Kayla Marci

July 18, 2022

Market Shifts - Casual vs. Going Out

How are casual and occasionwear represented in ranges and communications now vs. pre-pandemic times?

Following the COVID-induced loungewear era, trends have bounced between now-acceptable casual comforts and the pent-up demand for going-out attire. 

This report analyzes how the market has evolved from pre-pandemic to living with it, to help support your buying decisions.

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casual vs. occasionwear

Key Takeaways

  • Though T-shirts make up the bulk of new tops, retailers have pulled back on investments by 10pp in their 2022 assortments compared to pre-pandemic levels. This saw T-shirt sell outs drop 12pp vs. 2019, while more formal blouses surged 11pp (percentage points).

  • Trousers are the top-selling subcategory within bottoms, driven by the demand for both formal and casual styles. However, straight and wide-leg tailored trousers outsold casual cargo pants, while jean sell outs sunk 8pp vs. 2019. A partywear staple, the miniskirt, ensured sell outs for skirts outpaced more relaxed shorts.

  • The return of heels is undeniable, with this silhouette out-selling flats by 8pp. However, demand is currently outpacing supply, highlighting the opportunity for retailers to invest deeper into occasion styles ahead of the party season at the end of the year.

  • Partywear is marketed distinctly for “going out out” in communications, while casual and comfort influences remain embedded in officewear promotions as consumers embrace hybrid working.

 

Category Breakdowns

Tops

Newness
T-shirts remain the most invested-in product and cardigans the least, with the styles in between following the same ranking over time. However, the weighting allocated to styles has changed, reflective of the shifts in consumer lifestyles that have been upended over the past four years.

Arrivals in T-shirts have dropped from 42% of newness delivered since the start of the year to 32%. Retailers have upped OTB allocation to dressier styles like blouses, shirts and camis. Meanwhile, more relaxed styles like sweaters, tank tops, hoodies and sweatshirts are either the same percentage of the total category compared to 2019 or only 1pp higher, indicating stagnation for casual tops.

casual vs. occasionwear

Sell Outs

With fewer new T-shirts in the market for 2022, sell outs in this category took a hit by 12pp vs. 2019. Blouses surpassed sweaters as the second top-performing style, with sell outs surging 11pp as demand for dressier styles increased post-pandemic.

While styles synonymous with loungewear made up a greater percentage of sell outs vs. 2019, this is lower compared to pandemic trading years. Hoodies and sweatshirts each equaled 6% of tops selling out in 2020 and 2021. Cardigans, which bridge comfort and dressing up, rose to 7% of top styles selling out. 

casual vs. occasionwear

Bottoms

Newness
Trousers arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels, noting a 1pp rise. A more casual category overall, shorts investment outpaced skirts, which was 2019’s second most popular category. While inherently relaxed styles like Bermudas and biking styles grew, denim plummeted. The material made up 18% of new shorts in 2019 vs. 16% this year, while in skirts, it dropped from 11% to 5% as satin, ruched and wrap styles prevailed.

This suggests retailers are elevating their bottoms ranges to be dressier compared to 2019 as investment in jeans has increased. Newness in sweatpants dropped below pre-pandemic levels, with retailers tightening their ranges to avoid loungewear fatigue.

casual vs. occasionwear

Studio Landing Page UK – Jun 8, 2022
 

Sell Outs

With the bottoms category home to several viral styles, both casual and occasion trends are resonating with consumers. Sell outs for trousers rose from 30% of bottoms to 34%. While cargo pants have seen a significant uptake, with sell outs growing a whopping 285% vs. 2019, they were outpaced by tailored trouser styles by 150% due to straight and wide-leg styles driving sales.

Despite retailers investing in shorts over skirts, the latter equaled a greater proportion of sell outs, propelled by the mini and cargo skirt hype. As trousers captured a high percentage of customer spending, jean sell outs dipped below pre-pandemic levels.

casual vs. occasionwear
 

Footwear

Newness

In 2019, flats made up a larger proportion of footwear ranges as retailers continued to cash in on the streetwear and athleisure boom. These more casual styles continue to influence buys, with foam sliders and futuristic and dad sneakers touted as the shoes of summer.

However, after two years of event cancellations and lockdowns, heels have experienced a resurgence and are now the dominant silhouette. They equal 51% of ranges, with retailers spotlighting platforms, clogs, chunky mules and occasion heels.

casual vs. occasionwear
 

Sell Outs

Sales of heels have historically outstripped investments, equaling 48% of newness and 53% of sell outs in 2019.

In 2022, this rose to 51% of arrivals and 54% of sell outs, establishing the post-lockdown demand for high heels and demonstrating that retailers are under-indexing their ranges.

 
casual vs. occasionwear
 

Keyword Evolution

Analyzing the product terminology provides insight into how the descriptors have evolved over time. The significant spike in “comfortable” combined with the increase of dressier product types suggests retailers are applying the term to going out styles as well as to casualwear. This is reflective of how the pandemic has transformed fashion, with consumers looking to incorporate comfort into all aspects of their wardrobe.

Interestingly, the term “party” noted a 62% decline vs. 2019. Instead, retailers are describing more formal products using “occasion” and “tailored,” which have seen a 118% and 21% increase compared to 2019.

 
casual vs. occasionwear
 

Communication Stories

Partywear
In 2019 partywear became more casual, with retailers promoting garden party edits centered around floral midi dresses or other iterations inspired by the Zara viral dress. Now, we’re seeing retailers promote “going out out,” spotlighting Y2K and Sexy Dressing themes.

casual vs. occasionwear    casual vs. occasionwear

Esprit Email UK - Feb 19, 2019 & Monki Email UK - Feb 6, 2022

Workwear

Partywear may be getting dressier, but workwear trends are yet to return to traditional office attire. Products have evolved to mirror hybrid working born from the pandemic, with retailers embedding comfort into smart tailoring through fluid silhouettes and oversized cuts.

casual vs. occasionwear casual vs. occasionwear

LOFT Email US - May 6, 2019 & Oysho Email US - Mar 27, 2022

 

Casualwear

Retailers’ casual promotions revolve around a utilitarian focus, with fashion brands promoting cargo pants and skirts in neutral hues to rival denim. A similar trend story cropped up in 2019 emails. Linen stands out as a key casualwear story for summer, in line with the Coastal Grandmother aesthetic, while Tenniscore experienced a second wave. 

casual vs. occasionwear casual vs. occasionwear

Weekday Email UK - Jan 27, 2019 & Everlane Email US - Jun 1, 2022

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