Thursday 23 February 2017

In defence of loungewear: How comfort finally became fashionable

It’s no longer necessary to suffer for style. Meadhbh McGrath explains why comfort is king in fashion

Meadhbh McGrath

Models Grace O’Mahony and Sarah Morrissey wearing Lucy Nagle
Models Grace O’Mahony and Sarah Morrissey wearing Lucy Nagle
Phase Eight
Sarah Morrissey wearing Lucy Nagle
Dorothy Perkins
Lily Aldridge for Velvet
Lily Aldridge for Velvet

Winter so far has been notable for, well, not really feeling like much of a winter at all.

But after a December so balmy it broke Met Eireann records, we’ve finally been plunged into a big chill, and when it’s cold, dark and rainy, you might as well stay in, light the fire and cosy up with Netflix.

Unfortunately, luxuriating in a baggy t-shirt and worn-out pair of leggings will leave you feeling a little less than glamorous. But you’re in luck: the rise of the luxe loungewear trend means that comfort is king.

We’ve long accepted that fashion demands a certain level of suffering, as if comfort were the opposite of style, a guilty pleasure only acceptable in the privacy of our own homes when nobody is looking. However, that’s started to change.

Dorothy Perkins
Dorothy Perkins

One of the most distinctive shifts in the fashion world in recent years has been the slow but steady displacement of edgy high fashion by low-key loungewear.

Even trainers, once the domain of the 1980s career woman who reluctantly slipped on her heels when she got to the office, have become the height of glorified slouch, or “slobcore”, making appearances on street-style stars and catwalks alike.

But what is loungewear, and what sets it apart from the grotty pyjama bottoms of old? Shelly Corkery, Brown Thomas Fashion Director, defines loungewear as “the ultimate in luxury - to be cocooned in rich, soft fabrics in relaxed styles and shapes”.

Read more: Is athletic gear really an acceptable style everywhere? We put it to the test

Phase Eight
Phase Eight

Using deliciously plush, high-quality fabrics like cashmere, natural cotton, silk and pure wool, the best loungewear designers have mastered the delicate balance of relaxed luxury – clothing that doesn’t pinch or make you feel fat, but that you’re happy to leave the house in to meet a friend for coffee. Loungewear is clothing that you feel great in, and that feels great on you.

Corkery has noticed a soaring demand for loungewear, and suggests the rise of the loungewear trend is a result of the increasingly hectic pace of modern living.

As our lives get busier, and we get less and less free time, we’re willing to spend more on enjoying those few cherished hours at home.

“People are busier than ever these days and so when they have some downtime they want to truly relax and switch off,” she says. “What you wear has a direct impact on how you feel and people still want to look and feel good when they are relaxing in their homes.”

For luxurious basics, you can’t beat Los Angeles designer James Perse, whose single-origin cotton t-shirts are perfect for layering and beloved by stars like Jennifer Aniston, Mila Kunis and Beyonce. Wicklow designer Lucy Nagle was an early pioneer of luxe loungewear, and is famous for her cashmere hoodies and lounge pants. On the higher end of the scale, Corkery mentions the oversized roll-neck knits by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s label The Row as particularly popular.

Nailing the loungewear look can also be achieved on a smaller budget. Gap and Marks & Spencer offer sumptuous, affordable cashmere pieces that are equally well-suited to long strolls around the park and long naps on the sofa, while COS, the minimalist hero of the high street, re-imagines loungewear staples with a dose of sophistication every season. “Loungewear by nature should bring comfort and an element of indulgence,” says Karin Gustafsson, head of womenswear for the Swedish brand.

Lily Aldridge for Velvet
Lily Aldridge for Velvet

While you may find yourself flinching at the checkout, it’s important to remember: spend the most on the clothes you’ll spend the most time in. So bring on the cold snap – and the cashmere.

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