It never takes long for an emerging fashion trend to gather pace and become a fully-fledged retail category.
The ‘athleisure’ trend was a response to fitness culture: when women started wearing their leggings outside of the gym, the fashion industry started to design apparel that reflected the Pilates-and-coffee lifestyle.
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When high street fashion brands realised that ‘festival fashion’ was a search term, they responded with flesh-baring, glitter-strewn collections aimed squarely at the weekend wristband market.
The latest fashion trend of ‘one mile wear’ is no different. The Japanese concept of comfort clothing that you wear within a one-mile radius of your home is trending – and it’s easy to see why.
Brands like Madewell and, more recently, NRBY have been inspired by the idea of one mile wear. The former designed a collection especially for “post-workout hangs, neighbourhood coffee strolls and couch marathons”. The latter recognised that women wanted clothes for the “days when you’re just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where life takes you”.
It sounds like the type of attire that we could all get behind – and that’s because most of us already have.
One mile wear is certainly a catchy idea but the truth is that women have been wearing clothes that prioritise comfort over style for years now. Think of the grey slouchy joggers that you pull on for school runs (M&S cashmere for those with money to burn; Penneys lounge pants for those who know a bargain when they see it).
Think of the oversized sweater that you sink into on a Sunday afternoon or the duster coat that you throw on when you’d much rather be wearing a dressing gown.
Sure, you could argue that one mile wear is the natural evolution of the lounge wear trend. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll notice that a paradigm shift is occurring.
Women aren’t buying into one mile wear because it’s on trend. They’re buying into it because they no longer want to be constricted by skin-tight trousers, blister-inducing stilettos and bras that leave red imprints on their skin.
Need further proof? Just look at the changing shape of the bra and the rise of the infinitely more comfortable bralette.
Lingerie brands have realised that women don’t want to be constrained by padding and underwires anymore. And after decades of the push-and-lift look popularised by Wonderbra, they’re more than happy to sacrifice scaffolding for comfort.
The handbag shape has changed dramatically too as creatures of comfort seek out backpacks and belt bags that literally and figuratively take a load off.
Functionality is the new watchword and designers are finally giving women clothing that makes their lives easier to manage.
Bum-grazing Daisy Dukes have been replaced by laid-back utility shorts. The skinny jean has given way to straight- and wide-leg looks. The easy, breezy midi skirt has trumped the can’t-breathe pencil skirt.
The here’s the best part: these new styles come with pockets. And not just those awful fashion pockets that can’t carry anything larger than a house key, but proper, functional pockets that give women the freedom to leave their shoulder-strain-inducing trophy handbag at home (or avoid buying one in the first place).
The catwalks have been awash with feminist statements these last few years. The late Karl Lagerfeld staged a feminist rally for Chanel’s SS15 collection. The first iteration of Dior’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ slogan t-shirt was a sell-out success. Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton described her AW18 collection of padded shoulder pieces as “soft armour for women”.
These Instagram-worthy style moments have led some critics to ask if the fashion industry is appropriating feminism, just as they’ve wondered if the inherently elitist catwalk is any place to champion equality.
The trouble is that they seem to be missing the wider shift that’s afoot.
Sure, slogan feminist t-shirts are becoming a little tedious – especially when they cost €620. Likewise, the power-shoulder trend is just that – a mere trend that will disappear after a few seasons.
But look beyond the window dressing and you’ll notice that a fundamental change has occurred.
Shapes have relaxed, garments are becoming looser and form is beginning to follow function. Comfort, ease and flexibility have come to the fore, and looked at from this point of view, SS19 might just be the most feminist fashion season yet.
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