For The New York Times | Rhonda Garelick
As the world hesitantly returns to normal and more and more people return to the office, we must accept that the era of sportswear is coming to an end. But do we really want to give up the freedom and comfort we found in this dark time? I know it isn’t. And it seems I’m not the only one.
It turns out that two years is enough to convince many of us, especially women over 40, that we no longer have to suffer from physical discomfort due to fashion.
“I have no patience for uncomfortable clothes,” said Shira Lander, 59, a professor of religious studies at Dallas Southern Methodist University. “I got rid of most of my clothes that need to be dry cleaned and I no longer worry about taking a steam iron with me when I travel!”
Faced with a terrifying outside world, who doesn’t want to crawl under the blankets and drape themselves in a flowing, flowing and comfortable garment that, while intended for day wear, looks and feels like sleepwear, and sometimes even pajamas? bed sheet?
The gentler, gentler side of womenswear was seen across the spectrum, from the Zoom screen to the runway. In 2020, Anna Sui flaunted country dresses, even having some models wear matching quilts. Prada proposed cocoon-shaped quilted jackets and belted capes that looked like robes. Jason Wu made some lightweight caftans.
“I love that sleepwear has become a new mainstream category,” said Barbara Lippert, a 65-year-old writer. “During the worst part of the pandemic, even the jeans looked excessive, requiring that complex buttoning and zipping. The button down sweaters were also too strenuous.
Many of the women interviewed for this column turned the conversation to shoes and the eternal pursuit of style and elegance for feet that can no longer or will squirm in unnatural positions. “I refuse to wear shoes that hurt my feet or that I find inelegant,” said Anne Higonnet, 63, a professor of art history at Columbia University. “So I’m going back to the old English and French lace-up flat shoe brands: Crockett & Jones and Paraboot.”
Jody Sperling, 51, a dancer and choreographer, prefers shoes that allow movement, noting that with her favorite style of clogs, “I can choose outrageous colors and they are still comfortable shoes.” Silver Danskos are her favorites right now.
Lippert said she wore platform-soled boots, but even those models “started to feel too stiff”, so she switched to “suede ankle boots lined with faux fur.”
“The heels are gone,” agreed Angela Cason, 61, owner of a digital agency who has also succumbed to the allure of sheepskin-lined footwear. As soon as you put on a pair of UGG boots, she says, you don’t want to wear any other type of shoe.
High-end designers have long admitted this point, as exemplified by the trend for plush or fur-lined sandals or, more recently, the collaboration between Birkenstock and the pain king himself, Manolo Blahnik, who blended the DNA of both. to produce wide, flat, hippie sandals in brightly colored velvet, embellished with rhinestone buckles. Other big shoe brands mentioned include: Madewell, Aerosoles, Arche, Aquatalia, Blondo, Fly of London and, for super low heels (the only ones mentioned), Isabel Marant. For more than a century, women’s fashion has undergone various attempts at uniformity, from the Rational Dress Society of London in the late 19th century (which denounced whalebone corsets and promoted bulky biker pants known as “bloomers”)), from Coco Chanel ensembles, to 1960s denim pants and unisex T-shirts, to 1980s tailored suits, which served as armor for women just entering the corporate battlefield.
Lippert sees a direct correlation between today’s relaxed home wear and those early dresses. “It seems to me that the fashion for comfortable clothes is a reverse version of ‘mighty jumpsuits’ for a previous generation of working women.”
Sperling talked about the purchase of a series of soft cotton suits, in multiple colors and fabrics, all made in Thailand. “I like to wear clothes that I can dance in,” he said. He also cited “a pair of leggings and a tank top with built-in bra” or a “boy-style linen buttoned shirt” as his favorite uniforms.
Alys George, 45, cultural historian, favors a similar outfit: leggings and sweater or long tunic top, all in black. The pinnacle of the pandemic lockdown coincided with George’s recent pregnancy, which only increased her desire to feel comfortable with her. After her pregnancy, she is still attached to her new look and she herself is a little surprised too.
After all, relaxed fashion is democratic and adapts to changes in the mind, body and culture. It can be gender neutral or non-binary and is inclusive for the body, favoring various shapes, weights and sizes. It is also a way to do more with less. Many women claim to rely on the same limited number of garments that are kept in constant rotation. Cason often wears the same five pairs of Eddie Bauer pants in various colors, she said.
In this sense, relaxed fashion feels very much in tune with some of today’s most pressing political and social movements. “The clothes you wear reflect your values,” Sperling noted. It is difficult to know how long we will remain anchored in our cocoons. Fashion is cyclical. But relaxed fashion has been around for a long time, and it responds deeply to both the current political moment and some of our innermost desires: comfort, space, and freedom from pain. Consequently, I suspect this cycle will be with us for a long time, for women of many ages.
I myself am now in love with the first hoodie I’ve ever owned (Tahari, silky black jersey). And Sperling said her 10-year-old daughter, Evie, recently announced, “I’ll never be hurt by beauty.” Children are so wise. After two years of the pandemic, people have less patience for uncomfortable clothing. (Shuhua Xiong / The New York Times)