Writer Jia Tolentino in her 2019 book “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion” describes athleisure as “the type of clothing you wear when you are either acting on or signaling your desire to have an optimized life.” Of course, she went on a long history of the word “optimized” and its operative noun “optimization,” something most of us were obsessed with prior to the pandemic.[READ: Morality in the age of the internet: thoughts on Jia Tolentino’s ‘Trick Mirror’]
She writes, “It was built around the habits of stay-at-home moms, college students, fitness professionals, off-duty models—women who wear exercise clothing outside an exercise setting.”
What I got from this even before reading the book is, it’s “gym clothes you can wear outside the gym without people calling you out for it.”
But more importantly, they are time- and energy-saving garments that require no delicate hand washing or even ironing. They dry fast and can be easily incorporated into your wardrobe and would pass as normal decent outfits.
We would have been donning these spandex and other synthetic fabric-made pieces—leggings and bra tops for women, polyester structured and form-fitting T-shirts for men and cycling shorts for all—had we not been told to stay in. And that’s when loungewear became the new norm. Because really what are we optimizing for in wearing athleisure at home? We basically do everything on our desk, couch or bed so no movement needs to be eased, no other people need to be impressed. That was until we embarked on a series of video conference calls—with camera on.
Whereas the modicum work-from-home put-togetherness for experts and academe is a neatly-piled bookshelf with intellect-signalling titles, for middle- to upper middle-class workers from home, it’s ultrasoft, body-hugging, luxe loungewear that looks decent enough on cam and good enough to sleep in after a long day of work.
Done in silks and plush polyblends, these sleepwear cum WFHwear are seamless transition looks that blur the dimensions of home and the office, much like how we overstep the boundaries of work and personal time.
They are pambahay done right. Not shabby but casual enough to pass as casualwear and forgiving enough to allow the littlest of movements: reaching for your water bottle or trying to find the socket to fit your charger while sitting down.[READ: Designer pambahay, custom masks, whimsical chairs: What to ‘add to cart’ this week]
A crop of local brands have since emerged to cater to the modern/quarantine remote worker. I’ve spent many paychecks on Carl Jan Cruz pambahays that I proudly wear during weekly grocery trips, monthly visits to the doctor and frequently during video calls just to show my superiors that my life is put together.
Much to the prodding of my boss, I might actually get another. This time from a newcomer brand called Patton, where she suggested I should get a cute cropped sweater.
Unlike the prominent athleisure brands peddling expandable suits decked in bright colors, Patton dwells on muted hues. Think Kanye West’s Yeezy and Kim Kardashian’s Skims.There are little pops of color here and there—a pale lavender and the lightest blue and seafoam—but still in conjunction with the feeling it wants to impart to its wearer, prospective and current: tactile and visual softness.
Branding is minimal and strategically placed unobtrusively outside of a T-shirt sleeve (P2,450 to P2,590), mid-thigh on unitard (P4,650), and French cotton terry joggers (P3,550). It’s a welcome break from the resurgent logo mania that most sports brands hinge on.
Patton also seems to have caught on to the sustainability memo, suggesting instead of revamping or renewing one’s wardrobe, a seamless incorporation and a cyclical life for clothes. “A line up of pieces you’ll wear on repeat,” it describes its men’s range.
On its Instagram bio, the brand’s ethos reads, “Optimizing time, energy, comfort and conscious living” as if to echo the hallmarks of athleisure mixed with a promise that it’s better than fast fashion choices.
Athleisure might be shortly put on hold to give way to loungewear, but in Patton, the value of the former remains: uncomplicated but uncompromising all in the context of staying in.
Am I considering the cropped sweater (P2,550) with its gathered hem pulled up to show my ’Ber months midriff “gains” (if you could call it that)? Maybe.
I am reminded of another Jia-ism: “But the worse things get, the more a person is compelled to optimize.” I just might add it to cart for the sake of optimization.