Casual lifestyle dressing spurs new clothing category

WWD Lifestyle Monitor

Loungewear, the latest in casual clothing category, is for almost anything but lounging.

The basic loungewear wardrobe, which consists of, but is not limited to, fitted tees and camisoles, tap pants, nightgowns, pajamas and drawstring pants, is just as much for living outside as in.

Loungewear or, as it’s sometimes called, at-home-wear, is another example of casual lifestyle dressing, a trend which shows no signs of abating any time soon.

Take as proof positive the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Casual Barometer, which tracks consumers’ attitudes toward casual dressing. It reached 64.8 for women in the second quarter of 2000, one of the highest readings ever. (The Barometer can be between 0 to 100; a score of 50 indicates a neutral level, while anything above is more positive.)

Says Susan Dunn, CEO and designer of Susan Dunn Spa Wear™, “There was a time when just about the only casual clothing available was a sweat suit or sleepwear…and that presented a problem. Very few women felt comfortable wearing ‘sweats’ in public, realizing that as comfy as they are, sweat suits are not particularly flattering, and sleepwear was inappropriate. Loungewear is meeting the needs of women who are no longer satisfied with athletic apparel and sleepwear as their only answer to comfort.”

In addition, designers maintain that loungewear owes its tremendous growth to the continued “casualization” of the American lifestyle.

Tellingly, when the Monitor asked women if they would be willing to sacrifice comfort for fashion, a resounding 59% said no. But what if they could have both? With loungewear, say designers, they do.

“Quality fabrics are a must,” maintains Dunn, “100% cotton or cotton-rich fabrics are increasingly important to the softness and comfort on one’s skin. Loungewear must also be loose fitting, stretchable, flexible and be easy to put on and take off.”

Eighty percent of women surveyed by the Monitor said their chosen mode of dress when hanging out at home is old and comfy. Loungewear gives them yet another option, and a fashionable one too.

This is good news for Kim, a thirtysomething freelance writer who lives in Highland Park, New Jersey. “Because I work at home, loungewear is the perfect dressing solution for me,” she says. “I can wear it to answer the door when the Federal Express man comes and not feel embarrassed. It’s not only comfortable, but stylish.”

Patterns and colors run the gamut in loungewear. Says Dunn, “We use soothing color combinations such as ice blue and vanilla ice that are calming and a variety of patterns such as organic waves, woven plaids and raindrops to evoke images of relaxation. Some of our more popular silhouettes include; drawstring pants with coordinating tees and tunics, polo loungers and caftans, both hooded and v-neck.”

The age of the loungewear consumer is as diverse and wide-ranging as the offerings in that category.

Dunn targets her line for women aged 30+. “My collections cater to the needs and desires of active, comfort seeking women who appreciate quality & style,” she says. “This is a hectic world. Our bodies need to be comfortable for our minds and spirits to function happily and healthily. I believe that comfort is an essential part of everyday life.”