likely to be visible in office spaces. We’ve all learned that life’s too short to wear boring clothes. As for those who are purchasing, rather than renting their clothes, the same trends seem to stand out to retailers. Many industry pros say women can’t get enough dresses, particularly in bright colors or prints, but no one is buying denim. In our off hours, we’re not giving up our comfortable clothes, but we’re ready to look great when we sit down at our desks.

Cool Cardigans For Chilly Spaces

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Offices are notorious for being kept at chilly temperatures, and with workplace returns scheduled for the midst of the air-conditioned summer season, women are sure to be feeling the chill. That makes smart layering a necessity, and cardigans offer the perfect solution. Though any basic knit will work well, consider sprucing up your outfit with a printed cardigan featuring butterflies or flowers or choosing a longer cut with deep pockets. Don’t forget to check out buttonless options; the open-front look will still keep you cozy and covered up but can add some variety to your looks.

Reconsider Your Carryall

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What did you use to carry your gear to the office pre-pandemic? If you’re like a lot of women, you likely carried some iteration of the oversized shoulder bag or satchel that’s been trendy for years, possibly combined with a promotional or souvenir tote bag for overflow items. While there’s certainly a place for those bags, one lesson we all learned during the pandemic is that there’s always room for more comfort and convenience, which is why it’s worth considering a switch to a backpack.

Of course, when we suggest carrying a backpack to work, we don’t mean the sort highschoolers carry. Instead, consider adopting a sturdy but stylish leather backpack for your everyday carry, like those available from PortlandLeatherGoods. Backpacks are preferable to shoulder bags since they distribute the weight of what you’re carrying across both shoulders, reducing strain on your spine. It’s also easy to find backpacks with an assortment of pockets, ensuring you have room for everything you need, from your laptop and your lunch to a spare pair of shoes to take your work outfits from day to night.

Fall In Love With Flats

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While women today don’t feel an obligation to wear heels to the office, even in more formal settings, more and more are ready to declare work a heel-free zone when they return. Instead, even the most high-fashion voices are largely recommending a switch to stylish flats, whether that’s the classic ballet flat or something more like lace-up sandals.

Are you a fan of heels, as long as they’re comfortable? You’re not alone, and some women will never give up their heels, but may consider downgrading. In place of a higher, narrow heel, consider a low-heeled motorcycle boot or a slingback mule, if you’re into a retro, ladylike style. A thicker heel gives you more support for comfort, without sacrificing the added elegance some prefer in the office.

Dress It Up

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One of the most common reasons that people cite for looking forward to going back to the office is simply having an excuse to dress up. As comfortable as our work-from-home outfits maybe, it’s hard to justify putting on nice clothes and doing our hair and makeup to sit on the couch all day.

So, what are people looking for as they head back to work? One thing women are especially excited about, as noted above, is wearing dresses again. In particular, they’re excited about comfortable but bold statement dresses – those colorful pieces that will never go out of style because they say more about the individual than about any particular trend or moment.

Small Comforts

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As excited as people are to get back to dressing up a bit for work, there’s no denying that we’ve all grown used to the pleasures of sweatpants and t-shirts, but the good news is you don’t have to give them up entirely. Rather, in an attempt to blend work-from-home comforts with workplace dress codes, many women are looking for traditional dress pants that trade buttons and zippers for elastic waists and other simple modifications. Many of these things were around pre-pandemic, but they weren’t widely advertised. Now, though, brands realize that offering nicer elastic waist pants can be a sales advantage. The same goes for blazers made from jersey cotton and other professional-meets-couch potato design adjustments.

Obviously, there’s no single way that women will approach back-to-work fashion, and many pushed out of the workplace by the pandemic have bigger fish to fry. Still, for those who know they have a desk in a conventional office waiting for them even a few days a week, looking good for their reentry into society is a priority. We’re all debutants in a world excited for the next phase of fashion, so choose your office looks carefully.