What did we learn from a pandemic year apart from the epiphany that office work can be done from home?
That 85% of our closets were abandoned in favor of clothes that were comfortable and didn’t look too shabby if you had to run out to the supermarket. Cue athleisure, which is expected to grow to a $257 billion market by 2026. Cue the yoga jogger.
Like in all trends, no one is quite clear how yoga joggers came about but they are a thing. On Reddit, girls in a designer handbag group were extolling the pandemic virtues of what are essentially slim jogging pants.
They’re not as tight as traditional yoga pants; they don’t shrink in the wash; they have pockets. And if you accidentally roll into bed during a Zoom meeting (speaking for a friend, of course), they are as comfy as pajamas.
Lululemon has yoga joggers but if your budget runs a bit more modest, there’s CRZ Yoga and The Gym People on Amazon, peddling $30 pants with thousands of positive reviews.
I lucked into yoga joggers before the pandemic, in July 2019 to be exact. My boyfriend and I moved from Dallas to Seattle, packing up a rented Penske truck with all our belongings and driving north then north-west. It was the American road trip of a lifetime—until we arrived in Washington state and our truck was broken into on our first night.
Two suitcases with my clothes were stolen, along with his tools and guitars. All my pants were gone and I had a new job to start in a couple of weeks. Replenishing a wardrobe collected over a lifetime would take another lifetime. What could I buy now that would be a true workhorse?
Lululemon had a slim jogger called The Wanderer that fit the bill. It was a traveler’s dream come true with its unbelievably light, sweat-wicking fabric, high rise cut, and four-way stretch. Another thoughtful design feature: Narrow seams ran down each leg, making it even more visually slimming.
I wore The Wanderer every week, maybe even twice a week. It was a cinch to throw in the wash, dry and put on the next day. It looks fantastic with a blazer. It’s still my spring and summer staple. They don’t sell it anymore, so I snap up whatever I can find on eBay.
‘This hyper-curated, glamorous look on Instagram was feeling really out of touch….’
The pandemic was like a big reckoning for the apparel business, and its after-effects will still be felt years after COVID is a memory. After getting shell-shocked by its impact on their daily activities, consumers soon realized that the mindless accumulation of clothes in the good old days didn’t make any sense anymore, not when your paycheck was threatened, not when there was nowhere to go and show off your new stuff, and certainly not when they weren’t even comfortable to begin with. Is it any surprise that sales of high heels plunged 71% in the second quarter of 2020?
Some retailers are betting that the world economy is bound to have another Roaring 20s, a period of excess to make up for the deprivations of 2020. I think there will be a sigh of relief all around but no one is going to run out there, ransack the Vuitton store and post selfies.
In America, last year’s pandemic was also coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the fore, along with other social movements like #MeToo. Excess for the sake of excess is now not just gauche, it also signals a remarkable tone-deafness that is out-of-step in these more sobering times.
That’s why the influencers of yore are doomed in a way. ‘This hyper-curated, glamorous look on Instagram was feeling really out of touch to a lot of Gen-Z consumers,’ said the New York Times internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz to Nylon. ‘I think this whole pandemic has accelerated that; people still want aspirational content from fashionable people, but they want it to be more authentic.’
What does this mean for us mere mortals? That the age of perfect grooming and soul-killing Spanx is outdated. That it’s perfectly fine to wear less makeup, in fact it’s refreshing and modern. That sometimes all you really need to feel chic is a smart pair of $30 yoga joggers to complement all your existing pieces. I don’t know about you, but I hope this mood sticks around for years to come.