An immaculate optic white or luxurious clotted cream ensemble is quite different to your regular tracksuit. These elevated, luxurious pieces are perhaps the inevitable answer to the quandary of how to dress realistically for our new lives; prioritising comfort without giving up on style.
The allure partly lies in the tension between comfort and cleanliness, which (while juggling Zoom calls, childcare, and cooking three meals a day, for some) is truly next to godliness. “You have to be careful with what you consume in a day – strictly dry food only,” admits British Vogue’s deputy editor and fashion features director, and long-time light-coloured loungewearer, Sarah Harris. “I’m not saying it isn’t tricky with a three-year-old in tow.” The insouciant air of a buttermilk cashmere set critically relies on remaining scrupulously blemish-free – one drop of soy sauce and the dazzling effect is muddied.
Far from evoking an off-duty spirit, a refined cream or snowy white tracksuit can even pass professional muster when well accessorised. “I am always interested in juxtapositions to elevate a simple cosy piece, like adding a more structured garment or shoe to anchor the softness,” says Brooklyn-based designer Lauren Manoogian, who has created her own oeuvre of gorgeous tonal house clothes in nubby wools, alpaca and linen (picking up scores of new customers, as well as repeat business from her loyal fans, during the past year.)
Harris concurs, “I’m obsessed with comfort and how my clothes feel next to skin, but you can’t just turn up to Vogue House wearing a tracksuit, which is why I cheat it, by smartening it up a fraction with loafers, or a black tailored blazer, some good gold jewellery, all of which has the power to gear shift the humble tracksuit.” Pernille Teisbaek, a self-confessed “cream tracksuit nerd”, has eight different sets she has been circulating non-stop during lockdown and her recent pregnancy. “A cream tracksuit feels more elevated and feminine styled together with loafers and jewellery. I really like a tonal look, so I often wear the tracksuit with a coat in beige, when going out to get coffee,” she says. A favourite of hers is by OperaSport, thanks to its luxe feel and longer leg length.
Elevating these pieces from “basics” to exceptional fashion begins on the cutting table. “We give our tracksuits the same level of attention as we give our tailoring,” says Alex Eagle, whose Alex Eagle Sporting Club leisurewear line has consistently sold out since its November 2020 launch. “They are all about comfort, elegance and sophistication. We use the best Japanese brush back cotton and they are developed and made in our studio in Soho.” Her Lexington drop in cream and her Berwick drop in white hark back to the pristine kits of British sports, such as fencing and lawn tennis, which were simply dubbed “whites”. “I gravitate towards paler colours because they show off texture and forms really well,” says Manoogian, whose signature light palette allows focus to fall on her luxurious textiles, shapes, and details.
But why, when we can’t wait to shake off the shackles of domesticity and make a break for the office/bar/anywhere, won’t our desire for a wardrobe of elevated cosiness subside? “When people are having more limited experiences on a day-to-day basis, they focus on the little comforts and details of what they are wearing and surrounding themselves with,” says Manoogian. It’s no coincidence then there is a synergy between the soothing reassurance of this look and the comforts of home. Wearing pristine cream cashmere is the embodiment of reclining in a Joseph Dirand sitting room, which appears effortlessly put together, yet no detail is out of place in the exquisitely constructed milky bouclé environment.
It follows, too, that many of the designers serving up elevated house clothes have extended their ambitions to the home itself. London-based designer Oyuna also creates cashmere blankets alongside her ivory knitted separates (a favourite of Harris, who says her designs “look like a suit but feel as good as pjs”).
There is something of the blank canvas about a uniform chalky outfit, a palette cleanser for what comes next. “I think a lot of people will be working and living under different circumstances for the foreseeable future, so I do think that there will be a lasting impact,” says Manoogian. “I hope a positive effect is that people start dressing more for themselves and their own comfort.”
Shop four of the best pristine cream loungewear and tracksuits, below and more here.
Hooded top, £400, and track pants, £300, available at Wardrobe.NYC.
The Elder Statesman cashmere sweater, £825, and trackpants, £855, available at Matchesfashion.com.