“Get them tight. They stretch.” This oft-repeated tidbit of premium denim fit advice could go double-duty as the style directive of the past decade, an era that brought us not only painted-on, low-rise women’s jeans, but also a term coined to describe their downside: “muffin top.” And it wasn’t just designer denim that fit like a second skin. The early Aughts saw Juicy Couture velour hoodies, James Perse tees, and Theory sweaters downsized to the point where they appeared to have been filched from a fifth-grader’s closet. (It’s no coincidence Pilates also gained popularity during this time.)
But fashion is fueled by change, and the shift to more androgynous looks and unstructured silhouettes we’ve seen over the last few seasons (witness Current/Elliott's game-changing boyfriend jeans or celebrities snapping up KAIN Label slouchy tees) signaled that a more relaxed approach was taking hold, an offhand brand of sexiness was capturing our imaginations. It reached critical mass on the fall 2009 runways where ADAM by Adam Lippes showed a shoulder-baring sweatshirt over a sweeping gown, Thakoon paired a boyfriend blazer with sequined harem pants, and Alexander Wang put his modern femme fatale muse in an oversized button-down that brought to mind a man without a shirt.
But this isn’t to say the relaxed look owes everything to the runway. On the streets today girls are styling sweatpants with heels in a canny repurposing of a sporty classic. (I’m a huge fan.) What’s next? Spring 2010 promises a soft pant that I’m betting will be the heir apparent to the must-have harem.