Jen Lane Foreman, owner of Charlotte’s Closet in Port Washington, shows us various casual looks. Credit: Charlotte’s Closet
As spring finally rolls around, folks are reemerging and slowly but surely shedding their schleppy work from home wear to step into the public eye. But while some are raring to run errands, pop into a shop or even dine-out, they’re not quite prepared to embrace fashion the way it was pre-pandemic. Fussy, fancy clothes are out. Instead, the must-haves of the moment run toward a somewhat chicer, slightly more elevated variation on what we’ve been wearing for the past months.
“I call it loungewear 2.0,” says Jen Lane Foreman, owner of Charlotte’s Closet in Port Washington. The dressy dress rental business, at least for now, has morphed into a subscription box service dubbed “Stand Up In Style” that ships to customers boxes of curated athleisure wear and accessories quarterly. “[E]verybody is looking for some sense of normalcy. But it’s a slow adjustment and wearing great fitting loungewear can be an easy transition back into the mainstream.”
Retailers have gotten the memo. A few months ago, Talbot’s launched a new brand called “Haven Well Within” that boasts a clothing and sleep collection meant to “embrace your inner homebody” and be spalike yet versatile. It includes items such as a cloud-soft cashmere sweater that can be worn as a robe-like topper or a smart piece over leggings.
Banana Republic got into the act more recently with “BR Standard,” a new collection of men’s and women’s “lifestyle essentials” — everyday wear designed to be first and foremost comfortable but with more precise tailoring and added practicality (some pieces are wrinkle-resistant, water-repellent and eco-friendly).
Designer Cynthia Rowley, who has a store in Montauk, has managed to take familiar silos and styles from the pandemic and imbue them with fun and joy for spring. There are classic pajama tops in lively prints; sweatshirt dresses enhanced with studs and sugary sweet floral lounge sets among other offerings.
And Leslie Cohen, owner of trendy Roslyn boutique, Transitions, says she’s feeling the hunger her customers have for something new … but not too new.
“Everything they’re buying has a little more ‘zhuzh’ to it, a little more edge. Clothes have got to be comfortable, but women want outfits to make them feel that they’re not still home sitting on the couch,” says Cohen adding that she’s seeing an uptick in accessorizing, especially bracelets.
To that end, her customers are easing into denim with soft joggers and jean jackets with a “something new” puffed sleeve. And says Cohen, “Women want color. It’s a happy vibe and I’m selling a lot of bright yellow, hot pink and blue. The color is getting them out of the doldrums. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Indeed, shoppers are beginning to feel the pull toward newness while still keeping the comfort priority. “Honestly, with spring coming, I’ve been wanting to fix myself up and feel a little better. I was wearing the same thing over and over,” says Gail Gonzalez, 46, an influencer (@simplygailg) from Valley Stream. “I’m looking for pretty things along with oversized, cozy nice materials that I can easily wear in the house and for multi-functionality outside. Outfits that I can work in when I’m home, jump on a Zoom call and hop outside to do errands.”
These days, she’s favoring lounge sets — some with cool necklines. “I’m beginning to reenter the fashion zone,” she says. “I absolutely love joggers and I’m taking that ‘home’ look out to the street and plan to elevate with boots and a great top … it’s athleisure at its best.”
Likewise, Sydney Audiffred-Zauner, 22, a fine artist studying art therapy at LIU Post in Brookville, says, “I’ve definitely had the thought about looking better.” Until now says Audiffred-Zauner, “I’ve felt almost weird being out and dressing up these days. But I don’t want to look like a starving artist.” Lately, she says, “I definitely want to look like this girl who thought a little bit about her outfit but wasn’t trying too hard.” For now, Audiffred-Zauner is sticking to her leggings, joggers and sweats, but adding an accessory such as a colorful scarf or jewelry. “The vibe is comfy but cute but doesn’t look like I’m trying too hard.”
RELAXED IS HERE TO STAY
This comfort/casual mode is here for the long haul, says, Melanie Lippman, a style consultant from Remsenberg who deals predominantly with executive women and predicts it will be at least five years until dressing returns to formality. She says, “The idea of totally flipping that switch is not happening in any way shape or form. No one’s running to put on a five-inch heel or a business suit,” she says. “The pandemic has accelerated the casual aspect that has been creeping in for so long.”
These days, her clients are looking for a little more polish but still want some of the ease they’ve grown accustomed to over the past year.
“Comfort is the No. 1 priority even as people start going back to work. Let’s be real. Because of the pandemic, people have seen the inside of our homes, our kids and us screaming at our dogs. Work made it like we had two separate lives — one perfect, one not so perfect.” Now, says Lippman, those worlds have collided.