The other day, I found myself at the mall considering the purchase of a banana yellow sweatsuit.
The last time I'd seen such a sweatsuit was while I was watching an episode of the show "Grace and Frankie," featuring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The show is about two women navigating senior citizen life, and, in this particular episode, Grace and Frankie find themselves being checked in to an old folk's home at the insistence of their children. After their jarring arrival, the next scene shows them submissively wearing pastel, sweatsuits alongside the resident senior citizenry.
The sweatsuits are the punchline.
Yet, here I was considering this purchase. In part this was due to my social media feeds, which have been jam-packed with ads for athleisure wear over the past few months. Touring the mall for the first time since the pandemic began, I saw the fashion industry as a whole has made a 180-turn with their spring lines. Everything is designed to either lounge or Zoom or sleep in.
This is not a bad thing, in large part because, while the fashion industry has almost uniformly decided we need to be wearing monochrome sweatsuits -- which I have to imagine are not going to look great on just anyone -- those sweatsuits are as comfy as hell. In fact, years from now, I think we are going to look back and realize that it was the pandemic that really finally turned cotton into magic. Because, like, can you believe how soft it's gotten? I practically found myself nuzzling my face into it right in the middle of Macy's. The fabric is so soft, so supple, so washable, it almost feels like you're already sleeping and dreaming about it.
When I was a kid, my mom had a sweatsuit that she wore for, oh, about 13 years straight. Every single day, she would get home from work and immediately change into it. The "jogging" pants (she never jogged) were bright orange, and the sweatshirt was striped with blue, red and yellow and trimmed in, yes, the orange. If it sounds clowny it's because it was clowny, and, entering my teenage years, there were times I requested that she not wear it around my friends (teens are dicks).
But I'll tell you one thing, if Pauline Lord walked around in that sweatsuit now (and, yes, it would still fit her) with a funky pair of Adidas? She'd get bowled over with compliments.
In fact, it was way cooler than the sweatsuit I was now considering.
When I say it was banana yellow, I'm not being altogether accurate. What I'm really describing is the color of the banana-flavored antibiotic emulsion I was given when I had ear infections as a kid. Did they have that here? Or was that just a Canadian thing? Either way, oh boy, did I love that stuff and, oh boy, did I have a lot of ear infections. But, while banana flavored, it wasn't nearly as bright yellow as your average banana -- it was way too chalky to have a vibrant hue. Instead, it was more the shade of Land O' Lakes unsalted butter.
So, if I'm honest, I was actually standing in the mall considering the purchase of a sweatsuit the shade of unsalted butter.
Yellow has never been my color and, now that my hair is grey, I can't imagine that it will flatter me much more.
What's more, the sweatsuit was cut in the most traditional, simple way you can imagine a sweatsuit. There were little bands on the wrists and ankles so that each of your limbs would end in a little puff. It had an inverted triangle at the neck to add some panache but otherwise it was devoid of any adornment.
But it was made of that delicious cotton. Imagine how comfortable my life would be in that sucker.
I picked it up and decided, "What the hay, I'll try it on," which is exactly what my grandmother might have said. I decided to head to the dressing room and try my luck.
Coming next week: post-pandemic dressing rooms.
TARA KAPROWY is a community columnist.