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Business-casual retailers are trying to figure out how to entice Americans who have grown used to T-shirts, leggings and gym shorts to buy their blazers, maxi dresses and fancier pants.
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Brands like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Express have organized online categories around working or staying at home, hoping to keep selling their signature work apparel during the pandemic. But the coronavirus lockdowns have only furthered America's embrace of informal attire, retail executives say.
"We've been seeing a shift to more casual wardrobes for decades, quite honestly, in America," Express Inc. Chief Executive Timothy Baxter said on the company's earnings call last month. "And I think there is no doubt that this pandemic has pushed that forward even more significantly and even more rapidly."
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Express markets a "ways to work" section on its website with the attire grouped by style: back-to-office, work-from-home and interview. The work-from-home category lists blazers and trendy ankle pants, along with casual tees, sweaters and scented candles. Mr. Baxter said the company "saw strength in casual categories such as leggings and jogger pants, driven partly by our new work-from-home and essential shops."
Ashley Goldsmith, a San Francisco-based content strategist for Facebook Inc., bought more casual items to wear during the pandemic, including workout pants, leggings and two robes. While she shopped for comfort wear, she said she noticed the attempts by sellers to push dressier options.