The Future of Fashion: How the Pandemic Redefined the Fashion Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the norms of many areas of life, and one of its top victims was the fashion industry.
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Spending more time at home for work and entertainment, coupled with limiting travel and canceling or postponing formal occasions, meant consumers left fashion by the wayside in 2020––or so it may seem.

A national survey conducted by Shane Co. queried 1,843 Americans on how the pandemic has impacted their relationship with fashion trends and clothing. About 1 out of 3 Americans did not buy any new clothing or jewelry during the COVID-19 lockdown, yet retail clothing businesses have seen a 115.4% increase in sales since March 2020. That reveals an uneven spread in who is shopping, as some Americans refreshed their wardrobes while others spent less.  A more universal trend is that Americans overwhelmingly dressed more casually during lockdown, the survey found.

After more than a year after lockdown, 56.4% plan to buy new clothes specifically for post-pandemic events.  Shoppers are shopping for various reasons, such as keeping up with fashion trends, updating their wardrobes, gaining confidence and style or mostly shopping for more comfortable clothes to fit the remote work lifestyle. 

Social media has also played a big role in revolutionizing fashion since early 2020. Tiktok, Instagram, and YouTube have influenced fashion choices, from dismissing skinny jeans to enhancing personal styles. One-third of respondents said they have purchased clothing seen on social media during the last year. In addition, consumers are also exploring fashion in a way that fits the ”new normal."

Shane Co. infographic
Infographic by Shane Co.

“Turns out, the hours spent chatting with others through a screen have taken a toll on personal fashion choices,” Shane Co. found. “More than half of people, 61.3%, will opt for comfortable clothes more regularly post-lockdown. Not only that, but nearly 40% have lowered their standards of what’s ‘acceptable’ to wear since lockdown began. It seems safe to say that sweatpants and yoga pants will stick around for a little while longer.”

Jobs no longer require professional attire, since workers are at home This has now given more people the liberty to express themselves, and 35.8% of survey respondents said they plan to get more experimental with fashion post-lockdown. This is even more apparent among Gen Z, where more than half of respondents said the same.

Instead of formal attire, consumers are reaching for sweats, yoga pants and more comfortable clothing. More than 20% said they won’t return to how they dressed before the pandemic, and 60.5% said they will purchase clothing online more post-lockdown. 

In the post-pandemic world, clothing may be more important to Americans, 70% of which admitted they did not keep up with fashion trends during lockdown. As social gatherings and travel resume, it’s likely that clothing and fashion will play an important role.