Remember the bad old days when women were required to sacrifice comfort for fashion? Throughout history, women have had to conform to what was considered stylish at the time, even if it meant agony (think corsets and even the barbaric practice of Chinese foot binding). Luckily, the fashion world is starting to catch onto What Women Actually Want – to look stylish and feel comfortable at the same time. Along with prioritising comfort, women are also starting to propose that their clothes actually work to support their demanding lifestyles. They’re requesting clothes that help them accomplish the 100+ tasks that they need to do every day, without serving as a ‘yeah-but-you-look-great’ hindrance. Having a modern wardrobe means that women’s clothes work for them, not the other way around. Considering how hard it can be to succeed as a woman (even in 2019), it’s about time that performance wear stepped up to the challenge.
A complicated relationship with fashion
Women’s relationship with fashion has been a historically complicated one. From basically the beginning of time, women have been told they needed to change their bodies in order to fit into society’s perception of what they should be. Even back in ancient Greece, women wore laced body braces to tighten their waist and give them that ‘sort after’ hourglass figure. Women strived for tiny waists artificially shrunk by corsets and then exaggerated hips with hoopskirts – an unachievable fashion ideal that would persist until the 20th century. If a woman didn’t break a few ribs or experience a feeling of constant suffocation, they weren’t really trying hard enough to be fashionable. Various clothing trends over the years sent an underlying message that women would only be accepted by society is if they followed the fickle rules of fashion. But what rules? And made by whom?! Women had to stand up and shout for change to happen, which came in small doses. Trousers specifically made for women only took off in the mainstream after actress Katharine Hepburn showed that they could still be feminine and fashionable in the 1940s.
Back in the day it was deemed acceptable that women’s clothing didn’t really allow them to do much more than sit on loungers and wave a fan back and forth. Women weren’t expected to have strenuous activities to take part in (of course this was only actually true for the upper classes) or busy schedules buzzing them from place to place. With the Women’s Liberation movement in the 1970s, fashion began to reflect what women were really able to accomplish (career, family, politics, activism, etc.), so female fashion trended towards what was most practical (looser, flowing dresses or comfy jeans). In recent years, it has become totally acceptable for women to run errands and rule the weekend in yoga pants and loungewear. While this can be considered a win for womankind’s right to comfort (it sure beats a confining corset, can I get an AMEN?!), this type of loungewear has only served as a practical option – one that wasn’t designed with beauty in mind…
Fashion-led performance wear hits the scene
That is until a growing movement of fashion-led performance wear hit the scene. By wearing garments that combine comfort and style, women can now show off their style without hindering their drive to get things done. Fashion designers and clothing companies are starting to understand that in order for women to actually ‘do it all’ and look good while doing it, they’ll need clothing that allows them to be Superwoman. Someone whose day includes walking the dog before breakfast, shuttling their kids to school, spending a full day smashing targets at work, attending an after-hours social event with workmates, and then coming home to cook dinner for a busy household. With their to-do list towering over them, women need clothing that makes their lives simpler. They need women’s parka coats that shield them from the rain while still looking like they could easily fit into the pages of Marie Claire.
Even with this positive movement towards beautiful comfort in the fashion world, there still seems to be a large gap in the market for more of these type of products, like women’s waterproof coats with hoods that don’t make them look either frumpy or just back from Mountain Rescue. Modern women not only need high-quality, functional clothes; they also need clothing that’s appropriate for all of the different worlds that they have to fit into. Whether they’re hiking up a mountain on Sunday or ruling the boardroom on Monday, their clothes need to reflect the often-complicated juggling of regular responsibilities. They need clothes that feel like a second skin from morning to night not something that they’re dreaming of ripping off as soon as they get in the door. Women should already be wearing clothes that make them feel relaxed and content.
Encouraging a minimalistic style
The fashion world has done its part by trying to encourage a minimalistic vibe, taking the guesswork out of trying to curate entire wardrobe from mismatched styles. Such elements as capsule wardrobes let women refine their closets into a few select options that make it easier for them to get dressed in the morning. This can be a helpful way to eliminate clothes that might look fashion-forward but that don’t provide comfort (looking at you, bodysuits and bandage dresses!).
Therefore, the new direction of fashion appears to be: comfortable clothes that let women shine in every capacity of their lives (from school field trips to corporate presentations). Because with all that they do, women deserve beautifully cut, made-to-last clothing that’s ultimately easy to wear. Forget ironing and dry cleaning – clothing needs to be effortless and require no work other than putting it on as we get ready to start our busy days. Long gone are the days of 100% wool swimsuits or dresses that cover up every inch of skin. The fashion community can finally accept what women in their hearts have known since the dawn of time: every woman is beautiful (no matter their size), and given the right clothes, women can do anything and everything they set their mind to…it’s just a lot easier out of a corset!.