Long live Leisurewear! The Roaring Twenties and Post-Pandemic Party Attire

The modern-day Roaring Twenties?

Ever since the dreaded C-word hit us this time last year, people have been drawing eerie parallels between the 1918 flu pandemic and coronavirus. Perhaps a glimmer of hope in this comparison is the anticipated ‘economic and cultural prosperity’ expected to follow our year-long torment of wearing masks, witnessing toilet roll shortages, and turning on the TV to relentless bad news.

The Roaring 20s, which marked the end of the 1918 influenza, entailed a period we all know to be characterised by Gatsby glamour, hedonism and parties. The reason for this? Dr Nicholas Christakis, an epidemiologist, affirms that ‘once pandemics end, often there is a period in which people seek out extensive social interactions’. The same surge of social interaction is therefore expected of our post-pandemic release back to normality.

In fact, this already appears to be the case. On April 12th, which marked the long-awaited re-opening of shops, outdoor pubs/venues and hairdressers, we saw streets littered with celebratory pints and friendly reunions.

The anticipated impact on fashion

So what does this descent into hedonism have in store for the fashion industry? We look at two of the following predictions below -

Long live leisurewear? Party-gear to make a comeback

Despite McKinsey’s predictions in its State of Fashion report that the demand for athleisure was to remain high in 2021, party-wear appears to be making a premature comeback. Stirred, potentially, by the flurry of ‘what I’ll wear when lockdown lifts’ articles and social media posts, it appears our passion for post-pandemic parties will be coupled with the appropriate attire. So, while it was believed that the pandemic may have dulled our desire for fancy clothes, the world appears to think otherwise.

It appears high-end designers agree, with the likes of Paco Rabanne and Gucci featuring party-wear heavily in their new collections. Alessandro Michelle, who recently debuted his Aria collection for Gucci at The Savoy, appeared to pay homage to the roaring 20s with plenty of colour, feathers and pop culture references. Retailers, too, are currently ‘betting on the big bright dress’ which gives connotations of freedom and, as Dress Historian Amber Butchard predicts, an echo of the 1920’s shift dress - “maybe we will be charlestoning our way through this summer” she says.

A shift to sustainability

It is, however, also predicted that our search for party attire will be met with greater consciousness about the need for sustainability. As such, glamorous garments are potentially more likely to be purchased second-hand or otherwise rented. This is perhaps evidenced by the events of last week, which saw charity shops struggling to restock their shelves after a post-lockdown boom in demand. Depop’s CMO remarked on how the ‘secondhand market is the answer to constant newness’ in a nod to the company’s recent success amongst Gen-Zs.

The same goes for rental culture which also appears to be on the rise. Whilst such businesses, (like many) took a devastating hit this time last year, hope seems to be on the horizon. The return of wedding and large events is nigh, and with that - Rent the Runway’s Chief Executive Jennifer Hyman believe - a subsequent boom in clothing rentals.