Occasionwear’s late-pandemic comeback may have felt like a reactionary fluke, but retailers and designers are betting it’s more than a trend.
Post-pandemic, occasionwear has been booming. During the second half of 2022 US and UK retailers introduced nearly twice as many dresses embellished with sequins, beads and jewels compared to 2019, according to retail intelligence firm Edited,. Over the same period, sequined dresses sold out 52 percent more compared to 2019, while high-heel shoes sold out 121 percent more. Retailers and designers don’t think the trend will slow any time soon as bold looks continue to flood runways and shop floors.
“It's natural that now that the world is even more open compared to last year when we had just gotten vaccinated, that there's this desire for a little bit of escapism,” said Cathaleen Chen, BoF retail correspondent.
Outside of work-from-home and sweatpants, there’s a growing appetite for loud, statement pieces that go beyond old occasionwear staples like sequins and bold colours, and expand into split-hem pants, corset tops and velvet shoes. Much about dressing up has changed too. Consumers are looking for versatility now more than ever, and demanding comfort out of occasionwear — opting for kitten heels rather than stilettos, and slip dresses rather than form fitting looks. Though some of the uptick can be chalked up to a pandemic hangover, and some styles will stay while others fade away, the statement dressing category will remain strong through 2023. Still, cycles of consumption and consumer sentiment remain unwieldy amid wider economic uncertainty.
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