Annie Vihtelic

Don’t Sweat It

By - Oct 3rd, 2010 04:00 am

Photo courtesy of Juicy

I remember when that whole “fancy sweatpants” trend took off…

It all started a few years ago when two girls from Southern California introduced us to their “luxe leisure suits” — hoodies and low rise drawstring pants made out of velour, terrycloth and even cashmere. They struggled a fair amount to get their label off the ground at first, but once Madonna donned one of their custom-made track suits (embroidered with the pop diva’s moniker and all) Juicy Couture’s popularity skyrocketed.

Celebs and regular people alike loved the idea of being comfy and looking cool. Soon everyone from Victoria’s Secret to Baby Phat had their own version of leisure wear that could be worn for more than just lounging.

It was an easy look that really took off . You’d see pictures of celebrities all the time in their matching hoodies and pants as they strolled through airport terminals, perused supermarket aisles, or engaged in whatever other mundane tasks paparazzi felt were worth snapping. Then you started seeing everyone from well-to-do moms in Range Rovers to young girls riding their bikes dressed in very similar fashion.

Everyone looked cute and comfortable, but eventually the cuteness faded. People just got too comfortable, if you know what I mean. A couple images come to mind — Britney Spears during her downward spiral when her daily uniform consisted of some combination of sweatpants and barely-there tops. Or Lindsey Lohan in a dirty, tattered pair, looking rough after a night of hard partying. Not attractive.

Oh, Britney. Why? Photo courtesy BritBoy in L.A.

Just as women mimicked similar celebs in the cute phase, they started to do so in the skanky phase as well – somehow thinking that velour sweats were acceptable evening wear. All of a sudden these super relaxed separates started to replace the more respectable casual wear we wore in the past.

But once again — thank goodness — things are starting to change.

Working in high-end retail, I see a lot of women (of all ages) taking the initiative to really put some effort into everyday wear. They’re tired of sweatpants and don’t want to look like they just finished up at the gym or rolled out of bed. Designers are listening and producing a number of easy alternatives beyond updated sweatpants.

For example, try replacing your slim yoga pants with a pair of tight-fitting black ponte pant. These give you the same silhouette as a legging but feel more like a substantial pair of pants because of the beefier knit. They’re just as simple to throw on as a pair of sweats, but will provide a much more polished look.

A slim ponte pant. Photo courtesy White House Black Market

Jean leggings – or jeggings – are another option. Jeggings are a very, very tight-fitting jean that are snug like a legging, but again feel like a more substantial pant than just a lightweight layer. They come in a variety of jean-inspired fabrics and you’ll find everything from really soft and gummy indigo washes, to pairs with a slightly more stiff, true denim feel.

Oh, and many lines are making slip-on versions of this pant. No button fly, zipper, nothing. Does it get any simpler to dress than that?

Ponte pants and jeggings are both extremely versatile and can be worn with almost any kind of top. Go a little longer if you want to feel more covered up, or shorter if you’re more comfortable with your bottom half. Wear anything from boyfriend-style plaid shirts to chunky cardigan sweaters, even shorter dresses and skirts. The only rule to keep in mind is to make sure your top covers your butt.

I think it’s great that women are starting step it up when it comes to everyday dressing. It seems more and more often, put together and polished looks are the norm for casual dress, while the just-rolled-out-of-bed look is (thankfully) fading. It’s a trend we really latched onto, but by the end this look was walking a pretty fine line between comfort and, well,  just kind of gross.

It’s essential to be comfortable but comfort does not have to always come with a drawstring waist. It’s not a vain thing, it’s more a self esteem thing for me –I always feel better when I put a little more effort into getting ready and it helps set the day off in a more positive tone for me.

And some mornings, I need all the positivity I can get.

*Cover photo by Ernop via Flickr.

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