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Leisurewear: The Rise of Fancy Sweatpants

Due to the COVID-19 lockdowns across the world, our typical daily wardrobes were put on hold. Working from home via Zoom meant a button-down on top with less-than-presentable pants on the bottom; the concept of putting on a pair of jeans was nowhere to be found. All anyone wanted to wear were cozy get-ups and cute ones at that. In came the myriad of loungewear brands that quenched the world’s craving for cute and comfortable clothes.

Over the past few years, trendy loungewear has become all the rage. What started as a fashionable approach to elevated sweatpants and sweatshirts has become an entire sector of the fashion industry by its very nature. And to no surprise, loungewear is the only category of clothing that has consistently been in high demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, NPR reported that spending on clothing and accessories had plummeted 78 percent since the beginning of quarantine. All the while, loungewear sales skyrocketed across the United States and the world. Online retailer ASOS told the Associated Press that sales of their “not-so-basic tracksuits” were up 200 percent from the previous year. What’s more, luxury online store Net-a-Porter reported that, “Lingerie and loungewear had the largest sales increase worldwide of any category besides beauty products,” and track pants were up more than 1,300 percent compared to last year. Many online shopping sites and loungewear brands across the world echoed these same statistics.

According to the AP, retail data company Edited reported that tracksuits and matching sweatsuit sales and sweatpant sales were up 70 and 80 percent, respectively, in April compared to February. Krista Corrigan, an analyst at Edited, explained her take on why loungewear’s popularity has increased since March.

“The customer is not just buying these for practical use, but also for the purpose of looking on-trend, whether it be for social media or just because they want to feel cute in the house," said Corrigan.

She is right. College student Madison Nicolson purchased a few sweatsuits in quarantine, one from Los Angeles-based brand Madhappy. Nicolson snapped a photo in her electric blue sweatsuit and posted it to her Instagram account with the caption, “Haven’t moved.”

“I have always been super-into loungewear, and since I was spending so much time at home in quarantine, it was fun to shop for it,” Nicolson said. “Sweatsuits are the best because they are super comfortable and easy to throw on, but also make me feel like I’m put together.”

While Madhappy has been popular for a few years now, other brands capitalized during the COVID-induced loungewear rage. Take Pangaia, for example. The European brand with an environmentally friendly mission soared in popularity in mid-2020.

Hannah Chody, an associate at Goldman Sachs in New York City, was the first person I know to order from Pangaia.

“I came across Pangaia when it was a lesser-known brand, and I loved their environmentally focused ethos and ordered a sweatsuit right away,” Chody said. Like Nicolson, Chody snapped a picture in her sweatsuit and posted it to her Instagram in the early days of quarantine.

“Soon after [I ordered that sweatsuit], the brand exploded in popularity, and their loungewear became more difficult to order, but thankfully, I’ve managed to get my hands on a few more pieces,” Chody said.

With countries around the world heading into the second round of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the obsession with loungewear isn’t expected to end anytime soon. In fact, it is estimated that the loungewear market will generate a whopping $37.7 billion USD in revenue in 2021, up from $29.8 billion USD in 2016. So, take this as the formal announcement that you can put your jeans back into storage and buy yourself some loungewear for 2021.

By: Brett Chody, Trends Contributor


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