Active Clothing

Hard Pants Have Retired, Making Comfort 2021’s Dress Code

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Lively
All parts of wellness had a shake up this year—how we work out, what we eat, the products we put on our faces, the way we rest—and the reverberations of those changes will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Here’s how the innovations born of this year will usher us into the future. See All

“Not only has 2020 been a year of cancelations, inconvenience, and tragedy, it’s also been a year of growth and societal change,” says Ainsley Rose, co-founder of Londre Bodywear, which expanded from swimsuits to sweatsuits in November. One thing that’s changed drastically: people’s wardrobes. “I’ve [historically] found women’s wear to be more restrictive—a reflection of society’s pressure on women to stay small… [Now] we’re both seeking comfort and taking up more space with our clothing choices,” Rose adds. And while the reported 79 percent uptick in sweatpant purchases during the pandemic is a natural match with the always-at-home lifestyle of 2020, industry experts predict that we’re never returning to a landscape where our garments don’t make room for functional comfort—even when we head back outside, to our routines.

Between October 2019 and October 2020, Pinterest analytics showed terms like “elegant loungewear” “curvy athleisure outfits,” increase by five times and, yes, “how to style sweatpants” increase by 10 times. And retailers at every price point are already taking note of consumer interest in wearing clothes that feel good (shocker!): Kohls’ 2021 strategic vision includes prioritizing activewear and casual clothes, including the March 2021 launch of FLX, a private label athleisure brand. Startup Frankly plans to release “bra-less” everyday clothes in spring 2021. Australian luxury brand Rebecca Vallance announced they’re shifting their apparel to 33 percent athleisure, with plans to grow the category in 2021 following a successful collaboration with P.E. Nation in August. LEZÉ The Label, which debuted sustainable pajamas-inspired workleisure in 2018, has plans to transform new forms of waste into butter-soft workwear, with an eye to incorporating recycled cashmere and cotton in upcoming garments. Even the highest of high fashion is getting comfy. Dior put out its first loungewear collection, Dior Chez Moi, in November as part of it’s Cruise 2020-2021 collection. And Rodarte included rose-splashed sweats in its 2021 ready-to-wear lookbook.

“[In 2021], we’ll start to see more hybrid and crossover pieces that are comfortable, functional, elevated, well-designed, and can take you from your desk to a socially distant gathering with friends,” says Joyce Lee, head of design at Madewell, which recently released its own athleisure line. “I also anticipate that we’ll see innovation in fabric technology, and sustainability for pieces that not only perform, but look great.” And that sentiment stands for legacy activewear brands that have been elevating their gym-ware aesthetics to be full-life functional this year: Take Outdoor Voices rolling out the style-forward MegaFleece Bomber Jacket; Alo Yoga incorporating patterns like plaid into its yoga sets; and Lululemon launching a number of tailored garments, like the Define Jacket for just a few examples of what we can expect into 2021.

“[In 2021], we’ll start to see more hybrid and crossover pieces that are comfortable, functional, elevated, well-designed, and can take you from your desk to a socially distant gathering with friends,” — Joyce Lee, head of design at Madewell

And as people begin moving about in the real world and interacting in person in the coming year (here’s to hoping!), comfort will emerge as a celebrated component of a well-styled look. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the fashion mood of 2021 is a bike-shorts-and-blazer vibe, a comfortable and informal base layer with a more structured pop piece to invoke your personal style,” says Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of athleisure and lingerie brand Lively, which plans to roll out innovative, inclusively-sized wireless bra styles that are far less restrictive that their hard-boned antecedents, with newer fashion silhouettes. So throw out the underwires and hard pants because when it comes to how we dress, in 2021 all restrictions are off.

When it comes to fashion trends for 2021, we’re digging these oh-so-soft clothing

1. Madewell x Splits59™ Dip-Dye Charlie Sweatpants, $100

Shop Now: Madewell x Splits59™ Dip-Dye Charlie Sweatpants, $100

2. Girlfriend Collective Mulberry Unitard, $88

Shop Now: Girlfriend Collective Mulberry Unitard, $88

3. Lively The Luxe Trim Bralette, $35

Shop Now: Lively The Luxe Trim Bralette, $35

4. Borne Serenity Top, $38

Shop Now: Borne Serenity Top, $38

5. Aerie Offline Sherpa Quarter Zip, $27

Shop Now: Aerie Offline Sherpa Quarter Zip, $27

6. Fleur du Mal Smoking Jacket, $495

Shop Now: Fleur du Mal Smoking Jacket, $495

Explore the rest of our 2021 Wellness Trends.

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