Throughout the decades, the perception of office wear has changed from the conservative style of suits and dresses to the casual style of pants and t-shirts. In order to get to where we are today, we need to look back to see how it started. Here’s how office wear has changed throughout the times:

The 1950s

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In the 1950s, the trends for office wear was for a formal/professional look. Workers were expected to adhere to a formal look and were also expected to dress in a specific way (with no variety to their wardrobes). This era of office wear was emphasized greatly as companies required professional clothing in a business setting. This meant that dark suits, white shirts, ties, stiletto heels, dresses, and stockings became a big deal for both men and women in terms of fashion trends in the office setting.


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The 1960s brought on a very preppy look as office fashion was very inspired by the Kennedy administration. This meant that trends were still conservative but less subject to change for both men and women. With men suits and ties became slimmer but other than that nothing changed. For women, however, trousers were becoming a big trend outside the workplace, but they were still expected to wear dresses to work. This era started shifting the formality of office style towards the 1970s, with the beginning of groovy looks, but still had specific dress codes from the 1950s/60 implemented in the workplace.


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In the 1970s, the formal dress code started to shift within office wear and created a big change to how we dress for work. Men started to wear fewer suits for a more casual look deemed “business casual”. Women, however, created a bigger change for their dress code as they were trading in their dresses/skirts for pants. Dress codes were still implemented within the office but were starting to reflect the everyday fashion trends that people were gravitating towards.


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Now in the 1980s, this is where office fashion started to get a bit more experimental. These experimental trends were showcased in the styles of bold patterns, power ties, bright colors, etc. Broad shoulders became a huge fashion style as shoulder pads were becoming popular to wear within suits. These trends ended up affecting women more than men as women started dressing more masculine (in an exaggerated style) in an effort to show they were willing to be in the big leagues along with men. 


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Moving on from the 1980s, the 1990s continued on the rise of casual wear and started to go mainstream as Silicon Valley became the birthplace of the business casual revolution within the workplace. The trend of power dressing and pantsuits also became popular for women to wear in terms of office trends as it made women feel as if they were in charge. For men, the style of khaki pants and button down shirts became popular as it showed a casual side to them while working.


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In the early 2000s, business casual was still dominating the office trends as more companies started to see the shift in what was considered trendy. This is also the era where the formal dress code started to change depending on the industry one was in. An article by Business Insider stated that “Corporate image and employees’ desires helped define who went casual and when”. And created a big impact on the formal dress code for office trends overall. The formal dress code, however, didn’t change too much as business casual was becoming more popular and business professional looks were transforming into a slimmer profile.


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Today, in terms of office wear, business casual is all the rage as it is heavily dominating most industries. Although we are still in a time where companies enforce dress codes, it has gotten less restrictive where in certain industries actually allow a more casual look while other industries still enforce a more business casual look.

With fashion, it’s ever-evolving. So while we are moving towards a more casual look, who knows? So whether we’re going to continue with a business casual look or move back to the formal look, we’ll be able to know where we’re started and where we’re heading to with our office fashion.

How has the change of office wear make you feel? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally posted on GREY Journal