Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the U.S Casualization of Fashion market including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Consumers’ desire for comfort, the explosion of versatile activewear and the relaxation of work and social dress codes have all played a role in today’s casual clothing lifestyle. It began before the COVID-19 pandemic but has only been propelled by the pandemic in 2020 and will outlast the virus for the foreseeable future. Casual clothing items are primarily the only type of clothing consumers are buying right now, bringing significant challenges to the apparel sector in general. Retailers need to tout their existing casual pieces and/or consider expanding product assortments to include more casualization. In the future, even when there are more occasions to dress up for, consumers will not want to be confined in their clothing and continue to seek comfort, versatility and function.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the apparel sector, with a particular focus on casual fashion.
  • Consumers’ approach to buying clothes in a down economy.
  • Types of comfortable clothing items, including athleisure types, people are wearing more frequently.
  • Consumers’ attitudes toward workwear.

Covered in this report

Brands featured: Bandier, J.Crew, Rent the Runway, Hill House Home, Asos, Saks, Revolve, Entireworld, Acabada ProActiveWear, Under Armour, LVMH, Madhappy, Walmart, ThredUp, Allen Edmonds and many more.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Diana Smith a leading analyst in the Retail sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Sweatpants, hoodies and other comfortable clothing items compose the uniform of choice during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers are confined to their homes. The reality is, though, that this casual approach to fashion has been trending for some time and will outlast the pandemic as well. While consumers are looking forward to having more occasions to attend and reasons to dress up a bit, they won’t be abandoning their elastic waistband pants or cotton T-shirts anytime soon.

Diana Smith
Associate Director – Retail & eCommerce

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • COVID-19: market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Total US retail sales and forecast of men’s and women’s clothing, at current prices, 2015-25
    • Impact of COVID-19 on retail and apparel
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on retail and apparel, November 2020
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Meet the consumer at home
    • Discuss value not only in dollars and cents, but also product attributes and benefits
    • Determine the appropriate niche
    • Prepare for a transition to premium casual
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Apparel bears brunt of pandemic
    • Casual, athletic clothing is the industry’s bright spot
    • Moving along the spectrum of casualization
    • Obesity is a national dilemma
  4. Market Landscape

    • Apparel market faces declines during pandemic
      • Figure 3: Total US retail sales and forecast of men’s and women’s clothing, at current prices, 2015-25
    • Casual and athletic wear will drive the category
      • Figure 4: Movement toward casualization pre-COVID-19, by generation, August 2020
    • Impact of COVID-19 on retail and apparel
      • Figure 5: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on retail and apparel, November 2020
    • Lockdown
    • Reemergence
    • Recovery
    • COVID-19: US context
    • Learnings from the last recession
  5. Market Factors

    • Buying clothes is not a priority right now
      • Figure 6: Consumer confidence and unemployment, January-October 2020
    • Consumer Price Index for apparel drops as retailers turn to discounting
      • Figure 7: Consumer Price Index for apparel – December 2017-November 2020
    • Society’s fashion sense has relaxed
    • Younger generations fueling the casualization movement
      • Figure 8: Select casual clothing items, by generation, August 2020
    • Channel shifting leads to more casual way of buying clothing
      • Figure 9: Shopping behaviors amid COVID-19, December 1-11, 2020
    • Obesity worsens
      • Figure 10: Prevalence of obesity among US adults aged 20 and over, by gender and age and gender and race and Hispanic origin, 2017-18
      • Figure 11: 11 Honoré social media posts regarding private label launch
  6. Market Opportunities

    • Evaluate risks/rewards of aligning with casual fashion lifestyle choices
      • Figure 12: Attitudes toward streetwear, by area and gender and ethnicity, August 2020
      • Figure 13: BornxRaised and Los Angeles Rams clothing collaboration
      • Figure 14: adidas x Yeezy Boost
    • Carve out a niche in the casualization spectrum
      • Figure 15: JCPenney Stylus launch
    • Help consumers plan for post-pandemic occasions
    • Offer support for consumers by providing value in multiple forms
  7. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Clothing brands pivot to meet consumers at home
    • Consumers are discovering apparel brands through social media
    • Functional meets practical when it comes to activewear
    • Luxury brands try to stay afloat by adopting popular trends among Gen Zs and Millennials
    • Nonapparel brands get into casual apparel
  8. Competitive Strategies

    • Cozy is en vogue
      • Figure 16: Retailers pivot to discuss comfort in advertising, April/May 2020
    • Loungewear has no limits
      • Figure 17: Hill House Home nap dress
      • Figure 18: Entireworld promotes loungewear
    • Practical activewear is here; is functional activewear next?
    • Luxury pivots toward casual fashion trends
    • Slippers over heels
      • Figure 19: Jimmy Choo promotes casual footwear
    • CPG companies expand into branded apparel merchandise
      • Figure 20: Chipotle branded apparel made from avocado pits, August 2020
  9. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • COVID-19 causes consumers to get casual and comfy
    • Athleisure’s growth means decline of other occasion wear
    • Lines blur between at home wear and out of home wear
    • Relaxed dress codes and more remote work policies put a dent in traditional workwear
    • More tuned into the emotional benefits of clothing
  10. Consumer Trends Impacting the Casualization of Fashion

    • Value
    • Identity
    • Wellbeing
    • Experiences
  11. Popular Items

    • Casual on the top, casual on the bottom
      • Figure 21: Popular items, August 2020
      • Figure 22: Amazon Made For You custom T-shirts
    • Living in leggings
      • Figure 23: Select popular items, by gender, August 2020
    • What consumers say about their favorite casual items
    • The return of the khaki pant
      • Figure 24: Gap partners with Steve Kornacki to donate to Boys & Girls Clubs of America
    • Joggers, everyone?
      • Figure 25: Lululemon email for joggers
    • Do jeans ever go out of style?
      • Figure 26: FRAME Le One Skinny jean launch
  12. Athleisure’s Role in the Wardrobe

    • Athleisure’s growth will impede sales of other types of apparel
      • Figure 27: Athleisure items by occasion, August 2020
    • Marketing athleisure for seniors
      • Figure 28: Athleisure items worn for dual purposes of fitness and casual, by gender and age, August 2020
    • Preferences in fitness clothing
    • Where people exercise can impact clothing choices
    • Important product attributes
    • Face masks – a new workout accessory
      • Figure 29: Face masks for or related to sport
    • Retailers keeping joining athleisure movement, suggesting longevity of this leisure style of dress
      • Figure 30: Aerie’s new activewear line Offline by Aerie
      • Figure 31: Madewell’s MWL athleisure line
  13. Casual Fashion Occasions

    • “Dressing for the occasion” loses meaning
      • Figure 32: Casual fashion occasions prior to COVID-19, August 2020
    • In their words
    • Current approach to casualization
    • Approach to casualization in the next normal
  14. Dressing for Work Occasions

    • Work at home becomes the new norm; dress code at home office is “anything goes”
      • Figure 33: Attitudes/behaviors related to working at home, by gender and age, August 2020
      • Figure 34: Gap Inc. – Athleta and Banana Republic COVID-19 messaging, April 2020
      • Figure 35: WFH Jammies
      • Figure 36: Lululemon loungewear email, November 2020
    • Dressing down is the new dressing up for work
      • Figure 37: Dress trends at work, by employment, August 2020
      • Figure 38: Betabrand versatile dress pants, December 2020
      • Figure 39: Dressing preferences at work, by gender and age, August 2020
    • Employees want to decide for themselves how to express their personal brands at work
      • Figure 40: Expectations for the future of work attire, by gender and age, August 2020
  15. Preferred Retailers

    • Mass merchandisers and department stores favored for clothing
      • Figure 41: Retailers shopped, June 2020
    • Conscious young affluents consider alternative sources for their casual wears
      • Figure 42: Local, secondhand and rental services shopped, by age and income, June 2020
  16. Attitudes toward Casual Clothing

    • Consumers value personal comfort
      • Figure 43: Attitudes toward casual clothing, August 2020
    • Younger consumer are more into stylish comfort
      • Figure 44: Attitudes toward casual clothing, by gender and age, August 2020
  17. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Consumer qualitative research
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  18. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 45: Total US retail sales and forecast of men’s and women’s clothing, by segment, at current prices, 2015-25
      • Figure 46: Population by generation, 2014-24
  19. Appendix – The Consumer

    • Online discussion panel responses
    • Other data
      • Figure 47: Coronavirus spending priorities, April 16-September 25, 2020
      • Figure 48: Sweatpants/jogger pants, by gender and age, August 2020
      • Figure 49: Jeans, by gender and age, August 2020

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