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Where’s the party? How to navigate the occasionwear market

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Party via Pexels

As economies reopen and international vaccine roll-out programmes see travel restrictions relaxed, gatherings – both indoor and outdoor – are gaining popularity. Consumers are embracing their new freedoms, with many planning summer holidays and attending small events and celebrations. Brands should take note that new dress codes for get-togethers need to be versatile at their core. Comfort and cost-conscious remain two key factors in purchasing decisions when it comes to shopping for eventwear.

Versatile and adaptable

Budgets are not likely to stretch for shoppers buying new clothes and accessories for each and every occasion, meaning pieces need to be versatile and adaptable to a multitude of possibilities. Tops remain a best-selling category, especially those that can worn as different looks and outfits. Sundresses are easy to wear and look smart on their own or paired with a blazer. A soft volume blouse works with trousers or a bias cut skirt. Customers will be looking for better quality fabrics, away from the t-shirt, jeans and loungewear that dominated lockdown wardrobes. Consider garments with a trans-seasonal appeal, that can be worn throughout the year.

Whatever the social occasion

Many events have been missed and postponed from last year, from weddings and birthdays to company milestones and anniversaries. In order to test demand for occasionwear smaller batches can introduced via direct to consumer channels and signal which categories will be best received by shoppers. While full-on glamour may be some time away until the end of the year, statement pieces and high heels are selling well at retail, but for these categories pricing remains key. For anything formal, such as weddings, classic and timeless qualities will have the most success as these will be considered investment purchases.


There is an emerging trend of wearing designer apparel without actual ownership, especially among younger consumers, and brands can consider renting formalwear. Additionally, increasing awareness regarding sustainable clothing and positive environmental effects of sharing and reusing apparels is another factor driving its success. The global rental market is expected to grow at a rate of 10.76 percent over the next two years to 1.96 billion dollars according to Marketwatch. Sharing, instead of owning allow online clothing rental services to tap into a brand and price-conscious consumers to try a wide variety of outfits without purchasing them.