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The Antidote to Loungewear? Mugler-Inspired Thong Jeans and Catsuits

Summer fashion got off to a steamy start over the weekend when the Northeast and mid-Atlantic notched their first 90-degree days of the year. And the go-to fashion of cool people doing their best to cool-off? Cropped tops, cutoff shorts and cutout dresses.

That’s not to say that balmy weather is the only factor in consumers’ increasingly skin-baring closets. Following a year of restrictions, vaccinated consumers are gearing up for the return of dating, socializing and large-scale events, retail analytics firm Edited said, ushering in the term “hot vax summer.”

Defined by sexy silhouettes, bold colors and touchable textures, “hot vax summer” fashion is a reversal from the oversized basics and loungewear that swaddled consumers since March last year. Businesses that provide customers with products to complement their newfound freedom are bound to reap the rewards. “There’s opportunity for retailers to maximize exposure for the outdoors, partywear, festival edits and sexual wellness,” Edited stated.

Indeed, fashion designers have been anticipating the opportunity to revel in a contemporary version of the Roaring ’20s. Even prior to the pandemic, the Spring/Summer 2020 runway was lush with fringe, mesh and bra tops—themes designers like Mugler and Versace have continued to boldly explore while much of the industry retreated to safety nets like pajama-style sets and Cottagecore-instigated house dresses.

Mugler, which has experienced something of a renaissance since Kim Kardashian tapped the designer for the corseted wet-look latex dress she wore to the 2019 Met Gala, is the source of many of these brazen looks. Model Irina Shayk nabbed headlines last week when she wore Mugler’s white-and-black trompe l’oeil thong jeans out in New York City. Actor Megan Fox recently donned the brand’s sheer cutout dress to the Billboard Music Awards. Meanwhile, Mugler’s sheer catsuits have become the de facto statement piece for pop stars like Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus and Beyonce, who wore one on the December cover of British Vogue.

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Spring/Summer 2021 Mugler
Spring/Summer 2021 Mugler WWD

“What began as an antidote to loungewear has blown up to be a post-pandemic fashion movement,” Edited stated.

While Mugler’s designers are a masterclass in shape-enhancing seams and panels, consumers are finding mainstream ways to achieve the daring look. New products described as “sexy” increased 30 percent in the past three months. Exposed thong pants, resurrected from the early 2000s, have seen a 240 percent increase in new arrivals over the past three months compared to three months prior, while the dress versions have risen 180 percent, Edited reported.

Spring/Summer 2021 Mugler
Spring/Summer 2021 Mugler WWD

More commercial trends include sheer and bodycon materials and “mini silhouettes” for women and short shorts for men.

Resort ready

Sexy fashion’s cousin, swimwear, is also poised for “hot vax summer” makeover. “Elements of sexy dressing have trickled into swimwear with upside-down bikini tops and cutouts some of the most sought-after trends,” Edited stated.

The reopening of domestic and international travel is certainly driving up the demand for swimwear and accessories. Edited’s data shows that new swimwear arrivals are up 7 percent and sell outs are up 34 percent. Discounting in the category has also declined.

Frankies Bikinis
Frankies Bikinis WWD

While nostalgic bucket hats and prints like gingham and fruits sparked joy during last summer’s backyard staycations, consumers are notably upgrading their swim look for margarita-sipping, cabana-lounging sojourns. Edited reported that there’s a 65 percent and 30 percent year-over-year increase in the number of sunglasses and beach hats in the market, and only 12-13 percent are discounted compared to 35 percent a year ago.

Consumers, however, may not be ready to give up all flowy silhouettes. Data shows that the original glamorous house dress, the kaftan, is “back in suitcases” with SKU sellouts up 25 percent year-over-year.

Matching loungewear sets made with tactile fabrications like terry toweling and teddy textures also remain in-demand. The category has trans-seasonal appeal, making it a “risk-free investment,” Edited said. The comfy sets stand a chance to replace black yoga pants as the standard airport look for women.