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How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted fashion and style

Two years in, so much in our lives has changed -- and that includes the way we dress.

CLEVELAND — If you're sick of sweatpants two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, know that the fashion industry is forging ahead.

That said, local style experts say comfort has reached a new status. Even better, they have some suggestions on how you can approach your own closet while still shopping for the future.

"Part of what I do is talk to clients about what are your life roles? What do you need to get dressed for?" said Hallie Abrams, WKYC style contributor. "Every single person's like, well, pre-COVID I used to do X, Y, Z now. I don't, nobody knows. nobody knows we're all lost and we're all disconnected, but we are all in it together."

With fewer social interactions and new priorities, there’s been a major shift in the way her clients here in Cleveland and beyond approach getting dressed.

Even traditionally formal occasions like weddings have gotten more casual. 

When it comes to work wardrobe, it’s confusing even for those back in the office. 

"It feels like you're sort of going in on a Sunday when nobody's there, even if it's a Tuesday. So do you have to wear a suit and tie? We're in no man's land with that right now," said Abrams.

With so many unknowns – Hallie says the answer is often the one you like best. 

"I talk about with clients all the time, you're the one sending the message to of the world with what you're wearing," she said. "It is less about being in style or on trend. It is more about feeling put together and modern and current."

One easy tip for getting dressed feels impossible is to incorporate brighter colors. They are a fail-safe and a Zoom-safe choice.

"I think people have gotten into a place where they're a little more comfortable experimenting with color, especially if it's only on the top half," Abrams said. "And they're realizing that it does make a big difference when you're doing zoom calls or presentations or whatnot."

At Knuth's Boutique in Pepper Pike, co-owner Sherry Bryan said she's seeing an appetite for what she calls "functional fashion."

"This little jacket would be great with white jeans and sea acres in the dead of summer, the shirt could be worn any time of year and the pant is lightweight," she told us. "It actually pulls on, super comfy. So that's a trend in fashion right now is seasonless clothing, things that work in your wardrobe wherever you are."

That mantra extends to dressier items too, which are now easier to find in higher tech, comfortable fabrics.

Instead of buying seasons ahead for the store, Knuth's said it is focused more on what you can wear now. They, too, have been hit hard by supply chain issues.

"I say to all my friends and customers who, who, you know, are I'm, I'm not just trying to sell it," said Bryan. "If you see it and you like it, you should buy it because honestly, finding it again is gonna be tough."

If you've fallen behind on your fashion, it's okay to stick with what you know moving forward.

"I think the best way to really know if you're liking things in your wardrobe is to try them on and wear them," Abrams said. "It's a pain. It takes a while. You can either do it, it in, you know, dedicate a weekend and sort of try everything on and almost like, pretend you're going on a trip, try it on and be like, okay, well this does this go with this and does this go with this?"

Bryan agreed.

"I think the best way to approach it is to think about what you love in your wardrobe, what works for you that you already own. And then either look for more of that. Like maybe it's a shape, maybe it's jackets, jeans, pants, whatever it is," she said. "Think about what you love, what you feel comfortable in and try to build on that."

If you're looking for more inspiration, Hallie has a shop your wardrobe challenge going on - with 31 days of outfit ideas based on what you already own. You can download her guide at this link.

She also operates a private Facebook page where clients, mostly women, help each other with the daily decision-making of getting dressed, whatever the occasion. You can check that out here.

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