Let’s End the Athleisure Pandemic: Reclaim Your Desire to Dress to Impress

In the post-COVID world, it seems we’ve developed herd immunity to style. We’ve lost a healthy desire to intentionally create a look that expresses our best self for whatever situation is at hand—you know, the big presentation at work, or a date with that cute guy?

The term 'athleisure' includes athletic wear, loungewear and sneakers. It’s the fastest growing segment of the apparel industry, as evidenced by the huge success of stores like Athleta and Lululemon. Athleisure wear is a sickness that began around 2015, long before COVID, but the pandemic’s stay-at-home, remote-work environment raised the athleisure fever to a dangerously high temperature.

Athleisure wear has its place, but unfortunately, COVID helped the athleisure market segment thrive and become a national catch-all for every circumstance. The younger the woman, the stronger and longer lasting are athleisure wear’s side-effects. Many women under 30 are ‘long haulers’ who practically live in leggings, sweatshirts and a messy bun, no matter the occasion. This trend toward casualization in fashion will likely persist because in the post-COVID world, many more people will continue working—and even dating—remotely.

The athleisure wear bug is highly contagious precisely because it’s become such a trend. Peer pressure makes any trend, no matter how unsightly, hard to resist. Leggings have replaced jeans. Yoga pants have replaced slacks. Sweatshirts have replaced cute tops. Stop the spread!

For many women like me, stopping the spread is easy because we embrace a rival toward glamour and dressing up. In our view, pandemic yoga pants should go back to being worn only during yoga, and we should break out our jeans and slacks for the other 99.9% of our lives.

Fortunately, there are also some younger women who welcome a return to the art of dressing nicely. Check out this blog post by Gabriella Patti titled I Stopped Wearing Yoga Pants in Public–Here’s Why. She was in college at the time.

But what if you don’t see any need to stop the athleisure wear spread? Then I challenge you to do this exercise and see how you feel afterwards. If you still believe that full-time athleisure wear is your jam, then stick with it.

First Impression Visualization Challenge

Scenario 1: Imagine a ‘dream guy’ you are crushing on or already love. Now imagine you’re at a big party with people dressed in everything from sweatpants to formal gowns. You’re in your standard athleisure wear look (e.g., leggings, sweatshirt, sneakers, no make-up, messy hair—whatever most closely resembles you). Your ‘dream guy’ walks up and introduces himself. He looks you up and down. What three words best describe how you feel about yourself in this moment?

Scenario 2: Now imagine you are at the same big party with the same people dressed in everything from sweatpants to formal gowns. This time, you’re in your most killer outfit with your best hair, make-up and jewelry. It’s an outfit that you love because it always makes you feel good. Your ‘dream guy’ walks up and introduces himself. He looks you up and down. What three words best describe how you feel about yourself now?

If you felt differently about yourself in these scenarios, it means that your clothing style affects the way you see yourself, as well as how you believe others see you. And if that’s the case, don’t you always want to see yourself in the best possible light? And don’t you want others to see you that way too?

If you felt better about yourself in the second scenario where you were wearing your killer outfit, then it’s likely that your confidence and physical attractiveness would leave others in that scene viewing you more positively as well.

It means that you care about the impression you want to make, whether you admit or not.

So, it’s time to decide: What kind of impression do I want to make, and how to I want others to see me?

Wearing athletic wear around town no longer implies ‘Look, I went to the gym!’ Nowadays, it’s so prevalent that it just appears lazy. Athleisure wear has become a cop-out that’s devoid of individual style. OK, I understand it’s super comfy, but are you willing to sacrifice looking like a 10 for a little extra comfort?

What you wear makes an impression and is your personal expression of how you want the world to perceive you. So if you care about the impression you make and how others perceive you, then perhaps it’s time to revitalize your wardrobe and resist the urge to spend your life in sweatpants.

Plus, it’s fun dressing up and choosing what to wear! Forgotten how? Give it a try before your next event. I bet you’ll be glad you did. There’s no better reason to get dolled up other than to make yourself look and feel your best.

I challenge women everywhere to stop the athleisure wear spread. What’s the cure? Make an active effort to return to the fun and frolic of little black dresses, heels and sharply tailored work suits.

The athleisure wear pandemic may stick around, but we can vaccinate ourselves against it by going into our closets and dressing with style, creativity and confidence from this moment forward.

What do you think about the athleisure wear trend? I’m all ears!

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