The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about seismic shifts in various aspects of our lives, and the world of fashion is no exception. Canadian women, in particular, have witnessed significant changes in their wardrobes over the past two years. As masks became a part of daily life, and the divide between workwear and loungewear blurred, comfort and experimentation emerged as key trends.
Sarah O’Rourke, a fashion enthusiast currently pursuing a master’s in business and sustainability at the University of Waterloo, reflects on the evolution of her personal style throughout her life. From ‘alternative rock’ style in high school to ‘hipster fashion’ in college and professional slacks, blouses, and blazers in her working life, O’Rourke’s closet has seen several “eras.” Her love for fashion has played a pivotal role in her academic and professional pursuits.
However, the conventional 9-to-5 job limited her opportunities to express her passion for fashion. When the pandemic left her with evenings free, O’Rourke decided to fill her time by creating content on Instagram. She found her niche when she shifted her focus to body confidence and mid-size fashion, allowing her to be more experimental with her clothing choices.
The pandemic prompted noticeable changes in Canadian shopping habits. According to Trendex North America, a marketing research and consulting firm, Canadian apparel sales plummeted by 23.6% in 2020 due to the pandemic but rebounded with a 16.2% increase in 2021. The upward trend is expected to continue with a projected 14.8% rise in 2022 and a 5% increase in 2023.
For many Canadian women, the pandemic served as a catalyst for wardrobe transformations. Comfort, confidence, and a renewed sense of self-expression have taken center stage. Mahera Islam, a University of Toronto undergraduate, shared her journey of embracing color and experimenting with clothing styles. She previously leaned towards loose and dark clothing, influenced by modesty and a desire to remain inconspicuous. However, the pandemic allowed her to shed these notions and explore vibrant colors and maxi dresses, all while prioritizing comfort and modesty.
Erin Chan, co-founder of the housing rental platform Rhenti, incorporated more color and athleisure into her wardrobe during the pandemic, bidding adieu to heels for over two years. The shift towards comfortable clothing choices reflects a broader trend of prioritizing comfort without sacrificing style.
Lindsay Vermeulen, a writer and editor, emphasized the importance of comfort in her clothing choices, eschewing garments that chafe, feel tight, or irritate her skin. This trend demonstrates that comfortable clothing doesn’t exclusively mean loungewear or athleisure; it encompasses any attire that makes women feel at ease while maintaining their individual style.
Kormal Minhas, a federal government employee, underwent a transformation in her fashion identity during the extended period of indoor living. She donated clothes that no longer resonated with her and sought opportunities to express her style, regaining a sense of stylistic individuality.
While these women have adjusted their fashion choices and become more discerning about quality, they emphasize that their spending habits haven’t drastically increased. Instead, they prioritize quality over quantity, opting for items that are both economical and sustainable. Thrifting, reducing fast fashion consumption, and being selective about trends have become common practices among those seeking a more meaningful and responsible approach to fashion.
The post-pandemic wardrobe transformation among Canadian women reflects a broader shift in priorities. Comfort, confidence, sustainability, and a renewed sense of personal style have reshaped the fashion landscape, ushering in an era where individuality and comfort take precedence over fleeting trends.