This Fall, Fashion Can’t Get Enough of “Cocooning”
Tekla finds inspiration in Le Corbusier's legacy with a drop of mohair throws, Tom Ford does cashmere track pants, and Loro Piana drops an entire cocooning collection; as public life picks up steam, designers are making the case for bringing the comforts of home on the go—in elevated fashion.
Work and nightlife are the closest they’ve ever been to picking up where they left off pre-pandemic. Fashion designers are meeting consumers where they’re at with pieces that make the thought of ‘real clothes’ palatable by rendering them in materials that evoke the comforts of loungewear.
“As Zoom meetings make way for in-person ones, the urge to dress up has returned—but not at comfort’s expense,” the Wall Street Journal recently declared about the prevalence of track pants across office wardrobes and red-carpet events. This season, “cocooning” seems to be the word that launched a thousand moodboards. Far from the remote workforce’s turn to the comfort of sleep tees and college sweats in the pandemic’s early days, cocooning now suggests swaddling oneself in runway-worthy duds to weather a calendar again packed with office and nightlife happenings.
Taking stock of recent launches and TikTok crazes,wardrobe staples for the aspirant cocooner include a few hero textiles. First, shearling: consider teddy-bear coats and designer interpretations of the viral Birkenstock clogs. Then, cashmere: take your pick of an ankle-grazing bouclé cardigan from Loro Piana’s aptly named Cocooningcollection or a knit blazer for casual Fridays at the likes of Goldman Sachs. Mohair—perhaps in the form of a Tekla throw inspired by the genius of Le Corbusier (pictured)—works nicely to extend the domain of one’s cocoon from the self to the home (or corporate) office.
Designers have evoked chrysalis-like imagery since well before the pandemic. Balenciaga’s fortress-like outerwear under creative director Demna are an editor favorite as spiritual successors to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s balloon dress and cocoon coat, which debuted in the 1950s as a foil to the tailored suiting of Christian Dior’s postwar New Look. In 1973, Norma Kamali debuted her unforgettable sleeping bag coat. Beloved by style authorities from Solange and the late André Leon Talley to Studio 54 bouncers, it enjoyed a renaissance during the first pandemic winter as social gatherings shifted outdoors.
“Cocooning” today represents an evolution of proto-pandemic dressing habits in which those with the means donned little more than fashionable loungewear—either at home or under resplendent puffer coats for alfresco dinners in 30-degree temperatures. This was the height of the Entireworld sweatsuit—an anti-fashion-establishment label created by Band of Outsiders founder Scott Sternberg.
Even as clothing sales in the U.S. fell by 79 percent in April 2020, sales of sweatpants increased 80 percent, reported Irina Aleksander for her New York Times magazine story on Entireworld’s overnight success. The soft separates, in the words of Sternberg, “sort of make you look like a cross between a Teletubbie, Ben Stiller in The Royal Tenenbaums, and a J.C. Penney ad from 1979,” and soothed the anxieties of the GQ and HighSnobiety-adjacent crowd before the brand shuttered in 2021.
On the other end of the spectrum were Nell Diamond’s flouncy, internet-famous Nap dresses for Hill House Home, which went viral in 2021. Credited by The Cut for its ability to “de-granny the nightgown,” by combining the ease of sweats with a girlish, alt-Regency-era twist in the spirit of Bridgerton, the garment convinced everyone from Princess Eugenie to Anya Taylor-Joy to don negligees in public. The dresses also faced backlash for being elitist and superfluous, with prices ranging from $125 to $275. Some regarded them as infantilizing given that many of the prints are used for toddlers’ mommy-and-me styles, which Hill House Home also sells for $75. Others, like Elle, bemoaned the fact that, for what they charged, the dresses were little more than a “cottagecore hanky.” The derision has not swayed devotees to the Nap dress—famous and normies alike—who often own multiples. Their loyalty helped the label secure funding from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and a recent $20 million series B round of capital.
As New York City continues to trudge back to the office, with a packed social calendar and winter’s icy wind tunnels on the near horizon, cocooning offers an enticing compromise between pre-pandemic fashion and literal pajamas. If cocooning is to be defined as swaddling oneself in tasteful neutrals and shearling-lined dad clogs, we can’t wait to see what sartorial wonders await those who dare to emerge on their own terms. Perhaps we’re on the verge of a second coming of uninhibited surrealism, in the spirit of the great Elsa Schiaparelli?
A recent interview with Marc Jacobs in I-D gives reason for hope. Reflecting on an intimate runway show in which he fashioned delightfully avant-garde outfits from familiar materials like knitwear and denim, Jacobs said, “People always used to ask me about things being comfortable—like, a comfortable shoe, or a comfortable armhole. But for me, comfort is your relationship to something. I feel quite comfortable in anything, no matter what it looks like, if it feels familiar to me.”