I don’t have the stamina for shopping that I once did. As a teen, I could spend hours each weekend in actual stores browsing for clothes I wanted and then buying as many as I could afford.
After decluttering piles of polyester garments from the back of my post-college closet, I realized that so much of the clothing I bought was a waste. Shopping endless trends stuck me in a loop of overspending then hoarding.
Who among us hasn’t done this? Taken a tough inventory of your clothes and suddenly realizing everything’s an outdated vestige of former seasons and your former selves. The Trend Cycle necessitates a quick turnaround on what’s “in” to keep us buying-buying-buying.
Our compulsion to keep up with the Joneses — or, quite literally for many, the Kardashians — can leave us with a wasteful pile of barely-worn, low-quality clothes, not to mention that mountain of credit card debt. This was normalized by the fashion industry on purpose.
Looking back, this behavior seems unfathomable. Was I really going to keep up this mindless shopping for the rest of my life? I can’t imagine it now. After wearing pretty much the same rotation of pandemic sweatpants, owning so many shoddy garments is a shame. Sure, I’m looking forward to wearing some of my favorite pieces post-pandemic. And, yes, I’ve indulged in a few new items that align with my current tastes, but my shopping habit is far more sustainable now - one benefit of the Covid era, perhaps?
For starters, I’m way more conscious about what I’m actually buying — understanding the fabrics and questioning the versatility of a piece before giving it a home alongside the rest of my repertoire. I now keep sustainability top of mind.
Before I make any purchase, I ask myself who made this item? What were they paid? These questions guide me towards more ethical consumption. And, quite scarily, they rule out a number of easy purchases I’d have made in the before times.
These questions have completely changed my perception of trends. The half-anxious, half-excited feeling I’d get while shopping to fit into the latest trends no longer calls to me now. Instead, I’m spending money on fine items that feel good on me and that are built to last.
With fewer events and obligations, and no dressing for the office for the foreseeable future, many are also resolved to using this sustainable philosophy. But has sustainability become a trend in itself?
Certain patterns became apparent during the pandemic. For one, loungewear prospered and more formal wear — like heels and office clothes — plummeted.
Brands that blended casual style and comfort amassed huge followings. Founder of popular streetwear brand Sporty & Rich, Emily Oberg told SSENSE
Emily Oberg's Sporty & Rich
Simplicity, comfort, and style reign supreme. Oberg is benefitting from this too, telling Highsnobiety: “We develop items that I want to use based on my lifestyle, and the brand is centered around my lifestyle. I think brands struggle with authenticity because they are trying to build a lifestyle around a brand and build an identity around a product when we’ve done it the other way around. The brand was built around me and who I am, and that’s not really something you can replicate since it’s so personal.”
While this sounds like an enduring philosophy, it’s hard to ascertain if it’s merely a trend dressed up as an intelligent lifestyle. This shift towards loungewear may be just another iteration of the athleisure trend which has been around since 2015.
According to InStyle, loungewear, athleisure is not what it started out to be. “So what, by these modern definitions, does athleisure look like today? It's wearing yoga pants with a bulky sweatshirt, platform sneakers, and layered necklaces. Or styling your exercise dress with chunky socks and loafers. It's the many oversized, matching sets you have in your wardrobe, which instantly work for all the things — lounging, working from home, or going for a run. Today's athleisure is comfortable but elevated, sporty, but not in an 'I-just-finished-up-at-the-gym' sort of way. Much like its predecessor, this way of dressing isn't lazy or haphazard — it's deliberate and sleek, but at the same time, feels somewhat effortless.”
There’s new life in everything-athleisure as an array of brands with fresh perspectives have recently popped up. And as Black brands gain more recognition, Black designers are reinvigorating our passion for the style. Rihanna, for example, just stepped out wearing a full sweatsuit paired with heels, an outfit combo she's been known to repeat — the very paragon of style.
Athleisure has such staying power due to its continual evolution. The resurgence of leggings merged with the mainstream acceptance of streetwear. And with the pandemic, an outdated style won over everyone as every brand out there — even those teeming with luxury — made their own sweatsuits.
Whether athleisure is just one more trend that’s managed to find a longer shelf life — for the time being — or if it’s a genuine lifestyle, we’ll see . . . Tenets of sustainable style can be found in athleisure. But it’s just as easy to end up with a closet full of unknown sweatpants as it is to fall victim to the next trend — and the next one — and the next.
So, yes, prioritizing comfort and style is something we should all take into our fashion decisions. But this doesn’t mean we have to interpret new style rules simply to align with a trend — even if it’s Rihanna-approved.