Galina Hasanova used the credits with her permission.

Megan Smith, Thalia Trinidad, and Rigoberto Melgar-Melgar were acknowledged by the author for their contribution to the conceptualization and production of the piece.

Most people have been in front of a screen since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit two years ago. The shift to work from home resulted in a change in fashion trends, like a newfound affection for sweatpants. Blue jeans, gym shorts, and T-shirts are not allowed in the Western professional dress-code. The sales of tights, jogging, sweats, pants, and workout tops for Gap’s Athleta unit rose 6 percent compared with a 52 percent fall at the Banana Republic.

During the first two years of remote-working, 17 percent wore pajamas, according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management. The epidemic has put a strain on the formal wear industry, as evidenced by the bankruptcy of theBrooks Brothers in 2020.

Will women’s power suits and men’s corporate uniforms become redundant in the new normal workplace? While some fashion experts expect the desire for comfortable clothing will outlive the epidemic, some human resource professionals like Riia O’Donnell express concern that the work-from- home grooming and attire of many employees scream professional. Megan Serullo, a business reporter for CBS Interactive, said that most work-from- home attire is not acceptable in any kind of professional environment. With organizations pushing for employees to return to the physical workplace, are workplace dress codes going to change or be thrown out the window?

Are modern dress codes “professional” or just a pathway for ableism?

Dress-down days may be coming to an end, as some employers are talking about returning to the office, after over two years of remote work. The return to gendered norms and assumptions around appearance and professionalism could be signaled by the return to the professional dress code. According to an adviser for the Society of Human Resources Management, employers have told employees not to wear yoga pants and flip-flops to work. The modified dress code should be enforced consistently and should provide guidelines that maintain professionalism, according to A llen Smith. Many barriers for people with disabilities can be created by this sentiment.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations in 2006 as a major catalyst for the global disability rights movement. The employment rate for people with disabilities is less than that of non-disabled people. Employment discrimination in these statistics is important, but clothing discrimination is also a factor.

The lack of adaptive professional clothing in the marketplace can make it more difficult for people with disabilities to participate in the workplace. Lucy Richardson is a child protection specialist and the Disability Inclusion Unit of the UN.

Professional clothes do not take into account wheelchair users who are seated throughout their workday. It is especially difficult to find skirts or dresses that are long enough once seated and jackets that don’t bunch up and become uncomfortable.

The employment opportunities for PWDs are hampered by lack of adaptive clothing. PWDs don’t apply for jobs because they don’t believe they can meet the expectations of the office dress code according to a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia. Policies on transitioning to the pre-pandemic dress code can unintentionally discriminate against PWDs and prevent them from having equal access to employment in the open labor market if implemented without due diligence.

The return to pre-COVID lack of creative thinking around multiple ways we all can engage in work reflects the renewed expectations around standard professional dress codes. In our impulse to get back to normal, we are ignoring the more inclusive and productive ways we have worked in the last two years. teleworking, which people with disabilities have been requesting for decades, was all of a sudden possible and used en masse during COVID-19, and was seen to be beneficial for the entire workplace. It does a disservice to the creative progress made from working in an environment of uncertainty if you try and return to the standard workplace culture.

According to a report from the Return On Disability Group, although 90 percent of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% consider disability in their initiatives. The return to pre-pandemic professional attire rules increases stigma.

Pre-pandemic dress code policies that force PWDs to conform to an ableist definition of professionalism should not be reintroduced by employers. Employers can make it easier for PWDs to do their jobs effectively, safely, and comfortably if they have a more relaxed dress code. In the era of the new normal, employers should remember to be inclusive of PWDs, and involve them as equal partners in the decision-making process governing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. One billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, have some form of disability.

Gendered dress codes

PWDs are not the only group that has strict dress codes. The United States has a disproportionately higher rate of poverty for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer. Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ households face job or wage disruption as a result of the coronaviruses outbreak. According to the National LGBTQ+ Taskforce, the unemployment rate for trans workers is twice as high as the population as a whole. According to a Human Rights Watch report, people of color, trans women and men, and non-binary individuals earn less than other workers.

The workplace can cause feelings of distress, anxiety, and self-doubt for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer. According to the Human Right Campaign, one in five LGBTQ+ workers has been told by their coworkers that they should dress more feminine or masculine. There is a loss of belonging in the workplace for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer. Flexible dress codes allow for space for workers to show up authentically with their unique identities, interests and styles. Dress code policies should be gender neutral as employers revise them. After a complaint was filed against Alaska Airlines by the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2021, the airline announced in March of 2022, that it had updated its dress code policies to make them more gender neutral and inclusive.

Cara Levine-Brenner is a psychology instructor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

As a gender-nonconforming academic, I have been struggling with what constitutes professional attire all my career. Wearing a button-down top and slacks is not a neutral look for female faculty. But my students, who have even less power in the workplace, experience far more tangible consequences. Many wait tables and are encouraged to appear as cis-gendered as possible. Uniform options are limited to high-cut skirts and shorts for those presenting as women, while workers presenting as cis-men can wear Bermuda shorts or pants. The discomfort and vulnerability, as well as the expectations for additional grooming, unfairly disadvantage those who identify — or are identified — as women.

The Pandemic disrupted the lives of many and gave organizations an opportunity to reexamine what they are and where they want to go. The moment to transform ambiguity into opportunity is when organizations embrace gender-fluid clothing options. Employers would be able to create a fair and equitable workplace and offer a safer and more inclusive work environment with a gender-neutral dress code.

Visibility at work and how it relates to power and influence is a factor that directly impacts underrepresented groups in the workforce when you return to work. To center the work at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, ableism, and implicit bias, organizations must take intentional measures to eradicate practices and norms that inadvertently discriminate based on appearance and promulgate a deeply entrenched culture of white supremacy if they really want to live up the DEI principles Adoption of a more gender-neutral, less restrictive, and diverse dress code style will open the doors of opportunity for employees who are underrepresented groups.