Sweats have never been more ubiquitous than in 2020. Cozy queens have rejoiced, living their best life in a stylish rotation of fleecy grey, sleek black, and colorful tie-dye iterations. Even steadfast naysayers have made peace with the snug-as-a-bug bottom, embracing it for a primarily at-home existence. Like any trend or article of clothing in your wardrobe, however, monotony takes a toll, and eventually, you need to shake things up. With 2021 drawing near, a new slew of comfy pants trends are the perfect place to start.
“Leading into the holidays, there’s a higher demand for comfy, yet put-together looks,” Shopbop fashion director Caroline Maguire tells TZR, highlighting knitted pants, leggings, and pull-on silhouettes as popular seasonal picks. But, with COVID-19 spurring the craving for sweater-like bottoms and elasticized waists long before the festive season — two trends that have strongly resonated among Shopbop customers as chic, sweatpant alternatives — Maguire says “enhanced, comfy-cozy” pant styles are the antidote for impending fatigue.
“People are interested in dressing up their day-to-day looks while still maintaining a level of comfort and accessibility,” she explains. “Going into 2021, it’s all about trying to regain some sense of ‘fashion normalcy’ while remaining comfortable.” Her prediction: a shift toward loose-fitted trousers, swishy wide-legs, pull-on silhouettes, and utilitarian cargos for elevated comfort.
Echoing Maguire, Intermix’s chief merchant, Divya Mathur, says 2020 has taught her that being comfortable does not mean sacrificing style — a lesson for those currently burnt out on sweats. “Getting dressed is an important part of setting my tone and intention for the day, and I find that when I look pulled together, I feel that way too,” she explains. Though structured dresses and heels have yet to make their way back into her wardrobe, she says jumpsuits, cargo pants, and wide-leg silk trousers are comfortable options for elevated at-home style. Even better, these types of pants are guaranteed to see more wear outside the home in the long run which means, way more bang for your buck.
“I know that I’m not going to want to look back on my wardrobe a year from now and wonder why it’s all a sea of tie-dye sweatpants,” Mathur reasons. “I think it’s important to continue investing in the pieces that you can wear in this environment, and also when we are back to ‘normal.’ Using that filter has really helped me to be discerning in my purchases and define what cozy style means to me.”
If you’re currently searching for a new comfy pant to replace your sweats, be it for cozy nights in or post-COVID wear, ahead, six trends experts are championing going into 2021 and beyond.
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The Comfy Pants Trend: Utility-Inspired
Maguire and Mathur agree: utility-inspired pants are having a big moment, from breathable twill trousers to luxurious satin cargos. “I love a utility cargo pant because it adds instant edge to any outfit,” Mathur says. Her go-to look? Cargo pants with ankle booties and a feminine blouse.
The Comfy Pants Trend: Ponte Pants
Danielle Williams Eke, 11 Honoré’s design director, says sweatpants — which have been her go-to for working from home and running errands — will continue to be a part of her wardrobe in the foreseeable future. For holiday time with family, however, she’s filling her shopping carts with elevated alternatives. “Ponte pants are the epitome of dressy-casual. They tend to have trouser tailoring while feeling like you’re wearing leggings,” she tells TZR. “I wear them often, with loafers, sneakers, and boots. They’re so comfortable,” she says. Another outfit easy-chic formula: ponte pants paired with a turtleneck and sneakers.
The Comfy Pants Trend: Joggers
Joggers are a comfort-dressing mainstay and one of Maguire’s top comfy pants trends. It’s a versatile look she’s championing for winter and into 2021. “I’m opting for cotton denim joggers for a more put-together look — perfect for dressing up at home for the holidays with a festive top layered over a turtleneck or under a chunky cardigan,” she says.
To get the most out of a pair of joggers, the style director is all about layering with various pieces and suggests mixing in patterns, textures, and colors for a sartorial boost when starting with a more straightforward design. “I love to pair my denim joggers with a striped long-sleeve and statement jacket with lug sole boots,” Maguire says.
The Comfy Pants Trend: Knit Pant
Whether fitted or roomy, a pair of thick-knit pants is one of the most popular sweatpant alternatives for 2020. According to Maguire, Mathur, and Williams Eke, they’re going strong for 2021. “I’m seeing so many versions of sweater knit pants,” Williams Eke tells TZR. “I love them as an alternative to sweats because they tend to feel a bit more luxe but just as cozy as sweats.”
More than luxuriously comfortable, the 11 Honoré design director points out another bonus: the built-in styling. “Sweater pants tend to come with a matching top,” she says. “For a more chic look, pair with a satin button-front shirt with a French tuck.”
As for Mathur’s favorite way to style knit pants, she says, “I love pairing mine with a barely-there camisole and a leather jacket and sneakers.”
The Comfy Pants Trend: Loose Trousers
Loose-fitted trousers have been popular among Shopbop customers — a trend Maguire says is sticking around for 2021, most often, with a pull-on waist. Warm and cozy flannel is a great way to embrace the look for winter. Or, you can go the luxe route via plissé pleats or drapey, silk styles.
“A loose trouser is a great way to get dressed up for entertaining at home. I love a wide-leg with a chic slide and a fitted cardigan,” Mathur says. Williams Eke adds, “wide-leg pants are an easy way to look chic but in the most comfortable way possible,” recommending a lofty sweater and a slide paired with your favorite.
The Comfy Pants Trend: Jumpsuits
The most significant departure from sweats with two legs still involved? A comfy jumpsuit made from cashmere, silk, or cozy cotton. “I love how a jumpsuit takes the thinking out of pulling together an outfit and how versatile they are to style,” Mathur says. “I wear my cashmere jumpsuit with sneakers when I’m in mom mode on the weekends or with a wide belt and great ankle boot for a quick dinner out.”