PANDEMIC TIMES MEAN RELAXING FASHION. BUT LOUNGEWEAR?

Junior Business Marketing student Ally Wettstead wearing a classic pandemic outfit: an oversized sweater and bike shorts. Photo provided by Ally Wettstead

Fashion just isn’t the same, there’s no denying that. Loungewear has taken over. When you’re working from home, no one sees the full extent of your outfit, no one expects you to do your hair and makeup, and no one cares really.

Evelyn Pham, a junior vocal performance major at Chapman University, admits she puts less effort into dressing up for classes during quarantine.

“Typically, I just wear what I slept in the night before, which is usually a T-shirt and pajama pants,” Pham said. “Before COVID-19, I would put on makeup every day before classes, but now I just feel comfortable washing my face.” 

Now, it’s considered an accomplishment to get up out of your bed. Most students see no point in going out of their way for fashion.

On the rare shopping trip, customers aren’t wasting money on “going out” clothes because those clothes, like you, aren’t going anywhere. Local stores know this. They know that what you want and what you need right now is something comfy, so they’ve adapted. Local clothing stores have carefully curated their selections to offer customers more loungewear. 

Junior business marketing student Ally Wettstead is a sales associate at Old Towne Orange retailer Laurenly. Wettstead agrees that loungewear has been huge this past year.

“People are buying loungewear more, claiming they don’t have places to wear anything other than lounge,” Wettstead said. 

When going out, junior Vocal Performance major, Evelyn Pham keeps things both trendy and casual by adding a cozy coat and knee-high socks to her outfit. Photo provided by Evelyn Pham

Pham has been wearing casual clothes to get her through her day, so her shopping habits aren’t the same either. 

“I have only spent money on new clothes once this quarantine, around Christmas,” Pham said. “Since there is no need for me to dress up, I have not had a need to buy new clothes.”

After quarantine, Pham plans on keeping her style casual-chic. 

“I would love to find a style that could function as both lounge and schoolwear,” Pham said. “I don’t think I’d want to wear skinny jeans as much since I’m so used to being in pajamas all day.”

Wettstead is right, many students agree. Working from home means people don’t have much of a reason to get dressed up like they did pre-pandemic. 

Local Old Towne Orange retailer Nectar has been joining in on the loungewear craze too.

“We’ve been selling definitely more loungewear, more T-shirts, baggier things, some sweats, sweatshorts,” Nectar store manager Alycia Torres said. “Matching sets have been huge, and sweatshirts. Huge amounts of loungewear.” 

Torres adds that there has been a slowdown on denim too, but it’s beginning to pick up again. 

While local clothing stores have had to carefully shift their collections in the best interest of customer needs during COVID-19, bigger chain stores like Forever 21 have had more freedom.

According to Kristine from MainPlace Mall’s Forever 21 (who requested her last name not be used), the fashion giant has experienced minimal changes in the types of clothes they have been selling.

“We still stay pretty true to trends that are in fashion right now based on influencers,” Kristine said. “I mean, we do have a section based on lounge, especially over the holidays we had a big lounge section, but there has been no major change.” 

Kristine notices that despite Forever 21’s large selection, customers tend to gravitate towards casual and clearance items. 

“I feel like people are just gonna shop for what they need versus shopping for a whole wardrobe because they’re not really going anywhere or doing anything,” Kristine said. “I noticed a lot of customers, if they’re going out that night, they’ll pick out outfits instead of lounge stuff.”

Sneaky customers find ways to acquire clothes for an occasion when they’re in a bind. 

Fashion doesn’t have to be complicated. Ally Wettstead proves that by posing in her knit coat from Laurenly and topping it off with some killer shades. Photo provided by Ally Wettstead

“People will buy like $200 or $300 of stuff, but we get back in returns like $150 of it,” Kristine said. “So, they might spend a lot of money upfront but then you see it back in returns. They’ll buy a bunch like Thursday-Friday, and then Monday-Tuesday they’re returning most of it.” 

It’s only recently that local stores have been trying to ease in more traditional seasonal lines. 

“Customers are buying more loungewear, but I feel like just starting right now actually, they’re starting to buy more going out clothes or summery clothes,” Torres said. “More dresses are selling now, skirts too.”

Wettstead has even started seeing Laurenly slowly introduce seasonal clothes while still maintaining a heavy emphasis on loungewear. 

“More typical seasonal stuff has been hitting the floor as spring approaches, but we still have lots of comfy lounge clothes as well,” Wettstead said.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its end, local stores are hopeful that customers will be sick of the loungewear trend and eager to buy new items. 

“Either people are going to stay comfy and we’re all gonna pretty much adapt to this, stay at home and stay in comfy clothes, or everybody’s gonna wear their favorite outfits all time because they couldn’t wear anything for so long,” Torres said.

It really depends on how people are feeling after COVID-19, whether they’re still burned out or ready to express themselves through fashion. 

“I don’t see this trend lasting post COVID-19 at all,” Wettstead admits.

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