Is Loungewear the Future of Fashion?
Prioritizing comfort and ease, from pillowed flip flops to fleece sweatpants: loungewear is on everyone's Wishlist these days. So will it be a phase or a long-term trend? How has lockdown impacted fashion and its architecture, and how is it changing our relationship to our bodies and our clothes? "Streetwear," according to observers, "is certainly not dead", contradicting Virgil Abloh's statement which, before the crisis, foretold its disappearance.
#Quarantinechic, #safeandstylish, #alldressedbutnowheretogo: fashion hashtags, at least, are living their best life under lockdown. According to Heuritech, a company specialized in visual recognition and trend forecasting, 28% of today's Instagram posts are dedicated to style. "The "ootd" hashtag ("outfit of the day") hasn't seen a decrease in tags since the start of the pandemic. Fashion remains a topic of discussion, and the elevated number of hashtags (including spelling variations) combining style and quarantine suggests that more people are joining the conversation. Dressing at home boosts user's morale each day, suggested by the increase in mentions associating style and positive energy (#dressinghappy, #positivitythroughfashion)," explains Sarah Laurier, fashion and beauty analyst at Linkfluence, a startup specialized in the analysis of online content. This points to the idea that the current situation allows for greater individuality and a more personal form of creativity in composing looks — crystallizing new associations and re-appropriating the eternal question of style.
Clients are increasingly sought out by brands themselves such as Jacquemus and Ganni to participate in creative challenges that involve users in content creation. Our times indeed seem favorable to hybrid looks: a mix of sweatpants, hooded sweatshirts, kimonos, pajamas, and sandals with cushioned soles. The Instagram account @wfhfits (Working From Home Fits) posts the best lockdown looks they receive; flip flops and socks in surreal prints, fleece ensembles, blown-up shoes, pants, and other plays on proportion...Many of us are in search of comfort. While tailoring was on its way to a comeback before lockdown, will we see the pandemic slow its momentum? Is loungewear the next hot thing? And if so, what forms will it take?
Home Sweet Home
"On social networks, we're seeing greater motivation to work out at home, in sportswear. In a period that has us looking for comfortable, hybrid clothes, garments that are appropriate for working from home and for home workouts — Virgil Abloh's statement that streetwear/sportswear is dead seems more and more disputable," says Sarah Laurier. It's true: socks are the new stilettos and slippers the new sneakers — take the pillow sandals in spongey tissues or in eco-shearling at Tibi, for example, and sweatpants from Y/Project, Gucci, GmbH, or even jogging shorts from 1017 Alyx 9SM to top them off. "We're seeing a high demand for sweats, leggings, hoodies, clothes that are really just extensions of the duvet, the blanket. Clothes that envelop us. A comfortable garment isn't simply one without constraints, but one that offers a whole ensemble of sensations, warmth, softness. Comfort is soothing, implying a calmness of the mind and an absence of anxiety," elaborates philosopher Marie Schiele.
"Today's loungewear is allowing us to re-enchant the day-to-day, to confront the ordinary."
In the history of fashion, there have always been garments that sculpt the body, corsets for example, followed by those that hug the body in order to better reveal it, like leggings, and then others that don't constrain it, like sweats. Such clothing favors ease, movement, and above all, coziness. "During lockdown, loungewear that allows us to go from the bed to the sofa without thinking too hard about it testifies to a progressive loss of consciousness of our bodies, accelerated by the dematerialization of social relationships and labor conditions," continues Marie Schiele, a specialist in fashion. The garment becomes a cocoon. Without the gaze of the other (which occasionally appears from behind the eye of the camera, during video calls or Zoom meetings), clothes are becoming coats of down rather than of armor. Will we see lasting effects, like loungewear out on the town in the post-lockdown world?
Reflecting On Appearances
"Will lockdown exert lasting impacts on fashion norms and silhouettes? The question, of course, is relevant, but we cannot in good intellectual conscience posit such a radically causal relationship. What we can say is that our behaviors will adapt, and the nucleus of our lives will remain within our homes for some time yet," says Marie Schiele. "To reference Diderot, who couldn't write in anything but his old housecoat, will we see the re-emergence of the robe, the kimono, the tunic, the oversized button-down, with soft fabrics and freer cuts that nonetheless demonstrate attention to design?" Indeed, even if the social role of the garment and its communicatory function is limited during quarantine, the quest for style is far from being left behind. On Instagram, a hybridization of sportswear, loungewear, and streetwear is coming into the fore. During virtual meetings, some are respecting a corporate dress code up top (such as tailored shirts), and taking more liberties below (like sweats or shorts), giving way to unexpected combos. "Getting dressed allows us to maintain some semblance of normalcy. We're at home on the couch, but we can still remain elegant and demonstrate a certain care for the self and those around us. Making that effort every morning establishes taking care of ourselves as a routine, and it can also act as a form of self-promotion on Instagram. Style, even practically speaking, helps us stay connected to our lives and the notion of beauty," comments Sophie Kurkdjian, a researcher at the Institut d'histoire du temps présent (or the "Institute of Present-Day History" in affiliation with France's National Center of Scientific Research), and founder of the "Culture(s) de mode" platform ("Fashion culture(s)"). "Sweats, long associated with athletes, are very of-the-moment: it's a way of dressing comfortably at home, but they should be chosen with care." Just like casual wear and workout clothes, they can be styled. "They become chicer, just as we see with the birth of hashtags like #flatlaysport, or others that are all about laid-back elegance, like #stayathomefashion, #sportychic, or #comfylook," adds Sarah Laurier.
For Marie Schiele, "today's loungewear is allowing us to re-enchant the day-to-day, to confront the ordinary. Silk pyjamas, cashmere leggings: the industry is looking to refine the quotidian, to inflect some beauty into it." From a psychological point of view, continuing to pay some attention to one's appearance is good for morale. And if some are keeping up appearances as lockdowns ease — also in the interest of abandoning the home, which may begin to feel constraining — it'll be difficult for us to leave behind the soothing softness of loungewear.