What's Trending in Women's Apparel? 4 Things to Know for Promo
Fashion moves a mile a minute. People acclimate to one trend just in time for style to move on to the next one. But, the pandemic sort of allowed all of us to take a breath and catch up. It helps that pajama pants and basketball shorts were the hottest looks of the summer last year.
But now that people are returning to the office in hybrid or full capacity and traveling for work events once again, we’re going to need to think a bit about our wardrobes—or maybe rethink them entirely. Here’s what that means for the promotional women’s apparel category.
1. Casual and Comfortable
Face it: As much as you tried to dress professionally every day while you worked from home, some days your sweatpants were your corporate uniform. And that’s OK! It’s great to stay comfortable while you handle business. And, hey, that’s what the whole “Zoom Shirt” phenomenon was—making sure you were wearing an appropriate top so you look respectable on a conference call. But, just off screen, shorts and slippers were technically office dress code.
As we gradually return to normal life, it’s unrealistic to think that people will want to go from yoga pants to power suits overnight.
“Some people might have been more dressed up at the office before [the pandemic],” said Eileen Collins, merchandising and product development for Delta Apparel, Duluth, Ga. “After maybe working from home, a polo shirt is about as dressy as they’re going to get.”
Items like golf shirts and polos are easily decorated with a company logo (bonus points if it shows up on a Zoom call), but are comfortable enough that the wearer doesn’t feel like they’re sacrificing comfort for professionalism. A polo shirt works for the office, field visits and trade shows, or even just while they tend to their personal business.
2. Styles and Colors
More than new fits and silhouettes dominating the women’s apparel market, Collins noted that certain colors are popular, as people finally have a chance to get flashy in the world again.
For Collins and Delta Apparel, the designs from before the pandemic are still working with customers, since there wasn’t a whole lot of apparel business across the board for much of 2020.
“We did have a launch of a lot of new products prior to COVID,” she said. “And, unfortunately, it just didn’t get its bang for the buck and sat. So, we as a company are sitting here with our fingers crossed. What we did is still valid, which we still feel really good about. We feel like our colors are still in line with styles—we’re definitely getting a pickup of some styles that we’ve had for a while that maybe we were ahead of the time on, maybe not.”
One of those products is a raglan baseball T-shirt, which Collins says appeals to people looking for a classic and comfortable look.
“We do women’s fitted baseball raglan tees with the two-tone sleeves, but we do it in a tri-blend fabric in some really beautiful, soft pastel colors and then we do some bold colors,” she said. “And we’ve had a lot of play in that.”
Those looks are especially popular now, Collins believes, as people want to add a splash of color to their wardrobe as a show of positivity.
“Color is really driving things,” she said. “I keep hearing, ‘Stay neutral, stay safe,’ but I think people want some color as they’re getting back out there. Pastel colors are doing exceptionally great for us. The older, brighter colors, we understand aren’t a trend, but we’re just not getting as much action on those colors. We’ve been wiped out in anything pastel.”
3. New Behaviors and Applications
The pandemic shifted the way a lot of people think. In February 2020, it might have been unheard of for some of us to spend a whole weekend at home. But, after last year, some folks now prefer staying in and binging Netflix shows.
Also, a lot of companies found that their employees worked just fine from home, so they turned to full-time remote schedules or a hybrid of in-office and home work. For those punching the clock in a home office, there are plenty of comfortwear items, like robes, that they can substitute for blazers or blouses.
“At Boca Terry, women are leaning toward the lighter, thinner fabrics that give a leaner silhouette, instead of the bulkier heavyweight, thick robes that used to be popular,” said Laura Lewis, business development, sales and marketing manager for Boca Terry, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Robes are obviously applicable to more than just sitting (and working) at home. As travel opens back up, hotels and hospitality industries will want to attract guests. Having a plush robe in your hotel room is the ultimate relaxation.
Comfortwear products are also applicable to women’s health facilities. Lewis said there’s one robe that’s been particularly popular there.
“We have a new item called the Medi-Robe, which offers patients the opportunity to have an IV and still be covered up completely from behind,” she said. “It offers dignity as well as the potential to stay warm during medical treatments. It is also a nicer-looking garment than a typical patient robe. Many women’s centers are using [it] since the snaps go fully down the sleeve, and [it] can be used for varied treatments. It offers birthing centers a new garment choice.”
4. Product Variety
Over the last few years, there has been increased demand for gender-neutral apparel. Demand is still there for women’s apparel specifically, but some things can appeal to women without being marketed directly for them. For those products, like T-shirts, the responsibility falls on the distributor to design a good-looking product that end-users will love.
That means that a women’s apparel line can include a basic T-shirt or sweatshirt in addition to very feminine-specific products. “Women’s apparel” doesn’t need to imply dressy.
“Although we’re selling [T-shirts] to be decorated, I really think it’s the creativity of our printers and decorators and customers to think of how to incorporate these other styles into their normal offering,” Collins said. “Whereas, you know, it might’ve always been just a golf shirt. But let me think about T-shirts, let me think about a tri-blend jacket, let me think about a sweatshirt—things that normally weren’t thought about in the workplace before. It takes a lot of creativity on a lot of peoples’ sides. But we’re ready with the blank inventory ready to be decorated for whatever that need might be.”