From couch to red carpet, athleisure gets its high fashion break

Has Covid made sweatpants and hoodies acceptable formal attire? Celebrities walking the Met Gala red carpet seem to think so

“What’s more American than a t-shirt head to toe?” quipped Kim Kardashian on Instagram, about her Met Gala 2021 gown, before arriving on the red carpet in Balenciaga. And arrive she did. 

Just when you thought the athleisure fashion trend couldn’t get any hotter, the sports-inspired, comfort-driven style phenomenon has infiltrated one of fashion’s biggest nights: the Met Gala.

Fashion deconstructed

A feat made possible by a year of pandemic-induced social restrictions that have seen fashion formalities deconstruct and dress codes come undone, as the practicality of clothes becomes the driving force in what one chooses to wear.

At this year’s Met Gala theme ‘American Independence’, athleisure jogged its way onto the event’s red carpet. Celebrities and designers alike embraced the post-lockdown style relaxedness we’ve come to love, cementing athleisure as a bona fide trend for this year, at galas, black-tie events, weddings, dinner parties and beyond.

Photo: Nike

From silk boxer shorts to football jersey gowns, tuxedo jogger pants to t-shirt dresses, getting comfy in sweats seem to have become socially acceptable.

Monochromatic punch

Packing a style punch on the red carpet this year was Vera Wang. The New York designer’s monochromatic Met Gala design was half evening gown, half athletic gear. Up top, a black bandeau top with ivory veil – crafted from wool and stretch cupro – that fell to the floor and split away. The bottoms are a ring-ready pair of black silk duchess satin boxing trunks. Wang’s signature sky-high heels are making their return, elongated by thigh-high socks. Boom.

Neon touchdown

Fashion, and football fans alike, cheered on Ciara’s stunning Dundas creation on Sunday night. The ‘Lose Control’ singer bedazzled onlookers in a neon-green sequined dress, cut backless and figure-hugging to the floor. The dress comes with design details modelled after the jersey of Ciara’s footballer husband, Russel Wilson (who plays for the Seattle Seahawks), even bearing his No. 3 jersey number on the front. Ciara’s blingy football clutch and Russell’s authentic Super Bowl ring are touch-down choices for the singer’s gala accessories.

Also see: Princess Diana, Lady Kitty Spencer and 6 royals who made wedding dress history

Black, white and red visions

Jennifer Hudson met the gala’s American theme with a fiery red gown, designed by AZ Factory. The brand was founded by the late Alber Elbaz. The crimson dress cut hugged and busty, thanks to a sports-inspired bodice made from ribbed knit fabric, part of the house’s Anatoknit technology that embraces luxury comfort, and body movement. Billowing satin sleeves and skirt glamourised the look.

A vision in white, Met Gala 2021 co-chairman Timothée Chalamet chose to wear a high-low ensemble by Haider Ackermann. The ‘Call Me By Your Name’ actor’s outfit consisted of a satin tuxedo jacket with black lapels, uniquely paired with white sweat pants, cuffed and pulled up at the ankle, over white elevated socks. High-top Converse sneakers founding the athleisure eveningwear look. He takes it one step further and pins two vintage Cartier diamond brooches to his pants.

Designed by fashion’s enfant terrible, Demna Gvasalia, Kardashian’s blackout cotton jersey ensemble was composed of a turtleneck bodysuit worn under an oversized t-shirt dress with a long train. The all-black get-up was accessorised with Balenciaga’s signature legging boots, matching gloves, and a head-obscuring mask, just like the one ex-husband Kanye has been wearing at his ‘Donda’ performances. Gothic athleisure at its finest.

Chance the Rapper wore American fashion royalty, Ralph Lauren, to the Met Gala. In honour of Ralph Lauren’s Stadium collection from the ’90s, Chance wore a suit from the vintage-inspired line: a black, white and red double-breasted jacket and slim-fit black trousers. They come with an array of sports symbols and graphics sewn into the luxury fabric. A red baseball cap capping off the sports luxe look.

There’s no knowing if the athleisure formalwear trend is here to stay. One thing, however, is certain: the world is embracing plush jumpers and comfy sweatpants like never before.

Also see: Amanda Gorman on co-chairing the Met Gala and her defining moment of 2021

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