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The Post-Pandemic State of Occasionwear

The Post-Pandemic State of Occasionwear
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Consumers’ shopping behaviors have been drastically altered as a direct result of the pandemic. We saw a far-reaching surge in athletic wear and loungewear, as consumers adapted to a slower and more homely lifestyle where leggings and plush cardigans turned into the most loved items of many closets. With comfort being a key driver in purchasing for so long, are shoppers now finally ready to dress up again? StyleSage data says yes.

Occasionwear Is Back

Bridal looks from Et Ochs and Jonathan Simkhai for Intermix.

As we are about to enter the second quarter of 2022, more people than ever are returning to offices and social calendars are filling up. Above all, formal occasions are finally being reinstated.  According to data from The Wedding Report, this year’s wedding season is set to make records with 2.5 million parties planned in 2022 - the most the US has seen since 1984. Additionally, proms are returning, and with that the need for an upgraded closet. Undeniably, if fashion was ever on pause, it is back now. Shoppers are now not only ready for a touch of glamour after years of living in loungewear, but they have an occasion for it. The evidence is all there in StyleSage search data. Since 2021, searches for “prom dress” are up by 230%, “semi-formal dress” by 285%, and “formal dress” by 225%.

In terms of color trends, StyleSage search data is also telling an interesting story. It is evident that classic neutrals and earth tones will have to take a seat at the sideline. Searches for “pink dress” are up by 74%, “red prom dress” by 23%, and “emerald green dress” by 119% against 2021. These joyous hues celebrate playfulness and positivity, and it is clear that this is exactly what consumers are looking for now. Optimism and renewal are key themes that offer a splash of vigor as we are seeing the end of the pandemic state for fashion. Pantone certainly agrees, as they reported Gossamer Pink, a soft and powdery pink, and Poinciana, a heated and commanding red, as some of the Spring/Summer 2022 colors.

Tom Ford SS22.

We are also seeing a surge in sequins and shine, not only on the runways of designers like Tom Ford, who sent down both a bomber-jacket gleaming with golden chainmail and a sequin emerald wrap dress shirt for SS22, but also in consumers’ minds as searches for “sequin dress” are up by 96%.

Dress Alternatives

Merging the very trending sequin with more traditionally masculine fashion attributes might not be an unfavorable idea. We live in a time where questioning gendered dressing stereotypes is the norm, and many fashion designers are seen embracing both femininity and masculinity in broad-minded ways. Since last year, searches for  “women’s pant suits” are up by 70%, and “formal jumpsuit” by 116%. It’s clear that the formal occasionwear mold has expanded beyond solely gowns and dresses and opened up for more non-traditional looks. Since Zendaya walked the 2022 Oscars red carpet wearing a menswear-inspired Valentino shirt with a silver sequined floor-sweeping skirt, we are anticipating this trend to gain even more momentum.


When it comes to occasionwear, one could argue that accessories are just as important as the outfit itself. For many, it’s not only about how pretty the jewelry is on their special day, but it’s also about the meaning it holds and the importance it has in creating lasting memories. With the anticipation of a record high demand for wedding attire, retailers should be expecting the same for accessories.

Pearls have been a jewelry staple for some time now, but the precious gemstone is now trending in other forms as well. Searches for “pearl hair accessories” are up by 222%, and “pearl headband” saw an increase of 27% compared to a year ago. Dainty pearls are no longer constricted to being a traditional piece of jewelry but have become a fashion statement.

And lastly, footwear deserves its place as the finishing touch in occasionwear. From glam heels from trending designers like Amina Muaddi and Mach and Mach, to the other end of the spectrum, where comfort takes priority, there’s more and more desire for alternatives outside the traditional category. Case in point? Searches for “flat bridal shoes” are up 95% from one year ago.  

Want to see more of the latest trends in occasionwear?  Subscribers can check out our Trend Radar for the latest search trends!

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