The Comfortability Matrix

Have We Reached Peak Comfy?

Key Takeaways

  1. A leisurely point of view is now the mode de rigueur, and bits of Resort season—once the only phase of the fashion cycle inspired by vacations and the kind of stretchy fits you wear to said holidays—can now be seen everywhere.
  2. It’s not hard to find an outfit that transitions from pilates to the office at an Alo store, but finding that at a Gucci boutique will prove much more difficult (and the fashion industry is aware of this shift in priorities).
  3. Of course, there have been some great leisurewear moments, like the Juicy Couture tracksuit Y2K-era look, thanks to Miss Paris Hilton. But those outfits were always in addition to others; now people want a look that carries from morning to night, they want to be able to jam everything into one outfit.

Over the past several years, the concept of “comfy” has seeped from clothing made for vacations and sports, into every part of the fashion industry. Once reserved for mass market brands like Nike or H&M, nowadays, it’s no surprise that fashion houses like Burberry, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and almost any other recognizable fashion house consistently show leisure-inspired pieces like leggings, T-shirts, and oversized hoodies and sweats, all made with sporty-materials, catering to Millennial and Gen-Z consumers who demand easy wear items. Lifestyle brands like Lululemon or Gymshark are seen as leaders of a movement in which the historic fashion houses, aka the powers that be, hold much less sway. It’s not hard to find an outfit that transitions from pilates to the office at an Alo store, but finding that at a Gucci boutique will prove much more difficult (and the fashion industry is aware of this shift in priorities; Alo was just announced as the official wellness partner of New York Fashion Week: The Shows).

A leisurely point of view is now the mode de rigueur, and bits of Resort season—once the only phase of the fashion cycle inspired by vacations and the kind of stretchy fits you wear to said holidays—can now be seen everywhere, from printed yoga pants and matching sports bra at Dolce & Gabbana to Thom Browne’s sweatsuit separates. The New York Times recently reported on the emergence of sports dresses from brands like Reformation and Adidas overtaking the traditional dress market, producing spandex and lycra A-line skort dresses previously worn almost exclusively on clubhouse tennis courts or at muddy music festivals, but now considered appropriate for much more than that. As the pandemic subsides in many areas and people get back to taking vacations and going on travel sabbaticals and having nights out, as well as the return to a much-changed office space, the fashion industry is quickly changing to fit this new mold of comfortability-over-everything. 

Lebron James in Thom Browne


“Being forced into our homes and without the ability or point of wearing our more extravagant outfits, I think that drove us to find out what actually feels right for our bodies, what accentuates us, helps us feel confident. We're rediscovering what is essential in one's wardrobe,” opines Kevin Ponce, the social media editor of V Magazine. “And after more than a year of no vacations or public gatherings, the world is finally emerging from our societal slumber. We’re heading back to the office and travelling again. But I feel like people have already adopted this leisurely aesthetic for good. They're like, I can’t go back to how it was before. Being comfortable has simply become too important to everyone. So we ask ourselves, how are we going to interpret this new energy into what we do now, how our lives are now and going forward? It's forcing us to be intuitive and creative with how we dress, more than ever. How can you make yoga pants look chic? How are you going to make those super comfy baggy shorts you’ve been loving for the past year look presentable in an office setting? The entire thought process of how to put something on is completely different now.”

And these changes are also reaching every level of the fashion stratosphere. “I remember when Tom Ford did his collection last year,” says Ponce, “and he even said, 'why would I make a party dress if there's no party?’ In the end, he showed a very toned-down selection of more versatile pieces that people could actually wear.” This shift in thinking is affecting the fashion industry in a non-denominational manner. 

Phil Gomez, editor in chief of LADYGUNN magazine and on-call stylist to some incredible celebrities like Noah Cyrus and Paris Hilton, acknowledges that the industry has to change to survive…  but he doesn’t necessarily want hoodies and T-shirts to be the arbiters of that change. “People are kind of abandoning fashion traditions for comfort, and they’re trying to keep it cute while in sweatpants… but I feel like we can't really do that in just leggings and hoodies. As someone who lives for the fantasy of fashion, I sometimes see these trends as simply people becoming lazier with their fashion choices. I’m not sure I want the leisure-in-every-line trend to continue dictating style. Of course, there have been some great leisurewear moments, like the Juicy Couture tracksuit Y2K-era look, thanks to Miss Hilton. But those outfits were always in addition to others; now people want a look that carries from morning to night, they want to be able to jam everything into one outfit. So the clothing has changed, even at labels you’d think would never bend to trends.”


While more established brands have been switching up their offerings to reflect our new age of leisure-focused fits, up-and-comers have been spearheading the aesthetic for years. One such designer is Kara Jubin, whose line, KkCo, explores the spaces between normalities in mainstream fashion, and often skirts a fine line between highly embellished, specialty pieces, and easy-to-throw-on looks. She recently teamed up with retailer Urban Outfitters for KkCo OUTSIDE, a line of outdoors-focused active and streetwear. The line includes things like nylon river vests, windbreakers, turtlenecks, and lycra bike shorts, all perfect for staying stylish while on a woodland vacation upstate. “I don’t think there needs to be such a separation between comfort and ‘getting dressed,’” Jubin tells us. “The fact that leisurewear is starting to trickle into all kinds of collections just means we can have the best of both worlds. I foresee leisurewear being a constant in all collections, vacation or not. But I do think it will evolve as the uses for it do as well. We’re always going to want to be comfortable from here on, but what that looks like for a vacation wardrobe could be very different from what that looks like for the office.”

For now, we’ll just have to wait and see if the comfortable matrix keeps building steam, or sputters out along with humanity’s re-emergence into public settings!