Work It: An Exploration of Women's Workwear

Work It: An Exploration of Women's Workwear

When starting a new job, we often consider a wardrobe update to fit our new position… Whether you’re ditching your uniform for an office job, or adding more casual pieces to a business formal dress code, women’s workwear is a vast category for the fashion industry. This week, we’re exploring the evolution of women’s workwear throughout the 20th to the 21st century. Women have strived for many years to not only fight for equality in the workplace, but to have the ability for options in what we wear while at work. When females entered the workplace in the early 20th century, work clothes reflected contemporary fashions because women at the time tended to be younger who were expected to leave employment for marriage. 

When Coco Chanel introduced the iconic two-piece suit in the 1920’s, women changed the way they thought about dress and their wardrobe. At a small show in 1925, Chanel introduced the original idea for the suit. Inspired by men’s sportswear, she was known for mixing masculinity into her feminine designs. She sought to create something for women that was comfortable like men’s clothing, which she often preferred to wear for comfortability and mobility. The Chanel suit has established its place in history by standing the test of time and making Chanel one of the highest valued designers in fashion. The world’s most notable fashion figures and female leaders like Jackie Kennedy, Princess Dianna, Brigitte Bardot and Barbra Walters secured the lifelong popularity of the Chanel suit.


This became the blueprint for women’s workwear. In 1966 Yves Saint Laurent came out with “Le Smoking” Tuxedo, which embodied the ideas of the Second Wave feminist movement. Saint Laurent embraced the masculine elements that Chanel originally introduced with her suit, but combined it with sleeker, more provocative designs that reflected the sexual liberation that women were seeking during the late 60s and 70s. By the 1980s, women were more established in the workplace so women’s workwear needed to reflect that growing presence of females in executive positions. This gave birth to the ‘power suit’ which featured even more drastic masculine elements including tailored lines and shoulder pads. Since this time women’s workwear has continued to evolve with the trends and fashions of the decade. The 90s suit sets saw shorter skirt lengths and pantyhose, while the early 2000s adapted to separates and offered more casual styles as workplace attire became generally more fashion forward. This trend of fashion forward business wear continued to evolve until 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we dressed for work. As business centers closed their offices and opened their laptops to Zoom, people adapted to the ‘news anchor’ style (business on top, pajamas on bottom). The lack of face to face interaction while working caused business professionals to change the way they saw workwear. 

Before the pandemic, online shopping was already a huge industry with high profits on the rise. Recent graduates sought online shopping as a more affordable one-stop-shop for business wear. Now that we have seen COVID-19 restrictions lifted, many employees are excited to return to offices but need a new business wardrobe to fit their post-COVID style. Shopping in person fulfills the desire to have fun and interact with associates face to face after so many hours being spent online. Shopping business wear secondhand still offers a lower price point available in an online setting, but you can get the service and opportunity to shop locally. At Aline, we offer high quality, preloved business wear in an array of brands and styles at a more affordable price. The difference between secondhand clothing and fast fashion business wear is that online expectations for quality are often low.  However Aline caters to extending the lifetime of preloved clothing, so the quality of garments we sell is much higher. The main obstacle post-COVID is because people have been working from home for so long it has been difficult to transfer back into the workplace. The world has learned that work no longer needs to be done in an office but can be accomplished collaboratively online. We feel like this will change as people continue to crave normalcy throughout their lives - socially and professionally. In all aspects of life,  Aline hopes we will be able to return to how they used to be soon, and we want you to be prepared. Whether you’re the same size or different post-pandemic, a wardrobe makeover is an exciting way to return to work. Shopping secondhand for work or weekends is a great segue into a new look for the old workplace!


To read more about the history of women's workwear, the smoking tuxedo, and the iconic Chanel suit, click the links below!

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