The One Surprising Item Everyone's Buying Again as We Return to "Normal"

Sales of this clothing staple are skyrocketing as more and more people start leaving the house.

For many of us, the last year has been a time of virtual meetings, Zoom birthday parties, and all-day sweatpants. Our time of constant comfort is quickly coming to an end, however—now that more and more people are fully vaccinated and COVID numbers are declining, in-person work and socializing is on the way back. That means the loungewear we've grown accustomed to is being replaced by something a little more restrictive: Shapewear is making a major comeback, and sales are skyrocketing.

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The Washington Post reports that while consumers largely ditched shapewear—Spanx and other underwear designed to slim and smooth your natural curves—shapewear sales are now booming thanks to people across the U.S. stepping outside their homes again as we return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy.

"Normal life is slowly returning and as people venture out into the world, they are looking for a little hug," Sara Blakely, founder and chief executive of Spanx, told The Washington Post.

It's not only Spanx that's seeing a dramatic rise. The outlet also reported that shapewear brand MeMoi suffered a 30 percent drop in sales at the onset of the pandemic, but is now seeing demand rise by about 35 percent in every category, per director of sales and business development Karen Cohen. "As more people go back to their everyday lives, maybe they're carrying a little extra baggage and are looking for more shaping," Cohen told The Washington Post. "When I speak to our national retailers, every single one of them says shapewear has been up in the last quarter."

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There was a time earlier in the pandemic when it seemed like maybe shapewear was done for good. As the pandemic allowed people to relax into loose-fitting attire, many found that they enjoyed the newfound freedom of not feeling compelled to squeeze into Spanx.

"There has been a significant shift in customer demand to comfort-led products," Rachelle Hanley, lingerie buyer at Brown Thomas and Arnotts, told The Irish Times. "There has been a decline in demand for shapewear and hosiery due to the lack of social outings and events for everyone at the moment. We have definitely seen a shift in demand away from product that would be worn to work or socializing to what would traditionally be worn around the home—we've seen a significant demand for nightwear, loungewear and slippers over the last year."

Earlier this year, The Daily Beast wondered if shapewear could "survive in the sweatpants era." "We'll be taking the notion of comfort in clothing with us post-COVID, even when we're back out and about—going to work and socializing again—and shapewear is going to have to appreciate that new mindset," Elizabeth Shobert, vice president of Marketing and Digital Strategy at StyleSage, told the outlet.

While shapewear sales are already bouncing back with a vengeance—and are likely to continue rising as vaccinations and social obligations increase—brands will still have to make adjustments after a year of pandemic living. As The Washington Post reports, companies are now trying to walk the line between shapewear and comfort clothing, turning shapewear into something you can put on even when hanging out at home, instead of something restrictive for special occasions. Who ever thought "comfort" and "Spanx" would be seen in the same sentence?

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