Every new generation has a new understanding of certain words. Take for example Google. No one before 2006 would ever have known what you meant if you said google it. And that new creation and articulation of the word changes a culture and defines a new generation. Such is the case with athleisure. This new term and the culture that surrounds it has changed the way we relate to casual and work wardrobes. We’re starting a series of Table Talks to take, perhaps a leering look at the interpretation of casual and how the influence of athleisure has not only changed our job as fashion ambassadors but our client’s lives and thus has dictated their wardrobes.
To open the flood gates, what is the new interpretation of casual based off of the term athleisure? What did it mean before the Lululemons, the prolific pop-up of yoga studios, cross-fit gyms and spinning studios redefined the new “lifestyle” fashion trend? Join in! We’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s a fashionable confabulation!
Cassie: “I remember casual being jeans, Sperry’s, a tee, being covered. Things were not too tight, you covered yourself. In the early 2000’s you had those crop tops, box tops, high wasted denim with a fun wedge. In college was when the Lululemons and yoga pants started appearing all the time.”
Leah: “Wearing leggings all the time and wearing them with just a button up.”
Jan: “Casual to me never really meant jeans, it was the khaki twill, or the basic black pant worn with a flat. You were not in a business suit or a dress. You just had a little nicer pant on than a jean. A khaki."
Nancy: “I guess I have always been athleisure. I worked and then I had extremely casual workout type clothing, and yes that evolved through the ages, but I always made that my casual. I have been wearing black leggings way back when you used to do aerobics.”
Julie: “Jane Fonda.”
Nancy: “Flashdance, that kinda thing.”
Cassie: “A unitard!”
Nancy: “I always kind of wore that sort of thing only slightly more dressed up than when you actually did the work out. I would have my big oversized sweatshirt on over my tights and that’s why I am smiling, I guess I never thought about it before.”
Kate: “Nancy I think that’s a great point. You have two sets of clothes: work and your casual workout type clothes. I know as a mother myself I think of clothes adapting to my lifestyle when it’s after work straight to the park. I think the shift with having more working mothers, they feel they’re stretched thin with all that’s going on in life, so they seek items that adapt to more than one part of their life.”
Julie: “The difference to me is that when Nancy brings that up, that was her very, very casual. She would not come to work in that. She would not think of that as appropriate casual attire. Does that make it different than leisure attire? Nancy wore it for what it was meant to be designed for. Now the difference is women wearing a yoga pant to work as their black pant.”
Kate: “Yeah I agree about the yoga pant and wearing to work. There are two athleisure trends: the one that we sell that is inspired by an active lifestyle, and the actually wearing of the Lululemon 24/7 one. Many women my age are wearing yoga pant leggings as their Saturday casual look.”
Julie: “They don’t know what a trouser is? I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying.”Kate: “Yes they don’t know. Their jean has become the dressy out to dinner pant.”
Leah: “And that’s what we just defined as “used to be casual.””
Julie: “When you go back to that question about how athleisure has influenced fashion, it’s beyond the track stripe on a pant. It is what used to be appropriate for “this” occasion has now moved up a level and is now appropriate for “this” occasion. It’s that appropriateness has changed, you used to never wear jeans to church now you do. It’s a discussion beyond that, and Kate I am not directing this at you, but I think it’s a cop out for people to think women are stretched thin and that women don’t have enough time to look appropriate. It’s a misunderstanding, like we aren’t educated to know the difference.”
Kate: “I agree. My peers don’t know so it’s easy to go with comfort and what is put in front of you.”
Cassie: “I think education has a lot to do with it.”
Julie: “Well to when Kate said we are stretched thin, I think part of that is that we are educated to feel and think that way. One of the greatest influences in this is that your casual work wardrobe dictates your professional wardrobe. To me, to Jan, to Nancy, our work wardrobe dictates our casual wardrobe. Because we buy for that, then find ways to use those pieces in a more casual way. We don’t actually go and buy a lot of casual clothes. Our ready-to-wear is a casual look to me. It would be appropriate for this work place, but that’s not what the majority of the population sees as casual, that is a dressier look. And casual is yoga.”
Jan: “Yoga pants, workout gear to me is in fact workout attire. I don’t go to places in it, I mean yeah I may run into somewhere to get something really quick, but that’s not my thing.”
Julie: “We don’t wear Lululemon leggings to work, we wear Wolford, Spanks: hosiery.”
Kate: “Jan I agree, I know it’s not the norm for my peers but I will put jeans on to go to the grocery store. I am not comfortable wearing workout gear in public outside of a gym.”
Jan: “When you say stretched thin, I can go to a Vera Bradly event, a funeral, a birthday party all from work. I know that whatever I have on for work, it’s not dressy, it’s not yoga, it’s daytime nice casual.”
Julie: “For working women, it is about thinking first of their work wardrobe. For those that do not work, it can still be the same look that a working woman may choose.”
Leah: “It’s about context. Kind of something I was chewing on – is there something about the athleisure that lets the wearer go about their life in a practical uniform? And not an unsexy uniform, they feel good and they perceive they look good, youthful and hip moving around. As opposed to if you told them to put on, say a blouse and trouser pant, they would feel stuffy.”
Julie: “We know that the trend is in, but when all is said, those women that have the effortless athleisure look are actually putting a lot of time into their wardrobe. That’s when it becomes appropriate, with style behind it. I think there are a couple of things that play into that, almost a “green effort” from an environmental stand point: not having too many material possessions. You use your basic black legging with everything for everywhere. I don’t have to have a lot clothes in my wardrobe to be able to have a lot of style, but that is only true when you put the effort behind it. For others, it reflects the fast fashion trend in that there is no longevity to their shopping methodology. This trend of the same yoga pant being “ok” for everything is negatively impacting the fashion industry.”
Cassie: “I like it because I am athletic, so all of my clothes are athletic or down to earth.”
Julie: “You like to move in them.”
Cassie: “Yes, on my days off I am wearing running shoes and a tank because I running around. Outside with the dog, mowing, and maybe running in here but I feel comfortable with that. I wouldn’t go out to a baseball game in that. There is a line even for me and my athletic-ness.”
Leah: “Cassie, I think that goes back to you using the garments for the purpose they were designed for, not trying to elevate it to another level of appropriateness.”
The omnipresent black pant uniform is not really fashion if it is not styled with intention and consideration. The wearer sacrifices their professional impact for something practical and “comfortable”. That's not to say we think a thought-out ensemble has to be uncomfortable. But without the style behind it, taken out of the gym or yoga studio, it is a reflection of someone who didn’t bother to get dressed for the day.
What might be more alarming though is that we are fast becoming a society that is ok with that. This is not just a trend, but a cultural shift in behavioral consumerism. So where do we go from here? We believe in offering a method for looking grown-up and proud of it, allowing women a glimpse of the simple, reserved and perfectly wearable fashions that elevate sportswear.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Shop Talk series where we’ll be talking about how to get the know-how to look the part!