“As much as people say they don’t want to be bothered, I think they really yearn for it.” Iris Apfel
I’ve got to admit, when I first witnessed the latest fashion phenomenon sweeping the Western world I thought it was simply a lack of effort on the part of the wearer. Something my faithful readers will know is always guaranteed to elicit a quiet shudder here at the style bar HQ.
But mostly I was confused – spending as much time in Paris as I do, where sport has now been accepted as a necessary evil, what you wear to workout is still very much separate from what you would choose to wear at home, to work, or to go out and socialise. Hell, this is a country where should you desire to embrace the dying concept of dressing for dinner it would not raise one well-manicured eyebrow whatsoever.
But I digress. Back to the epidemic of more or less head-to-toe Lycra ensembles being paraded before me on a recent trip to Sydney. (Okay, so they weren’t parading exactly, but it was being pulled off with more than a dash of ‘Look at my toned thighs and how well I have coordinated my patterned leggings with my crop top and hoodie’ for my liking).
Were these ladies coming from or going to the gym? Then why the perfectly coiffed hair & makeup? And if coming from the gym, why haven’t they changed? I get so sweaty after a yoga session there is no way I could continue about my day without getting changed, so if you are changing out of your active wear, why are you changing into more active wear?
And then I read that’s it’s actually a phenomenon that has now been given a name – Athleisure*.
And so I realised that no, these people aren’t necessarily doing any sport or fitness – they’re wearing this ON PURPOSE and probably without any intention of working up a sweat at all.
*Sidebar: when speaking to a fellow fashion insider about this blight on the fashion landscape recently, he explained that in the industry the term ‘Athleisure’ actually refers to what has come to be known by the uninitiated as ‘Streetwear’, or smart casual but relaxed clothing. So still stylish by my standards at least. That means that what we have begun to think of as Athleisure i.e. the wearing of your gym gear in public is, in actual fact, just wearing your gym gear in public.
Now I will freely admit that Sydney has always been a much more casual city than Paris dress-wise, and the showing of more toned flesh is par for the course. But this thing is different, and while I can say that I kind of get the concept now, I still really don’t get it.
The fact is, rather than saying that women embracing this trend are dressing for comfort and making no effort, there is actually a lot of effort involved. The items are fairly expensive, brand name, and new, no old tracky daks with stretched elastic and baggy t-shirts here.
So that makes it a new way of dressing that is not really all that attractive and looks completely different from what you would wear to the office, but one that has also become acceptable to wear to lunch or go shopping – but why??
This article by Quartz is an interesting assessment of the phenomenon and its effect on other retailers, but it still doesn’t explain why people are choosing ‘athletic clothing’ over regular clothes. Yes perhaps more people are doing yoga or working out than ever before, but as I said, it doesn’t explain why they want to wear the same clothes while doing other things as well.
So, can you wear your gym gear anywhere? Thankfully, not yet. Popping out for coffee? Alas, yes. Picking up the kiddies from day care? Oh, totes. Church? Nah, some things are still sacred…Dinner? Oh dear God no. Brunch? Well you would think not but I am afraid to say that I have seen it happen.
So what’s a stylish gal to do in the midst of all this Lycra mayhem?
The awesome You Tube video, In my Activewear, by the hilarious ladies at Skit Box sums it up for me perfectly in fact!
So it’s not my thing – and, thankfully, I think that it will not be the thing of Parisian women either any time soon – but meanwhile we can see the funny side of things and simply hope it goes away.
Plus, ladies, I do have to tell you that the men I have polled so far do not find it attractive. I repeat, do NOT find it attractive.
Happy styling in your (shudder) activewear!!