FROM THE BEDROOM TO THE BOARDROOM
Fashion, friendship and sisterhood: step into the world of fashion rental.
WORDS: MARNI ROSE MCFALL
Sheer shirts, exposed underwear, micro minis: no, we’re not talking about partywear, we’re talking about new-gen office wear. On the AW23 runways, the fashion world took a trip… from the bedroom, directly to the boardroom. The brief? Traditional office wear fused with sex-fuelled components. Call it business sensual. Right now, workwear that is ostensibly, NSFW, is the fash-pack’s favourite contradiction.
Think figure-hugging blazers paired with too-tiny, tailored shorts, library specs and bulky cardigans worn with sparkly pants (and nothing else). Even the more traditional tailoring at Saint Laurent was paired with audacious, thigh-grazing slits. Classic white button-downs were worn open to the naval or styled with a corset. From Saint Laurent to Valentino, we’re taking a deep dive into how business, got sexy.
Disclaimer: we will assume no responsibility if these outfits get you fired.
Workwear has evolved, like, a lot over the past few decades. It was only a mere 60 years or so ago when women started to enter the workforce in the first place, and it’s safe to say, that fashion’s been on a journey since then. Gone are the days of strict dress codes, mandatory heels and pencil skirts. In are the days of bras and blazers. But getting here? It was a long road, paved with many an iconic fit. And before we can deep dive into the bedroom eyes that are heating up HR departments all across the world right now, we’re taking a (relatively short) trip back in time to the genesis of one of the most influential workwear trends around. The pantsuit.
And naturally, when talking about the pantsuit, there’s only one name that comes to mind. The self-proclaimed, “pantsuit aficionado” (Racked), Hillary Clinton. In her 40-plus years in public office, Clinton transformed the pantsuit from menswear garment to the feminist symbol it is today. It was the tradition for first ladies to stay away from politics and stick to the traditionally feminine. But Clinton always dressed like a lawyer first, and a politician's wife second. An example of the changing tides of gender politics at the time? Absolutely. But Clinton was also a role model to women everywhere, shucking traditional values and, from the very beginning, wearing the proverbial pants.
Tailoring has come a long way since Hilary Clinton broke the mould with her pantsuits. Much has been made of new-gen tailoring over the past few seasons and the pantsuit, like all things, has evolved. And this year, a certain tailored look captured the attention of the fashion world, when it was donned by Margot Robbie for her Vogue cover. Robbie was shot in a skirt suit – the slightly sexier, more grown-up cousin of the pantsuit – from Saint Laurent’s AW23 collection. The tailored looks from Saint Laurent’s AW23 collection were already hot topic, with their statement blazers quickly being dubbed one of the standout trends of the season. Needless to say, Robbie donning one in Vogue, as part of her Barbie press tour (which we all already know was filled with looks that were veritable fashion caviar) threw gasoline on the fire of one of AW23’s hottest trends.
To the naked eye, the suit feels simple, understated even. But when you really look at it, the business sensual vibes are palpable. From the ultra-cinched waist to the thigh-grazing slit on the skirt, even in the echelons of traditional tailoring, the bedroom-to-boardroom trend was taking hold.
And throughout the AW23 season, the trend kept getting bigger, and bigger. And workwear started to get, well, dangerously close to being naked, as fashion’s hottest brands started advocating for leaving your trousers at home. At Bottega Veneta, white button-downs were paired with boxers-as-pants and knitted bed socks. Jacquemus's Instagram feed featured models in blazers, tights and nothing else.
But the biggest proponent of going pantless? Is none other than Miuccia Prada. It started with the instantly iconic sparkly-pants-and-a-knit at the Miu Miu AW23 show. And if you didn’t think they were wearable IRL, allow Julia Hobbs, Vogue’s European Fashion Features Director, to prove you wrong. Hobb’s recently shared herself galivanting all over London, in the Miu Miu pants. She wore them on the Tube, at the store, and, to her office. The fashion girlies said bedroom to boardroom, and, they meant it. And the trend extends beyond womenswear, as now Mother Prada has gone a step further, debuting a line of men’s boxers, designed to be worn without trousers., And what were they styled with? A crisp button-down and a blazer.
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At Paris Fashion Week, Valentino went in on bedroom to boardroom appeal. Their womenswear show was filled with ultra-sexy tailored looks. Think traditional black suits paired with micro mini shorts, totally sheer shirts worn with nothing underneath, and pinafore-style dresses cut to daringly short hemlines. A standout of the collection? Their Business Ghoul Girl. A (rather apt) symbol of burnout culture, the Business Ghoul Girl brought gothcore to the office. She’s covered in tattoos and piercings; she’s donning a bejewelled black waistcoat and shorts. She’s breaking every workwear rule. And she looks damn good doing it.
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Rule-breaking is, integral to the trend. And it’s perhaps most prevalent when you look at the gender-bending element. At the Dolce & Gabbana men’s show, traditional suits were styled with nude corsets, Saint Laurent’s menswear collection showed sheer, ruffled shirts (with nothing underneath, naturally) paired with tailored black trousers. The conventional menswear pieces were paired with conventional womenswear pieces, and vice versa. The womenswear shows equally, borrowed from menswear with conference-ready ties and thick shoulder pads. If workwear once catered to a professional, corporate, male gaze, now, it is catering to no one.
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And the trend in and of itself, veers between the sexy to the subversive. Take Miu Miu for example. The looks were, in a way, awkwardly and unsettlingly, intimate. The bed hair, the waistband of the tights hoicked above cardigans, the forgotten trousers. It’s as if you're catching the models off guard. And maybe that’s the point. A far cry from the pencil skirts of yore, Miu Miu’s AW23 collection follows the conventions of traditional officewear, while entirely ripping up the rule book. It’s subversive, it’s unique, it’s Miu Miu.
Fashion and culture are inextricably linked, with one, always, mirroring and reflecting the other. Imagine the relationship between fashion and office wear then, as a spreadsheet: an ever-mounting cultural document, charting shifts, trends, and an evolution of style. And the bedroom-to-boardroom trend is entirely, reflective of this. And, of a post-pandemic paradigm shift in workwear and, fashion. The pandemic saw us in loungewear 24/7, sitting in Zoom calls with a button-down up top and pyjama bottoms (at best) down below. It shattered the norm for workplace culture and workwear. The fusing of the bedroom and the boardroom then, is hardly surprising.
The trend is a quite literal, mirror of the shifting tides of workplace culture. The Miu Miu models, who looked like they’d rolled out of bed and into a meeting – forgetting to put on trousers on the way – were instantly reminiscent of the lazy girl job phenomenon that has exploded on TikTok over the past year. The #lazygirljob currently has 22.9 million views on TikTok, and the term was originally coined by Gabrielle Judge, who describes the lazy girl job as “a low-stress, fully remote job with little oversight and a good salary” (BBC). Much like the looks on the AW23 runways, the lazy girl job trend is indicative of an ongoing shift in workplace culture. Blame it on Gen Z, but from the office wear to the actual office, the times, they are a changing.
One of the more controversial trends of late? Maybe. But the bedroom to boardroom phenomenon is already, playing out, everywhere. Read: blazers and mini dresses, button-downs and boxers, blazers and bras. AKA, the looks that have become a fixture in the style repertoires of It girlies everywhere. In 2023, it’s all about dressing for the vibe, not, the job.
And to all those who oppose boxers-as-pants and bras-as-tops in the office? It’s called fun Karen, look it up.