STEPPING OUT: POST-PANDEMIC
By Lisa Loyet Schmitz, Director of Marketing and Creative Development for The Walking Cradle Co.
After over a year of living and working in pajamas, sweats, socks and slippers, many of us are seeing a rapid return to events that were postponed in 2020. Whether it is heading back into the workplace, attending a wedding (or getting married!) or simply enjoying dinner out – life seems to be returning to normal. Or is it?
This year, we have seen new fashion terms emerge like “soft shorts,” “zoom tops” and “couch clothes.” The term athleisure wear (the marriage of fashion and comfort) took on new meaning as we ditched our tailored suits, dresses and high heels. Business owners reported sales of jewelry went down, but headbands went up. For Walking Cradles, sales of dress shoes came to a screeching halt, while the Metro and Metro+ (sporty sneakers and casuals) reached a new high.
Everyone will agree that 2020 threw unforeseen challenges our way and we were all faced with finding new ways to live our lives, but what does that mean going forward?
IS IT DÉJÀ VU?
Some of you may remember (or have read about) what happened after World War II. When the men who were serving in the war efforts went overseas, the women were doing the jobs they had to leave behind – jobs that required jeans and overalls.
Once the war ended and the materials became available, some of these same women couldn’t wait to embrace corsets and full skirts once again. And while Christian Dior’s collection, the “New Look” debuted in 1947, featuring tight fitting jackets with padded hips, petite waists and A-line skirts in an attempt to bring femininity and glamour back to women’s wardrobes, not all women wanted to return to the dramatically feminine way of dressing.
The Little-Below-the-Knee Club in Chicago protested with signs and banners that said “We abhor dresses to the floor! Women, join the fight for freedom in the manner of dress!”
Coco Chanel was also part of the movement toward less restrictive female clothing, saying that “Dior doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them!” What emerged from this was a movement of women wearing slacks, shorter skirts and less restrictive jackets. But, while fashion was reshaped, it did in fact, return.
So, here we are in 2021, emerging from the pandemic of 2020 and it seems history could be repeating itself.
Is the office dress-code dead? Many workers spent the past year working from home. Suits and dress shoes have been collecting dust in our closets in exchange for loungewear – with the occasional dress top for Zoom calls!
As the vaccine distribution ramps up, we may be wondering if this more laid-back manner of dressing will continue or if people will flock to shed the sweats for a more classic professional look again.
In March, Glamour Magazine termed the workplace style dilemma a “personal style apocalypse” as many are re-examining their pre-pandemic clothing style to determine what they will wear when they return to the office.
THE PENDULUM SWINGS
“Fashion is a pendulum,” says Steven Kolb, head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “It goes from one extreme to another and that will happen again here.” As we emerge from the pandemic, it is likely that many people will be thrilled to abandon the super-relaxed lockdown look, but will that be true in all aspects of their lives?
CNBC published an article on April 18, 2021 identifying the top 6 things Americans are now buying. Skirts, jumpsuits and dresses; jeans; shoes; shaving kits and swimwear. This listing alone is a great indicator that we are ready to get out of the house and shed the hibernating bear lifestyle!
This article reported: "Dollar sales for footwear in the U.S. fell by 17% to a total of $64 billion for the 12 months that ended February 2021 compared with the prior year, according to The NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service.
Footwear sales improved, however, in March — not only increasing compared with 2020, but also compared with 2019, according to NPD. With sunnier and warmer weather days ahead, customers have been spending stimulus checks on new kicks and even springing for some seasonal and dressier styles.
The average percentage of heels sold out across retailers’ websites jumped from 8% in March 2020 to 22% in March 2021, according to an analysis by StyleSage."
At Walking Cradles, we have seen a steady increase in dress shoe sales since mid-March. While this is great and we feel encouraged, it has also created a disruption. Since consumers weren’t purchasing many shoes last year, retailers weren’t ordering new shoes for the upcoming season(s). As a result, we were left determining how many shoes to manufacture based solely on instinct and with caution.
As consumers are making more purchases, they are now faced with limited choices due to the lower inventory. This problem isn’t just happening with shoes. Most retailers are having problems keeping their shelves and racks stocked as consumers flock to purchase new items for the Spring and Summer. Even though stores are re-opening, finding merchandise to meet the demand has been a challenge. Shoppers looking for formal dresses for proms and weddings are leaving stores frustrated and empty handed. As the hard-hit industries of retail, transportation and travel reopen, how do designers, manufacturers and buyers determine what shoppers will want?
Business Insider visited a number of retailers to see how the effect of shipping delays was affecting their stores. Some stores just had depleted merchandise, others were in total disarray, attributed to the shortage of workers. Some items such as outdoor sporting equipment and gardening products were due to high demand. Others, such as clothing and shoes have been either delayed by shipping or manufacturing has been reduced due to the pandemic spending decrease. Goldman Sachs analysts predict supply chain disruptions will continue until at least early 2022.
The pendulum swung one way (sheltering at home and not buying clothing, shoes and makeup), and now it’s swinging back (events taking place, people returning to offices). The big question now is, what will be the new norm once the pendulum reaches the center?
If history is any indication, it will probably be a shift to comfort in items that were previously deemed fashionable, yet uncomfortable necessary fashion demons. I’m thinking of several things here: underwire bras, skin tight denim jeans and shoes without comfort features!
What might replace these items? Nothing that we don’t already have available to us! Personally, I have been purchasing supportive, yet comfortable bras with no wires whatsoever; lightweight stretch denim and - well, my shoes were good to begin with because Walking Cradles was already making all of our shoes with comfort features – not just the sporty and casual styles as one would expect, but also the pumps, sandals and dressy styles! We have received more customer comments regarding the signature Tiny Pillows insoles this month than we have in ages!
Marley Pump from Walking Cradles
We were happy to hear this about our Marley 3" pump: “Your shoes are so comfortable that I can stand and dance all day and night. Where have you been all my life?” – Claudia, Size 11 Narrow.
The Joy, a classic 2” pump receives many reviews similar to what Lisa (size 8.5 Medium) has to say, “These shoes are not only classically stylish, they are comfortable enough for all day wear! Love them””
Once we find the shoes that fit our new comfy lifestyle, what’s next?
Our clothing wasn’t the only thing that changed. Our beauty routines took a major turn! How many of you quit dying or cutting your hair? And lipstick? What lipstick? Even if we put it on, no one would see it behind the masks we had to wear! While lipstick and foundation sales plummeted, skincare products took over. Now that we are starting to get out and about again, reports are showing that women are returning to some of our previous make-up routines, but the focus is more on natural, healthy, light and fresh!
While we may be excited to return to events that offer us the chance to get dressed up, the comfort of those elastic waistband pants and sports bras isn’t something we want to totally leave behind! So, what is the new “dressed up” going to look like? “Elevated Loungewear” seems to be an emerging fashion term. Knits, relaxed cuts, soft cottons and velour are not just part of our casual options, but are being found in more formal wear. Flowing maxi dresses, silky palazzo pants and sweater vests (or “shests” for those who opt to wear it as a sleeveless shirt) are topping the trend lists for 2021.
Maxi Dress – Soft Surroundings; Palazzo Pants – Nordstrom;
Sweater Vest – Urban Outfitters
WHAT ABOUT COLOR?
Let’s face it, pretty much everything about last year seemed drab. Many people couldn’t even get outside to enjoy the changing colors of the season. So, here is that pendulum swing again – this season’s colors are vibrant! Pink in all shades is dominating the fashion scene. Orange, lime green and canary yellow are all also part of the eye-catching color trends you will see this Spring and Summer!
Anyone know what the acronym PMS stands for? No, not THAT one! The one that relates to the color spectrum. Pantone Matching System (PMS) provides fashion color trend reports each season, and this season’s colors “…combine a level of comfort and relaxation with sparks of energy that encourage and uplift our moods.” Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. To see the full report and the color palette, go to: https://www.pantone.com/articles/fashion-color-trend-report/new-york-fashion-week-spring-summer-2021
PICK YOUR PIECES
Much like after WWII, there seem to be two fashion schools of thought: those who want to continue to embrace the comfort and casual nature of dressing, and those who are ready to break free from the 2020 version of “couch clothes” and elevate their fashion with no limits!
For me, I’m landing somewhere in the middle (here’s that pendulum reference) again. While I love getting dressed up and going out, I’m finding ways to flaunt my fashionista roots with soft fabrics, comfy shoes and nothing that pokes, pinches or pushes body parts where they don’t belong!
No matter your own personal style, there is a popular trend out there for you – just let your pendulum swing a little so you don’t get stuck!
You want some new free summer shoes? Are you ready to "Step Out for Summer?" Jump over to the Walking Cradles Facebook Page to vote in our poll for your chance to win a FREE pair of Walking Cradles shoes! Voting takes place Friday, June 11 and ends at midnight on Sunday, June 13. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Monday, June 14!
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