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Retailers move into casual clothes and lingerie

Marielle Segarra Oct 23, 2020
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A woman pushes a stroller past a Zara store in Bergamo, Italy, in June. Retailers are seeing loungewear as a longer-lasting trend as the pandemic continues. Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images
COVID-19

Retailers move into casual clothes and lingerie

Marielle Segarra Oct 23, 2020
Heard on:
A woman pushes a stroller past a Zara store in Bergamo, Italy, in June. Retailers are seeing loungewear as a longer-lasting trend as the pandemic continues. Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images
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At the beginning of the pandemic, Dina Gachman was not exactly wearing her Sunday best. She has a toddler who was out of school. She was trying to work.

“I probably had a robe on half the day and my hair was just a complete mess,” Gachman said. “And then I started to think, ‘OK, it’s gonna make me feel better, and it’s going to be better for my sanity if I maybe put some mascara on or put on an actual outfit.”

Eventually, Gachman, who lives in Austin, Texas, even bought some new clothes.

“I got one pair of pants from Target that are very soft, comfortable cargo type pants that I could probably sleep in, but then I could also wear with heels,” she said.

Sorry, heels? What are those again?

But that right there — that is the sweet spot retailers are aiming for. Clothes that are comfortable but don’t make you feel like you’ve completely let yourself go.

Zara, the Spanish fast fashion retailer, just announced that it has a new lingerie collection, much of which could be described as stuff you’d wear to lounge around the house — loose-fitting cotton pajama pants and silk button-down shirts. Also, Kohl’s says it will be launching an athleisure brand in the spring.

Bronwyn Cosgrave, who hosts the fashion podcast A Different Tweed, said there’s a particular consumer these retailers are targeting: “a woman who did get dressed up to go to the office and doesn’t want to lose that aspect, however, is not dressing up to the degree of a year ago.”

Buying lingerie and athleisure is becoming a form of retail therapy for many women, Cosgrave said.

“It is an affordable luxury,” she said. “It’s an impulse buy that’s not going to dent one’s mortgage payments or car payments.”

In recessions past, women bought lipstick instead. But lipstick and masks …not the best combination. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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