The New Real: Workleisure and Power Casual

November 29, 2022

About two years ago we had a lot of questions about what the future held. Alongside important issues like public health and maintaining a strong economy there was another, more everyday question in the air: will we ever wear real clothes again?

Things have changed a bit since then. The urgency of the pandemic has waned and the economy continues its up and down rollercoaster ride. And are real clothes back yet? What does that even mean anymore? The jury’s still out for now.

Whether it’s famously-formal Wall Street or the “every day is casual Friday” mom-and-pop shop down the street, clothing standards for business have changed. Ken Giddon, whose family runs a men’s clothing store in Manhattan, says that “the operative word is ‘confusion.’ Do you wear dress slacks to work? Can you wear jeans? Nobody really has drawn the line, and nobody really knows what the right answer is.”

When it comes to real-world applications, it doesn’t get much more real than choosing what to wear to a client interview. Think about what you might wear the first time you speak to a customer you’d like to work with. Some jobs expect full professional attire, while this look might mark you as too old-fashioned for others. What to choose?

The smart approach is to do your research. Find out what you can about a company’s dress code beforehand, and choose your outfit appropriately:

  • Put together a look for the interview that’s slightly more elevated
  • Make sure you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing

This same philosophy can apply to what you offer to those customers. Research the organization and provide something that’s just a little better. You’ll show that you understand where they’re at and get them interested in what you can add to it.

To help guide you along the way, look at the general tone of the company. Are they opting to embrace our new casual outlook or do they seem more excited to dress up for work again? The answer will help you stay trend-right in what you show them.

Workleisure: Keeping Work Comfortable

Luuma TunicLuumaWe’ve been talking about athleisure for years — just take a look at this throwback from 2015 — and it continues to evolve today. One of the recent spinoffs is workleisure, a result of pandemic lockdowns that continues to resonate as we venture out into the world once again. At its most basic, workleisure is a trend that seeks to maintain the comfort we’ve come to know and love but tidy it up for the professional world — the “new-and-improved normal of our hybrid lives,” as Cuts Clothing puts it.

Comfort is important in the workleisure philosophy, meaning clothes that fit comfortably and also help the wearer feel comfortable in their own skin. Workleisure embraces flexible work models and plays into younger generations’ desire for choice and accepting gender fluidity.

When a customer is leaning into a workleisure vibe, delivering a wide range of product is a good approach. OGIO’s Grit Fleece brings versatility and built-in ease to the table and the Luuma series looks professional, feels great to wear and adds splashes of color to make the whole team happy. Tees, fleece and sweatshirts in the Perfect Tri family also present a wide variety of style and sizing choices for a workleisure-oriented team.

Power Casual: Making Work Special

Mercer+Mettle Power CasualMercer+Mettle Power CasualNow take everything we just talked about and flip it on its head. With the Power Casual trend, we’re still blending professionalism and comfort but now the emphasis is on looking more polished. “People want to get dressed up again, but we still want to have the comfort,” says Helen Lambert, CEO of The Style Pulse.

Power Casual looks tend to be more structured and durable, but also feature clothing you can move around in comfortably. Last year women’s workwear maker M.M. LaFleur shifted their focus to a Power Casual collection, combining elevated looks with relaxed styles, calling it “the clothing equivalent of work-life balance.”

If the customer you’re working with seems to favor a more polished look, there’s plenty of options to explore for them. Mercer+Mettle offers elevated fabrics and casual styling, with refined details that make a difference. The new open-front cardigan, for example, has a wider rib hem around the bottom, giving it just a little extra weight so it hangs more smoothly. The long sleeve camp blouse has a refined fit, but the crepe fabric isn’t clingy and allows for easy movement. And the double-knit snap front jacket features smooth matte finish buttons, a luxe hardware detail that finishes off a professional look.

For the last few months we’ve been talking about balance. In our new work reality, finding that balance is the name of the game. We still want comfort, but we don’t want to look lazy or careless. A professional look is important, but not at the cost of feeling like nothing fits or feels good to wear. Workleisure and Power Casual represent two sides of the same coin, two different ways to blend looking good with feeling good.

The answer to the question we asked at the beginning should be obvious by now. Wearing “real clothes” is back, but if it looks a little different than it used to that’s because we’ve changed along the way too. The clothes we wear are a reflection of the balance we need. Does it get much more real than that?

Next month we’ll be wrapping up the year and getting a sneak peek at what trends in 2023 look like. Hope to see you then!