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Casual American Workplace is Good For Women’s Wear

Women’s U.S. apparel sales grew over 3% in 2012, while menswear sales grew a comparatively meager 1.4%. This indicates a serious gender reversal in recent trends–in 2011, for example, menswear sales gained 4.2% in the U.S., and women’s sales gained only 1.5%. According to the latest stats, the increasingly casual American workplace may be the culprit.

Jeans accounted for the lion’s share of women’s spending–denim sales alone grew by 11%, or $8.61 billion. As Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, explained, “women are investing in their wardrobes by buying less, spending more and expecting their clothes to be more versatile.” An expensive, high-quality pair of jeans is the perfect fit–they last a long time, and lately, they’ve become acceptable at home and at work.

As for dresses, Cohen noted that fashion has changed the way women wear dresses–they aren’t just for special occasions anymore. In the same way that jeans have become acceptable office attire in many offices, casual dresses are appropriate on the weekends, fueling the demand for both.

In contrast, menswear sales fell largely because of a weakened demand for men’s tailored clothing, like suits and sport coats, after they surged by $4.61 billion in 2011. The steady informalization of the modern workplace, a boon to women’s denim, is a bane to men’s suiting.

Taken together, men and women’s U.S. apparel sales rose 2.6% in 2012, with total sales of $167.98 billion, slightly besting the 2.4% increase seen in 2011.