Want an alternative to chic sweatpants? Try on retro knitting sets
I FEEL LIKE I’m cheating, ”Sara Idacavage said of the incredible comfort she enjoys when she leaves the house in the vintage knit pants and top sets that dominate her wardrobe. “I get away with pajamas,” she added with genuine disbelief in her voice. “People say, ‘You look so fancy!’ [but] I could fall asleep here right away. Ms Idacavage, 34, a fashion historian from Athens, Georgia, sports these form-fitting ensembles with heels and a belt for a night out; combine them with smoking slippers and earrings for cocktails at home; or, if she’s shopping for groceries, puts on Converses and a backpack. Her favorite shades of knitting? Seventy shades like peach and turquoise.
Ms Idacavage’s style antecedent, Mary Tyler Moore, went with cream for the ribbed knit ensemble (above) which she wore in 1969 to fly from London to Los Angeles. In her groundbreaking sitcom, which debuted in 1970, Ms. Moore sought to portray assertive women in the workplace – mostly wearing the same suits, skirts and vests as her real-world counterparts. Here, however, it presents a more fluid form of practicality: effortless enough for transatlantic travel (and high kicks), but chic enough for a photoshoot, especially when paired with a chain belt and straps. moccasins.
“ People say I look fancy, but I could fall asleep there right away. ”
Americans may not be going overseas soon, but the world is cautiously reopening. And as we dine or tentatively repopulate our socially remote cubicles, many women want it all: outfits that merge the comfort of stretchy quarantine clothing with the uncomfortable polish of adult clothing. Spring’s many malleable knit sets offer this relaxed luxury. “A knit ensemble is the perfect way to step back into the world,” said Beth Buccini, founder of New York boutique Kirna Zabête, whose customers are drawn to raised knits. She cites a bell-sleeve style from New York label Proenza Schouler (below) as a “versatile dream for work, dinner, office – all that.”
The brand’s designers, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, stuck to this exact formula when they designed the lockdown viscose-blend set. “We wanted something that felt snug and comfy, but not a schlumpy-looking tracksuit,” said Mr. McCollough who, like most of us, seems to have had enough of all that athleisure stuff.
Victor Glemaud, a New York knitwear designer specializing in punchy patterned ensembles, put it more bluntly: a knit ensemble is “the perfect transitional outfit because it is. [actually] a outfit… It’s gathered but you don’t have to think about it.
This obvious appeal drew Sherry Fischer, a retired manufacturer representative in Fowler, Indonesia. After a year in yoga pants, she said, “The last thing we want to think about is a belt or tidy things up.” Now, for her occasional outings with friends, Ms. Fischer, 68, indulges in St. John brand beltless mesh sets. She thinks her look is relevant now but not new – she adopted it 30 years ago while enduring long days of sales presentations and working dinners. Unlike the rigid suits of his colleagues, his knitwear has always remained crumpled.
Likewise, when Marina Larroudé, co-founder of her eponymous shoe brand, faces a busy day, she turns to knitwear from brands like Live the Process and Alaïa. (She had a Zara ensemble, but her preteen daughter stole it – a testament to the outfit’s multigenerational appeal.) As a “woman on the go,” Ms. Larroudé appreciates the consistent crispness of her ensembles. “Even at the end of a long day at work, you still look good,” said the New Yorker, who teams up with sneakers for weekends with the kids and heels for more formal occasions. .
The fact that these suits allow for a low-maintenance style helped popularize them in the 1960s and 1970s as interest in belts curdled. Clearly descending from Coco Chanel’s early 1910s jersey suits and Jean Patou’s 1920s sporting goods, knit pant sets rose to prominence along with second wave feminism. “These were known as wash and wear sets,” explained Ms. Idacavage, the fashion historian. “You could put them in the wash and it would look exactly the same… It was this miraculous invention in that you didn’t have to worry about it. Miraculous indeed. Who has time to iron when you overthrow gender norms? Or traveling the globe a la Ms. Moore, for that matter.
When asked if liquid knits border the territory of kitsch loungewear, Ms. Larroudé replied, “It looks a lot more chic.” Still, for maximum sophistication, opt for ornate ensembles, like the puddle pants and flared cuffs of Proenza’s grip, which Hernandez says give it “a surprising element”, avoiding “pedestrian nothingness.” Chelsea Hansford, artistic director of Los Angeles brand Simon Miller, suggests relaxed tunics that reveal the collarbone or wrist, like those from her brand’s Rib collection (below), which is responsible for over 30% of its sales last year.
Much like beaming Ms. Moore (note the smile – and, again, the high kick), Ms. Idacavage feels invigorated in her soft mesh. “I’m ready to attack the day I put them on,” she said. “I want that feeling 24/7. I wish all my clothes were like this.
KNITWEAR THAT DOESN’T STOP
Ribbed sets to go from a loveseat zoom to a night out
Mary tyler moore-ish
Slip into this neutral Simon Miller style, a machine washable ensemble that mimics Ms. Moore’s, then subvert its minimalism with these colorful sandals and the splashy red bag that’s been collecting dust in your closet for two years now. High, $ 130, saksfifthavenue.com; Trousers, $ 170, simonmillerusa.com
Relaxed and retro
Live the Process offers flexible fashion for a lifestyle based on well-being. Co-opting the allure of the comfort of the tracksuit, this set adds enough polish to help you and encourage your return to plans in person. Throw it over a leotard for pilates in the park and head straight for alfresco dining. Cardigan, $ 248, Trousers, $ 258, livetheprocess.com
Those who prefer their comfy, clingy knits to leave a lot to the imagination should take a cue from Ms. Moore and opt for an ensemble with an elongated top, like this wide ribbed merino wool cardigan, with matching pants from Theory. Cardigan, $ 395, Trousers, $ 355, theory.com
A spectacular bell collar and sleeves on Proenza Schouler’s haute couture knit cardigan and pants reinforce the cozy concept with a bit of formality. Only a very inattentive friend could mistake this set for sweatshirts. Think of it as the perfect look both for a spring party and for undoing “Call My Agent” frenzy plans instead. Cardigan, $ 990, Trousers, $ 1,090, proenzaschouler.com
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