white button up shirt on red textile

Kristen Stewart’s reference to the Venice shalwar kameez last week is a sign of fashion’s first post-pandemic trend.

When Kristen Stewart wore pale jade-coloured Chanel trousers under a dress at the Venice film festival last week, comments on the Instagram page of Stewart’s stylist Tara Swennen included: “She looks great but looks like she’s wearing pyjamas. Chanel?”

man in red long sleeve shirt and white pants standing on brown field during daytime

As normal life fades into the background, this style, a westernized version of the shalwar kameez, has become the first post-pandemic fashion trend. The silhouette was dubbed “double duty” by Harper’s Bazaar and has been seen on the catwalks at Louis Vuitton, Fendi and other designers. It speaks to our hybrid life and the liminal state that we are still in after 18 months of living with pandemic.

“With the scars left by the pandemic on society, there are going to be extreme contradictions in our approach shopping and dressing up,” Lorna Hall, director fashion intelligence at trend forecaster WGSN, says.

Joanne Thomas, Colour expert Coloro, says: “Risk-averse customers are prioritising comfort value-per-wear, versatility and comfort,” which speaks to double-duty’s appeal.

girl in yellow and red floral shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on concrete bench

Professor Alison Goodrum, fashion historian, believes that the trouser dress is about protecting our interests as we re-enter the workforce. It allows us to bridge formal and informal attire, and it also allows us to learn how to use waistbands and tailoring in a more relaxed manner. It is a safety net that combines the practicality of the trouser with layering.

Fashion lecturer Liza Betts says that the outfits “refer to the border zone” between underwear and outwear. According to Betts, Stewart’s outfit shows the tension between our private and public selves. She also says that the boundaries that divide our work and home lives are becoming less clear.

The outfit was a fashion staple even before the pandemic. Its design is unique and it has been since. The combination of trousers and dresses rewrites how clothing is viewed and assembled.

white button up shirt on red textile

Goodrum says that trousers no longer exist as ‘separates’, but are instead combined with other garments to create new silhouettes or lines.

The combo-outfit, which has been worn throughout fashion history by figures such as early women’s rights advocate Amelia Bloomer, Ginger Rogers, Gwen Stefani and others who’ve questioned traditional gender roles, now signifies a new era of gender-neutral wear.

Goodrum sees it as a sign of “post-genderized dressing”. She says that once trousers were thought of as menswear, and that dresses were reserved for women. But, “post-genderized dressing” has always been a challenge to that order. “Stewart’s appearance points out the complexity of gender in modern-day life.”