While many women are working and lounging from home, they are finding a blossoming comfort in wearing the most feminine of silhouettes.
Life as we knew it was tossed out the window in 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, away went dinner parties, art exhibitions, and extravagant fashion weeks. As lockdowns buckled most of the world down at home, ideas shifted with regards to how we should dress, beautify ourselves, and feel good when confined to home, seeing the same people, day in and day out. Life goes on, as does fashion. Adapting to the circumstances, the desire to dress-up persists – albeit with comfort.
Along with stylish athleisure brands that are now stocked in every woman’s wardrobe, are also day dresses – the new loungewear. The trend took to the runways of SS21 in the form of slim dresses, often with pouf- sleeves and ethereal fabric, from Alessandra Rich, Coach, and Rodarte. They harkened back to the ultra-feminine, gracious glamour of the 1940s. These are accompanied by long, layered tunics at Fendi and Jil Sander, which can be easily worn at home or out in comfort. Middle Eastern designers similarly picked up on the trend, launching a host of dainty dresses for a wide variety of occasions. Flexibility and versatility are key these days.
At Reemami, Reema Al Banna devised several long dresses, some in tunic style and others with a tight bodice reflective of the Forties dress. These are decorated with the designer’s distinct artistic flair, with long, colorful lines and shapes and playful sketches. “While everyone is saying that leisurewear and activewear are taking over, I believe that dresses and skirts that make a woman feel good are still very much here and will never go out of fashion or be overlooked, even during these times,” comments Al Banna. “My collections continue to have easy-to-wear, comfortable dresses as well as fabulous dresses for all occasions. We will most likely use stretchy fabrics, like jersey material.”
Dubai-based Bouguessa’s SS21 collection includes long shirts in a variety of earthy hues, alongside button-down dresses. “They were designed with high comfort in mind; the material is natural fibers for the majority, allowing the clothes to be airy and easy,” says designer Faiza Bouguessa. “We want to focus on classic pieces with a longer life cycle, but at the core of this collection is the freshness of the material that brings this concept of day dresses and day wear as loungewear.” Lama Jouni, a Dubai-based, Lebanese designer, echoes the need for triumph but also glamour. Her latest designs include slim-fit halter dresses that are at once seductive and allow the wearer to move with ease. “As a designer I see the shift in the mentality of women when it comes to shopping; women want to feel comfortable, elegant, yet effortless and that’s what I want to offer with this line.” As Salim Cherfane, designer of Lebanese brand Jeux de Mains, known for its playful and disruptive designs, says, “We all need basics. We all need something to hold us together and make us feel comfortable with everything happening on the outside in this world.”
The day dress trend whisks us back to another period of great cultural change: the Roaring Twenties, which followed the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918. Women were also theoretically granted the right to vote in the US in 1920. During this time, at the end of each day, women would hang up their house dresses and aprons and go out to run errands and visit friends. The dresses they donned were comfortable yet fancy with lusher materials. The cut and the fabric used differentiated a woman’s house dress from her day dress. The latter was made largely of casual jersey, wool, linen, knits, crepe, and rayon as well as silk, organdy, taffeta, and velvet. In essence, it helped mark a woman’s newfound political and cultural freedoms.
Saeedah Haque, a British-Bangladeshi designer known for her streetwear abayas, has similarly devised overlays and dresses that reflect our new era’s need for dressing with comfort and elegance. “Comfort is the greatest luxury and loungewear is the new power dressing,” she posits. “I love to disrupt the formal day dress and it is through challenging things that we can innovate. Comfort is a power unlike any other. I want us to wear that power and take it to the streets.”
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia