According to a recent New York Times article, barely there panties are losing popularity among 20- and 30-somethings while full-coverage bikinis are surging. This is the latest sign that when it comes to personal style, millennials just want to be comfortable.
At 36, I’m just barely bending under the millennial limbo bar. I have one foot squarely placed in Generation X, which might explain my willingness to wear high heels and Spanx on an alarmingly regular basis. My firmly mid-to-late-20s friends, however, scoff at any garment that could temporarily change the shape of the body part it’s on. They live in oversized tees and knit pants – a uniform that, on me, I’m pretty sure looks like pajamas, even when worn with their footwear of choice: slip-on sneakers like Vans or flat, wide-strap sandals like Birkenstocks.
“I don’t wear anything that takes too much effort or feels fussy,” Carly Shatzkin, a 26-year-old graphic designer, assured me. “Comfort doesn’t have to be sacrificed for style and I think more brands are appreciating that.”
There’s no greater evidence of this than in the ubiquity of chic, non-activewear sweatpants at retailers of all price points.
“Dressy sweatpants encapsulate the ultimate millennial dream: looking good without any effort, being trendy without being try-hard,” 24-year-old fashion and beauty writer Kelly Dougher told me. “The irony of this is the fact that it takes weeks, if not months, to find the perfect pair of dressy sweatpants that will never even see the inside of a gym: not too baggy but not too clingy, the perfect shade of marbled grey, cropped at just the right point at one’s ankles. If you have to spend upwards of $100 to achieve this studied slouchiness, then so be it.”
Also ironic: I, personally, would feel the need to wear Spanx or some other brand of shapewear with my non-gym sweatpants, to achieve that smoother, I’ve-been-going-to-the-gym look. But that’s definitely not a popular sentiment among millennials.
“It hurts so bad!” Rachel Perkins, a 25-year-old writer, said after shouting something about Spanx I can’t repeat. “Nothing should be that tight. You are just asking for infections in all sorts of places that you didn’t even know you could get infections.”
Sonny F, a 25-year-old sales manager who recently witnessed one of her best friends purchase Crocs, has a theory about why so many women in her generation are choosing to see comfortable footwear as fashionable.
“Maybe there’s a correlation between how young people are gravitating towards places with a large ‘walking culture’ – cities, etcetera – and staying there longer than previous generations,” she mused, “so we’re out walking around all the time and can’t be expected to wear uncomfortable footwear.”
Even some of the trends that seem sexy aren’t necessarily intended to be interpreted that way. The crop top, for example, may appear to an onlooker as a way to show skin; to the wearer, however, it’s may be a low-maintenance garment with the added bonus of built-in air conditioning.
“The thing about crop tops is that it’s less of a commitment. Some days, I can’t muster the energy for an entire shirt,” Rachel told me. “For me, it feels sexy in a fun way. I’m thinking of the way Ilana from Broad City wears crop tops, which is very playful and not provocative.”
And there’s no way I can think of that a crop top would allow for Spanx underneath.