How to dress up sweatpants

Jess Cartner-Morley
·2-min read

Sweatpants were the comfort blanket of 2020. They helped us find our bearings and our balance as we flailed around, bumping off the walls of a downsized world, staring at a stripped-down diary. They reminded us, when we got bored and grumpy, that working from the kitchen table does have its advantages. They accommodated our banana bread waistlines. We needed them. And many of us lived in them.

But what now? Having adjusted to an elasticated waist, can we turn the clock back to the type of trousers that I have come to think of as Hard Pants, with waistbands and proper fastenings?

I have a pretty long list of questions about 2021. (Do we get to go on holiday? Am I going back to the office? If so, can someone please remind me where that is?) But we have to start somewhere, so let’s start with sweatpants. When the new normal finally lands, will it be wearing fleece-lined jersey?

I would like to think that the humble tracksuit has been ennobled by the pandemic. Karl Lagerfeld might famously have said that sweatpants were a sign of defeat; yet, over the past year, they have felt like evidence not of surrender, but of adapting to an environment.

On the other hand, in 2021, I very much want not to dress as I did in 2020, for the simple reason that I don’t want this year to be any more like the last one than it absolutely has to be.

So in a spirit of cautious optimism, I am dressing up my sweatpants. I’m planning to start simple and take it slow. First, I swap the jersey hoodie I would have reached for – the one that’s usually on a hook on the back of the bedroom door – for a wool polo neck.

Related: How to wear the perfect white shirt | Jess Cartner Morley

Next, for an outer layer, I pass over my puffer jacket for a tailored blazer or coat. (Over Twixmas, I’ve been experimenting with a camel Crombie over my favourite pink sweatpants, and I can report this to be a success.)

And then, of course, there are shoes. A block-heeled ankle boot gives a different silhouette – and a different spin – on a sweatpant. Heeled sandals immediately transform sweatpants from grunge to glamleisure. And, right now, the only way is up.

• Jess wears roll neck, £19.50, and track pants, £99, marksandspencer.com. Sandals, £139, kurtgeiger.com. Blazer, her own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Makeup: Sophie Higginson using Les Chaînes d’Or de Chanel and Sublimage Extrait de Nuit. Styling assistant: Peter Bevan