There’s an image that comes to mind when you think “corporate dress code.” I bet it includes some version of a suit and a button-down shirt. But this season, workwear is adding a BDSM twist to its roster. It’s take-your-leather-harness-to-work season, as evidenced by the fall 2021 and spring 2022 collections that made a case for pairing tailored sets with the body accessory.
After almost two years of working from home, workwear has started to look different, with “business comfort” — think: tailored joggers and sneakers paired with suits — set to take off as we return to the office. For those who are still in a panic about what to wear IRL, rest assured that tailoring remains one of the biggest trends for women. But this is not your grandfather’s suit. Instead, brands are offering new takes with intentionally oversized silhouettes, two-tone blazers, and mini skirt suits.
Other designers are suggesting a more NSFW approach to workwear.
For its 100th anniversary collection, Gucci showed a lineup that included equestrian nods, with leather whips, polo riding hats, knee-high boots, and body harnesses. Creative director Alessandro Michele paired the latter with velvet monochrome suits, corseted dresses, and flowy frocks that could seamlessly go from a conference meeting to a happy hour-turned-dinner. For fall 2021, Dion Lee showed black belted harnesses as crop tops, white asymmetrical bib-like pieces over flowy tops, and mesh cut-out mini dresses with corseting. Meanwhile, Dior’s Cruise 2022 showed a myriad of ladylike dresses and collegiate button-downs and turtlenecks paired with, you guessed, leather harnesses.
It might seem doubtful that people will wear leather accessories to work. But harnesses have already shown their mainstream potential. Born out of the ‘80s and ‘90s, leather harnesses have long been associated with kink-adjacent fashion. In the early 2010s though, they made their runway debut, with designers like Herve Leger and Prabal Gurung embracing the look. Reminder: This was the era of Fifty Shades of Grey, the books-turned-movies that brought conversations around BDSM culture to the mainstream (and made Seattle's corporate culture hot!).
A few years ago, the leather harness made another mainstream comeback: Celebrities like Timotheé Chalamet, Michael B. Jordan, and Orlando Bloom donned iterations of harness-like accessories — which the Call Me By Your Name actor tried to pass as a bib (yeah, right!) — on the red carpet, paired with tailored button-down shirts. On the other end, mass brands like Zara welcomed the accessory into their ranks.
But while autumn trends have announced the return of the leather harness, the spring 2022 runways proved that it’s going nowhere. Instead, it’s making its way to workwear now. For proof, look no further than LaPointe’s latest collection inspired. For the spring 2022 presentation, inspired by rave culture, the brand’s designer Sally LaPointe turned a downtown storefront into a club, complete with ear-busting techno and neon lights. The selection included monochrome suits to match, featuring feather details and topped off with harnesses.
It’s clear that, after spending a year in lockdown, we’re not willing to stick by the rules. Just in time for the Great Resignation and the arrival of subversive basics, the era of boring pantsuits and corporate briefcases is over. Having spent the majority of last year at home, we’re also no longer wasting any time — going from the conference room to the club with no stops in between.
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