One day I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I remember looking out at a crowd of girls and seeing that we all looked the same: black leggings, hair in a messy bun, Starbucks coffee in hand. What had happened to me?
When I started college four years ago, my closet was full of awesome dresses, leather flats, and blazers. I wanted my look to be a Bacall-meets-Annie-Hall hybrid, complete with femininity and gumption.
From moms to young professionals, the typical wardrobe has changed. But nowhere is this trend so popular and immortalized as on the college campus. I could blame it on the 8 a.m. classes and the essay-writing all-nighters, but the truth is that athletic wear dominates the college scene not purely because of laziness, as one might think, but because, like any trend, it’s part of the culture. Even I, someone who prided herself on personal style, found myself falling into the mindset that I thought I left behind in high school: Everyone’s doing it, so I should, too.
After a few short weeks, though, I felt that slipping away. The modern college girl uniform of yoga pants, Nikes, and oversize T-shirts was cementing itself in my wardrobe. Suddenly, I found myself reaching for my brother’s old soccer sweatshirt a few times a week while my tailored skirts collected dust.
Athleisure—the trend of wearing pieces usually reserved for the gym as everyday clothes—is everywhere now. Last year, after avoiding the growing trend for many seasons, J.Crew caved and introduced a New Balance collaboration into its stores. Lululemon, a popular brand amongst coeds, sells workout leggings for upward of $100 per pair, yet the company continues to report impressive sales growth and the ability to raise prices despite competition. London-based Sweaty Betty only just opened its first brick-and-mortar stateside in 2013 but plans to continue adding eight to ten stores per year to meet U.S. demand. Nike announced last week that it will now sell directly through Amazon, marking a big milestone for both companies. Morgan Stanley predicts that athleisure sales will double by 2020, making it the fastest-growing market in apparel.
I felt a little ashamed. My style had always been an intentional reflection of my personality. What happened to my days of wearing custom-made pants from a 1920s pattern or silk wrap skirts made in India? As I looked at my wardrobe full of yoga pants and hoodies, I made the decision then and there to never wear them or any athletic wear items out in public again—unless I was actually going to work out. No more looking like a clone. No more dressing a certain way just because. I had fallen into my new unkempt look far too easily, and I was determined to come out of it just the same.
I Stopped Wearing Yoga Pants in Public—Here’s Why
The clothes are easy to toss on and can—literally—double as pajamas. I barely had to think about what I was putting on. I had no concern over wrinkles or coordinating a look. Yoga pants and T-shirts don’t require much forethought. The challenges to mix patterns and textures were no longer applicable.