The Pandemic's Fashion Revolution
The early 2000s and 2010s might have been the decades of athleisure wear and comfortability, but the pandemic has encouraged loungewear to skyrocket in sales.
With COVID-19 forcing people to stay-at-home, the need for tight jeans, restrictive skirts, nice suits, and formal dresses, are at an all-time low as the biggest event to dress up for is a Zoom meeting in your home office. People are officially living in sweatpants and spandex.
Sivan Horowitz, a floor manager and personal stylist at young adult/ adult women clothing brand Aritzia in Northbrook Court, has seen an increase in customers buying loungewear like TNA’s SweatFleece collection. “Casual wear was always popular but not at the extent it is now,” Horowitz said.
This past September, Lululemon found an increase in online sales revenue by 157% reported CNBC. In Lululemon’s third quarter analysis posted on Dec. 10, their total sales increased by 18% or 19% compared with that timeframe in 2019. Athleisure brand Nike's women’s apparel sales increased 200% during the quarter ended Aug. 31 reported CNBC.
Not only has athleisure wear increased, but the pandemic has also influenced people to revamp their pajama collection. Online sales of pajamas grew to 143% from March to April, based on data from Adobe Analytics. In June, nearly a quarter of consumers liked wearing athleisure wear, loungewear, or their pajamas while at home during the day, reported CNN.
“Before the pandemic people were looking for wardrobe staples like jeans, go to dresses, going out tops, and dress pants,” said Horowitz on customers at Aritzia. Now, Horowitz claims a new pattern in customer shopping. “Our sweat fleece and leggings have been super popular,” said Horowitz.
However, Leslie Gutstein, a personal stylist and owner of online boutique Atarie Boutique, has found that even though sweatpants and pajamas felt like the appealing choice in the beginning of the pandemic, over time that’s changed. Gutstein’s clients are primarily working women who at the start of the pandemic were really excited to switch out their tailored skirts for leggings. When the pandemic was drawn out longer than expected, this way of dressing no longer felt exciting. “A lot of women were kinda feeling like it wasn’t serving them,” Gutstein said. Wearing the same outfit from bedtime or the gym to working in their career field wasn’t helping them get in the work mindset. Not only that, but “it wasn’t something helping them feel their best,” said Gutstein.
This has led to what many fashion retailers like Nordstrom, Shopbop, and Revolve have coined as the “WFH” uniform which is the idea of feeling comfortable while looking professional and chic via zoom. Linen and knit pants, silk separates, jersey dresses, and upscale sweatpants have entered the world of business attire.
However, this idea of being comfortable while being chic isn’t a newfound concept to the fashion industry. In the early 2000s, Juicy Couture introduced casual wear to the fashion industry with their iconic velour tracksuits and graphic tees. Magazines were flooded with paparazzi shots of influential celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez in the brands tracksuits. Juicy Couture made it acceptable for fashionistas to wear sweatsuits in public. In 2008, Juicy Couture became a phenomenon, with sales reaching $605 million, found Business Insider.
In the 2010s, companies like Nike, Puma, and Adidas were accepted into high fashion with popular collaborations like Puma x Alexander McQueen, Nike x Off-White, Supreme x Louis Vuitton, YEEZY x Adidas, to name a few. This brought the casualization of streetwear to the designer world as sneakers and graphic tees became socially acceptable in the high fashion community while also allowing top designers to become a bit more accessible to the everyday consumer. While Nike had a great sales performance during the pandemic, the brand has been growing in popularity since before the pandemic. In 2015, Forbes named Nike as the most valuable ranked brand beating luxury high fashion house Louis Vuitton.
Even though comfortability has been an ongoing trend in fashion throughout the 2000s, what’s revolutionary is the growth of popularity, and how this contrasts to other fashion companies during the pandemic. The brands unable to adapt to the consumer climate are most at risk. Suit companies Jos. A Bank and Men’s Warehouse saw a dramatic decrease in sales. Denim companies such as True Religion and Lucky Brand filed for bankruptcy in April and July of 2020, reports CNBC. Designer department hub Neiman Marcus has also filed for bankruptcy. The sales of pants declined by 13% from March to April, and every woman's least favorite item, bras, decreased in sales by 12%, reported CNBC.
While there is hope of the pandemic ending, and life going back to in-person jobs, dinner plans, and exciting nights out, will people ditch their elastic band stretchy pants for tighter and more restrictive ones? Or will the way we dress be forever changed even in the workplace? For Gutstein’s clients it’s a little bit of both. “They obviously want to be more comfortable, but they still want to look presentable,” Gutstein said, “because that’s really important to them.”
Either way, with the rising theme of comfortable and chic, we know that “beauty hurts” is no longer the rule of fashion.
Style & Repeat