Welcome to The New Normal

By Patricia Maeda

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global health crisis, generating an immense ripple effect that goes well beyond the pandemic itself, affecting the global economy, industries of all sectors and society at large.

As people across the globe sheltered in place due to precautionary measures, the home environment became the hub where work, play and rest seamlessly coexisted within four walls. Women have rediscovered how clothes can actually be comfortable. We embraced sweatpants, replaced stiff underwire bras with soft bralettes, and ditched thongs for comfy briefs. Not surprisingly, in response to external stressors, cozy loungewear and comfortable underwear became the fashion equivalent of comfort food.

Looking ahead, the quest for comfort will extend well beyond quarantine and will most certainly be amplified by the lifestyle changes brought about by the current situation. Shoppers will look for comfortability and practicality in products that can truly better our everyday lives. Brands like Chantelle are pivoting business by promoting a line of one-size-fits-all underwear with high performance elasticity that combines the perfect fit with ultimate comfort. Others like upcoming brands Mary Young and Clo Intimo focus on eliminating uncomfortable elastic bands and underwire with soft bralettes in bamboo jersey and stretchy microfiber, while Evelyn & Bobbie’s wireless bras shift the weight of the breasts to the ribcage, providing all-day comfort. Coupled with a generation obsessed with “self care,” this lifestyle change also points to a valuable opportunity for brands and manufacturers to leverage fabric innovation that delivers restorative benefits and wellness-boosting features. Sleepwear brands like Bare Slumber and Dagsmejan promote thermoregulating fabrics that absorb body heat, converting it into far infrared energy. This process helps increase blood flow and accelerate muscle recovery during sleep. Similarly, lifestyle brand Skin offers slippers with nanoparticles of jade within the fabric that lowers body temperature by up to 10 degrees. When we spend over one-third of our lives in bed, clothes that optimize wellbeing become an integral part of the self-care regime.

But while comfort is fashion’s immediate reaction to this uncertain moment, the post-pandemic aesthetic will include clothes that, while comfortable, are far more elaborate than sweatpants. After months in quarantine, there will be a need to ‘dress-up,’ and as the boundaries of private and social lives become increasingly blurred, old pajamas and baggy tess will no longer be desirable.

The category of trendy loungewear, which has quickly grown in the past few years thanks to hyped DTC brands like Lunya and Emily Ratajkowski’s Inamorata, will likely get a boost in the post-pandemic reality. Driven by a need for fashionable innerwear that truly functions for modern life (from bed to brunch), the new lifestyle decisively replaces athleisure with more sophisticated silhouettes to cater to the style-conscious woman. It’s time to stop hitting the snooze button and awaken to a new world of fashionable silhouettes, quality materials, and functional details. Brands such as Ginia and V.O.She have fully embraced the niche market between sleepwear and ready-to-wear by providing high quality silk camisoles and sets that easily transition from the bedroom to the streets.

In addition, as intimate apparel definitively crosses from the private to the public sphere, brands should promote products that not only deliver the comfort element, but are stylish enough to be worn as outerwear. From peeking bralettes to on-display bodysuits for festival season, lingerie brands like Cosabella are leveraging social media to showcase how bodysuits and bralettes can be paired with skirts and jeans for a full look.

No matter which trends you choose to suit your customer, there’s no arguing that the pandemic will decisively change how we dress. Going forward, it’s crucial that intimates brands shift focus from product to consumer, fully understanding how this unique experience has shifted needs, behaviors and lifestyles. Ultimately, it is through our intimate layers that we unveil our most vulnerable needs and start to rebuild a new sense of self for the future.

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