We may be on the verge of the Roaring 20s of consumerism, but instead of flapper dresses and cloche hats, it’s crop tops and rigid denim. As millions of vaccinated Americans emerge from months of home lockdowns and other COVID-era restrictions, retail experts predict a surge in spending on categories including apparel. Yet while brands have focused in the last year on Zoom-friendly blouses and accessories on top and leisurewear such as sweatpants and leggings on the bottom, they’re now pushing “hard pants” such as jeans and trousers, along with silhouettes that are more fitted, but still able to hide any weight gain from the pandemic.
“It’s the first time in a year nationwide that we are hearing feedback of ‘I’m ready to start investing in apparel again and investing in everything that can’t be seen right now below the waist,” says Frank Berman, executive VP and chief marketing officer at Bloomingdale’s.
In 2020, spending on apparel fell 19%, according to market research firm NPD Group, as consumers spent on categories such as health care, home furnishings and home office supplies. Dollars also flowed to child care, including babysiters, as parents had to adjust to new virtual school situations brought on by the coronavirus. The bulk of apparel sales was comprised of comfortwear such as sweatpants, whose sales jumped 17%, NPD found. But the business is now shifting. For example, sales of jeans—which fell 21% to $13.1 billion in the 12 months ending in February—are expected to rebound in the remaining part of the year, even outpacing 2019 trends, NPD projects.
“Denim is definitely back—denim never dies,” says Erik Torstensson, co-founder and chief creative director at jeans brand Frame, noting recent customer demands for rigid and straight denim.