An outfit from Derek Lam’s collaboration with Athleta. Photo: Courtesy
Fashionista, frow, smize, glamit, maj: All words made up by “fashion people,” those so obsessed with getting dressed that they spend significant portions of their lives shopping, critiquing, gossiping, and even making their living off of clothes. Tastemakers—editors, buyers, designers, and the industry’s elite—are generally responsible for the invention of not just trends, but the vernacular adopted across the industry as a whole. The trickle-down effect mandates that these eventually reach the masses. In 2015, everyone from soccer moms to city girls wore their gym clothes to brunch and beyond, coining a new word for alll things spandex: athleisure.
This phenomenon—in which office clackers ditch their Louboutins for New Balances—is the buzzword of the moment for the sartorial set. Vanessa Friedman, the New York Times’s fashion critic, set out to discover what it really, truly means by degrading herself to writing a first person story in the same vein as Cosmopolitan. But theres a reason why Cosmopolitan.com is one of the most visited sites on the Internet — personal tales actually dig up news! In her quest, Friedman discovered that not only are spandex truly comfortable and god’s gift to womankind, but Merriam-Webster will be adding the made-up amalgam of athletic + leisure to the dictionary.
According to Emily Brewster, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster, the mashup has graduated from “word we’re watching” to “full-fledged noun.” It will be included in the next edition and defined as “casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use.”
After wearing her spandex to the office for a week and discovering an affinity for Tory Sport (Tory Burch is just one of many designers to recognize and design for the comfort-lover), Friedman adds her own wordy interpretation. She posits that “athleisure is about a certain sartorial value system that places comfort and functionality, as expressed in workout clothing, on the same level as style, and that communicates to the rest of the world that you place health and wellness on the same level in your own life. That says that the best qualities of workout gear—it is body-aware but not constricting, it is washable, it is non-wrinkle, it is like pajamas you can wear out of the house—are qualities that can and should translate to ready-to-wear.”
Or, it’s just an excuse to wear leggings all the time.