Quarantined Consumers Are Still Shopping for Clothes — But They're Putting a Lot More Thought Into It

Dhani Mau

The 1,300 respondents of our latest survey have found new factors to consider in deciding what to buy (and who to buy it from).

When we initially got the idea to poll our readers on their quarantine shopping and dressing habits, it was mainly to clock any fundamental changes in what our readers were shopping for. Had they committed permanently to a wardrobe of athleisure? Were they practicing "wishful shopping," a term I just made up that refers to buying cute outfits as a way of holding out hope for a less socially-distant future?

While sales of sweatpants and leggings continue to be on the rise, shoppers are also now being influenced by a number of factors not related to the shelter-in-place lifestyle — like whether a brand's founder had been exposed for racist behavior, or how a designer responded to police brutality, or if a deal is too good to pass up. Our 1,300 survey respondents, nearly all of whom categorized themselves as quarantined, seem to be taking a more thoughtful approach to shopping. Read on for the most interesting findings.

It's still all about athleisure, for the most part.

About 40% of respondents said they mostly wear athleisure but will dress up occasionally to make themselves feel better. Meanwhile, another 32% said it's sweats all day every day. Of those who have to do video calls for work, more than 50% say they will at least dress up a little bit, even if it's just from the waist up or with some earrings or makeup.

About half of respondents said their wardrobe tendencies haven't really changed since the early days of quarantine, while 23% said they'd given up on real clothes even more.

Yes, people are shopping.

The majority of respondents said they are shopping for clothes in some capacity: 30% said they're shopping "a little;" 25% "only when there's a really good sale;" 13% "just as much as pre-pandemic, if not more."

And what are they shopping for?

Respondents were able to select as many responses to this question as they liked, and could also write in their own. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they were shopping for more athleisure, while about the same amount said they were shopping for outside clothes in preparation for going out again. Shoes were also a popular answer.

The individual responses shed more light on what shoppers are looking for: Many said they're just shopping for basics that they felt they needed more of in their wardrobes, like underwear, bras, T-shirts and jeans. A number of them wrote that they'd gained a little weight and needed things in bigger sizes. A lot of people also fled their homes in early March, not realizing they'd be gone this long, and had to stock up on things they hadn't packed, like summer clothes. And as the weather heats up, people have been shopping for light summer dresses that work in or out of the house. Similarly, some people said they were shopping for comfy clothes that would also be work-appropriate when the time comes to go back to the office.

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Has all of this changed shopping habits permanently?

One of the biggest things we wondered was whether this strange period will have a lasting impact on how people shop and what they choose to buy and wear once this is "all over," whatever that even means.

Just under half of respondents said they weren't sure yet if quarantine has permanently changed the way they dress. But the 14% who said it had provided some interesting answers as to how. 

About 60% of those people said they're veering more casual and will continue in that trajectory as things open back up.

"I bought better loungewear choices that make me feel good about my style at home," noted one. "I may not have otherwise focused on it so much."

Many respondents also wrote in that they are simply done with bras. 

"FUCK A BRA FOREVER (and I LOVE bras)," wrote one, with another predicting, "Underwire bras will never see a comeback."

Comfort, it seems, is a tough thing to forget.

"I am excited to dress up," said another, "but may never wear pants with buttons again."

Another common sentiment was that people were taking this time to really take stock of their wardrobes and make adjustments based on what they need or what they want their style to be

"More seasonless & minimalist going forward," explained one respondent. "The need for 'frou frou' is gone. What's the point? The pandemic has shown what really matters. All this stuff that influencers hawk — who cares?" 

Another described editing down their wardrobe to a "minimalist capsule."

"I've realized I buy too much....I have far too many clothes," shared another. "I also want less trend more individual style. Well made becomes more important."

"As someone who wears mostly black, I've found myself wanting to wear more color for the first time in my life!" wrote one. Another shared that in lieu of making more purchases, they had decided to sew their own clothes more.

Many shoppers are being more conscious about the brands they choose to support.

A lot of respondents appear to be "voting with their dollars" in today's turbulent social and political landscape. Whether or not a brand takes a stand — and what that stand is — is becoming more important, as has brands' tone throughout these difficult times

Over 60% of respondents said that recent events, and companies' public responses to them, impacted where they've been choosing to shop lately. When asked what specifically had genuinely impacted their shopping habits, the most common choices were how companies have treated their employees during the pandemic (73.77%) and how they've responded to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement (71.75%). Many people also said they're considering whether a brand donated to philanthropic causes, as well as trying to support small businesses that may have been affected.

Several people also wrote in to share specifically how they're shopping more thoughtfully than they had before.

"I wouldn't buy from brands that pushed me to shop during the pandemic," wrote one person who, understandably, doesn't appreciate being marketed to in times of mass death and unemployment. 

"I will not be buying from brands that have made it obvious that they don't understand the silencing of marginalized groups & are only jumping on the 'woke' wagon to seem cool," shared another. 

One person said they're considering how the company has "treated BIPOC employees in general." Others said they're trying to only support Black-owned brands, specifically.

Others said they're thinking more about sustainability than they had before, either shopping only from brands that uphold those values or only buying secondhand and vintage items. Some are even making a conscious decision to abstain from shopping for a while. 

"In June I'm donating all of my clothing budget to support causes that benefit the fight against racial injustices," said one respondent. "I'm focused on not buying anything if at all possible," shared another.

Generally, the biggest takeaway from the survey results was that consumers have a lot more time to think and gather information right now, and that's impacting how they shop. It was noteworthy how many respondents said some version of "I'm making more informed purchases" or "I'm being smarter about the brands I buy from and support" (both real quotes we got). Brands would be wise to take note.

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