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It’s Time to Load Up on Comfort Chic

In turbulent times, soothing knits in “happy” colors like this cashmere knit with tie-dye motif by Elder Statesman.
By Carolyne Zinko

Pre-pandemic, Bay Area fashion author and haute couture collector Christine Suppes wore of-the-moment Saint Laurent jackets and leather maxi skirts for interviews and business appointments. Sheltering in place, there’s temptation to roll out of bed and into Zoom meetings clad in PJs, but she’s keeping a casual polish with silky palazzo pants, tank tops, embroidered denim jackets and Ecco walking sandals. She switches to Libertine topper jackets, slim pants and low-heeled shoes when dining at outdoor restaurants at night. “Soft fabrics,” Suppes says, “feel more comfortable than stiff fabrics when at home practicing social distancing.”

For the foreseeable future, experts say, it’s all about ease.

“Our clients want things that don’t require mental math in terms of how to style it or how to fit into it, like Apiece Apart’s cotton poplin Elise dress with a smocked waist, and that delight their spirits, or like The Elder Statesman’s happy and colorful tie-dye cashmere sweaters,” says Emily Holt, owner of Hero Shop boutiques in San Francisco and Larkspur. “They’re also increasingly focused on investments that will last long past the pandemic, whether that’s a classic trench coat from Co or a beautifully crafted Mark Cross bucket bag.”

“Tabletop dressing” — the way James Krohn, a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus described outfits seen from the waist up at dinner parties — now applies to Zoom meetings, too. Camera-distracting prints are out, he says, while “solid, sober and soft” are in, along with fashion slippers, slides and smoking shoes (Gucci, Stubbs and Wootton) for “comfort and whimsy” behind the desk. Forget about layered outfits, once needed to navigate the wide range of temperatures in the course of a day in the Bay Area’s climate. They’re “unimportant,” he says, when nobody leaves home.

Gray and taupe knit and suede Ermenegildo Zegna sneaker

The male executive is keeping it low-key in button-down shirts (plaid or striped) and short- or long-sleeved knitwear (by Brunello Cuccinelli, Loro Piana and Kiton), says Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, a top exec at Wilkes Bashford. “Work out/loungewear is fine for the home gym and TV watching but not for virtual business meetings,” he says. The one exception? Sneakers. Dressy Golden Goose, Ermenegildo Zegna and Berluti tennies are “flying” off the shelves, he says.

As those of us on video conferencing have noticed, we tend to examine what we see. If you’re tempted to repeat the same because every day feels the same, Silicon Valley stylist Joseph Rosenfeld advises the opposite: “Somehow, Zoom makes everyone’s outfits more memorable, which requires either more variety or better accessorizing.”

Photo credits: Gradient dye palm tree sweater, courtesy Hero Shop San Francisco. Gray and taupe knit and suede Ermenegildo Zegna sneaker, courtesy Wilkes Bashford stores.

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