Have the explosion of yoga pants and athleisure wear in our off-hours rubbed off on our professional wardrobes?
Women’s clothier Marcia Simon thinks so.
Not because Simon sees clients of her Paul Simon Women shop heading off to work in hoodies and yoga gear, but because she believes our cozy leisure clothes are making us crave comfort during the workday as well.
And retailers are responding, offering women more choices in clothes that have more stretch, better-placed seams and softer fabrics for a better feel.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“Comfort is so important today in the fashion marketplace,” says Simon, who along with husband Paul has been clothing Charlotteans since 1975.
“I think a lot of it has to do with exercise,” she says, and the fact that so many women are spending time in clothes they wear to the gym or to yoga. “The feel of the fabric on you is so important.”
One of her store’s best-selling pants is a Montreal-based brand called Lisette L, a pull-on pant with a wide, smooth waistband, no zippers, buttons or pockets, and a slim, body-hugging (and flattering) silhouette. Oprah and Kathy Lee Gifford have both publicly sung its praises.
Other designers have tapped the market recently, from high-end VINCE offering lush cashmeres, structured but not stifling dresses and drawstring pants, to Soft Surroundings, a women’s apparel and home goods company that began as catalog-only but now is opening stores across the country. One just opened in Blakeney.
Julie Lopez shoes, based in Concord, is an example of a locally based brand with an emphasis on being comfortable enough to wear all day. Lopez, a former nurse, created the line after struggling to find shoes that would accommodate the bunions on her own feet.
At Missouri-based Soft Surroundings, founder Robin Sheldon says although her company doesn’t market itself as career-wear, she knows lots of women wear Soft Surroundings pieces to work.
“The average woman today is out of her clothes within 15 minutes of coming through the door, changing into something she would say is more comfortable,” Sheldon says. “The company came about because I realized so many of us were changing when we got home and putting on sweats and we looked awful. Our intention all along is to allow women to look adorable but be as comfortable as possible.”
She says she sees the art of dressing women comfortably as part of a crusade.
“In the interest of having the fullest lives we can, we’ve ended up putting ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list and not getting there very often,” Sheldon says.
Elizabeth Faires works on the Bank of America trading floor in the Hearst Tower, and for her, striking the balance between comfort and professionalism is key. She says brands like Lisette L and Damask Knitwear, along with shoes such as AGL flats are essential, because they have stretch and give that also come in handy at home with three young children.
“Comfort is very important to me – but I like to be stylish,” Faires said.
Lisette L founder Lisette Limoges and her daughter, Kathryne Small, who is associate creative director, will host a trunk show April 20 at Paul Simon Women. Details: paulsimonco.com/event/lisette-spring-summer-trunk-show or 704-333-6139.