Sweat Inspiration

If you or anyone you love is wearing fashionable sweat pants right now, this is why. Model Erin Wasson went dancing in a pair of gray sweats with some giant blacks wedges and a sloppy bustier, and because she is a model and not a normal person she did not look depressed, like she had given up on life – she looked like a model who had just awoken from a restorative disco nap after staying up all night having sex with another model. She cabbed it over to an after-party being thrown for her bestie, Alexander Wang, and ohmigod he was wearing sweats too, and everyone knows that Alexander Wang has not given up on life, because he is Alexander Wang. And voila – dress sweats.

I’ve been avoiding fashion sweats because I have a dear friend whom I have shamed into not wearing her sweats outside of the house, and I don’t want to be inconsistent. But after a recent Lovers show in which synth sensation Kerby banged on the electronic drums with a pair of wooden blocks in an amazing pair of fashion sweats, I’ve become totally obsessed. I set out this weekend with some friends to see if I could score a pair. First stop: Barney’s.

So we get to Barney’s, and they’re having a Givenchy trunk show! And check it out – real trunks! These ones contained the entirety of the 2011 Spring Collection. A helpful Barney’s employee who later scolded me for taking photographs allowed me to ask him a few questions about how a trunk show works. He wouldn’t let me take his picture, but he had the best eyebrows this side of Rachel Carnes.

Me: So, what’s a Trunk Show?

Him: They bring all the samples of the upcoming season to the store for one day for regular clients – and everyone else – to make an order.

Givenchy Spring 11

Me: So, the store will order certain pieces from the collection, but not carry the entirety, and this is a way for people to make sure they get the pieces from the collection that they want?

Him: Yes. There is a buy coming in, but there are also clients coming in for specific pieces and we do an order for them.

Me: Thank you. Now I understand a Trunk Show! Please excuse me while I go off and take forbidden photographs of your merchandise. What are all these stores so uptight?

Givenchy Spring 11. Ouch.

Texture + design on a pair of Proenza Schouler jeans.

!!!Derek Lam!!! Maybe my new favorite shoe.

Pinking-sheared roses on a Diane von Furstenberg bolero.

Rag and Bone for Barney’s Co-Op unders.

Okay, time to return to the mission at hand. My shopping companion, Tara Jepsen, is looking for a dress to wear to Argentina, where she will attend a wedding and meet her lesbian lover’s entire extended family for the first time. No pressure. She heads off towards Helmut Lang. I am investigating the high-end of the sweats trend, and stroll over to Alexander Wang. He’s been using sweats fabric in his collection for ages. I find a pair of baggy black pants with thick, cottony ankles that seem to reference sweat pants, and pair it with a 3.1 Philip Lim shirt I’ve been obsessed with. It’s half classic white button-up, half, um, cape. I put them together and . . .

Avant-Garde Food Service Worker

. . . I look like a caterer at the wedding of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. Here I am, miming the transport of a giant tray of prosciutto-wrapped figs. I’m not saying this in a bad way. If I could afford this ensemble I would wear it every day and avant-garde food service worker would totally be my new look. Okay, let’s check out some of the details on these duds:

I also tried on a pair of stir-up pants from T by Alexander Wang, his cheaper, secondary line of shirts, dresses, rompers, shorts and skirts all fashioned from the softest cotton you have ever touched in your life. They’re not sweats, but check out the totally awesome stirrups:

Buttons! What? Amazing. Meanwhile, Tara Jepsen – who has asked her hair stylist to use Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli as a reference while doing her hair – has tried an awesome Helmut Lang dress that looks incredible on her:

I have internalized shame about being a skanky dirtbag, and when meeting anyone’s parents feel compelled to dress like an Amish woman, so I counseled against the dress, thinking Tara maybe looked too much like a hot fox. But do I just have issues?

So, my brief run through Barney’s didn’t turn up much in the way of fashion sweats. The next day I start anew, meeting up with my shopping comrade Elyssa. We head towards BART, and walking down Valencia encounter:

Sidewalks are for people, jerks!

A bunch of cute people wearing cute vintage nightgowns, having a slumber party protest against the horrible new Sit/Lie bill that now sticks folks with a $500 fine for sitting on the sidewalk. Who are the morons who voted for such a thing? It criminalizes homelessness, poverty, relaxation and fraternizing with one’s fellows. Europe is full of people sitting all over the sidewalk in fashionable clothing, smoking cigarettes without fear of cancer. Also, people in fashionable clothing making out in supermarkets and subway trains while managing to still look classy. Also, they have free health care so people have more spare cash to spend on clothes. I hate this stupid country!

Okay, so our first stop is H+M, where we spot three piles of fashion sweats, none of which are in our size. Curses! Onward to Zara, which surprisingly has nary a fashion sweat, though it does have blanket coats, which I feel myself on the verge of becoming obsessed with (see Celine Resort 11). We dash over to Shotwell, which also has no sweats! Have I come on ridiculously late in the game or what? Elyssa takes some fashion risks and leaves with a pair of jeans by Play Me:

Flowers and leather, together forever! And, like any good pair of jeans, they make her butt look incredible:

Don’t you just want to reach through your computer and pinch it? Well, don’t.  Like me, Elyssa is a small person, and like me she has  assumed that jumpers will not work for her. But she tried this amazing darkly tie-dyed one and:

So awesome, and fits perfect! It is close as we get to finding Elyssa a sweats-inspired outfit she can wear with a pair of heels. But what about me, poor me? I try on a pair of Vivienne Westwood Anglomania for Lee Jeans jeans, a style called Pamela that I am still haunted by, but they did not fit me. Curses, and curses again! We make one last stop, at Urban Outfitters, where I recently tried on a pair of pants that at a distance looked like wool but up close was, yes, sweats fabric! Alas, they did not fit me, and I cannot find them again to show you. But I do find, on sale (I love Urban Outfitters’ sale rack, especially when they do their half-off sales. It’s cheaper than thrifting!) a sweatpants jumper? Will it fit?

Yes! A sweatpants jumper – I dared not hoped such a mythical garment could exist! And on sale! I am very, very happy. Elyssa and I retire to the mall for some Vietnamese food at the food court and talk about meeting famous people while on drugs. The end.


About Michelle Tea

I chanted "I am a fashion magnet" in the shower and subsequently found a Gianni Versace - era Versace skirt at Buffalo Exchange for $17. Once I got a beyond-my-means Fendi purse for free and sat staring at it, crying. Also cried at Olivier Theyskens' last show for Nina Ricci in Paris. Other things that make me cry: a good lip synch; my emotions. I have stolen two Jeremy Scott swag items from two Jeremy Scott events I was not quite invited to. Sometimes I want to age into Patti Smith, sometimes Baby Jane Hudson. I frequently dream I am in a magic thrift store where I can have whatever I want. I regret not buying the Alexander Wang purse when it was half price at Barney's. Like a delusional guy at a strip club, I feel special when the people who work at Barney's remember me. Having a Leo rising gives me big hair and a need for attention. My favorite designers right now are Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Viktor Rolf, Rick Owens, Rodarte, Helmut Lang and Surface to Air. I was once shamed by an employee of a high-end department store for pronouncing 'Rodarte' incorrectly.


  1. Beth

    Incredible! Inspired! And, dare I say, committed? I LOVE those leather/floral jeans on Elyssa and everyone’s jumpers are amazing. Alas, I tend toward the tallish side with a length appropriate torso and fear that jumpers will give me the worse camel-toe this side of a Poison revival. But maybe I should just TRY because who knows what I could really look like?

  2. lucy

    Michelle I finally have something to add to your fashion knowledge. Those stirrup pants things I wore when I was a kid– for horseback riding of course. We called them elastics and they went around the outside of jodhpur boots, attaching with clips or buttons on the inside of the pants, which we called “jods” which were also worn with jodhpur straps, strips of leather that went twice around the leg btwn knee and calf and buckled, idea to keep already tight pants from bunching. This was casual riding wear, suitable only for children. Lucy

    • Michelle Tea

      That sounds like my DREAM OUTFIT! Stirrups that go UNDER a riding boot? Buckling leather straps? I found a pair of actual jodhpurs at Goodwill a few weeks ago and have tried to wear them twice but they’re too big. Jodhpurs aren’t supposed to be baggy, are they?

  3. Jamey

    ” I look like a caterer at the wedding of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. Here I am, miming the transport of a giant tray of prosciutto-wrapped figs.”

    This line made me so happy

  4. shawn

    i appreciate the ambition behind the fashion sweats search, but the only thing that this reminds me of is when i went on a first date with someone who decided that sweats was the best choice. sweats and a purse. to a nice restaraunt. im still trying to figure out what bothered me most about this, and so far it is a solid tie between whether her purse did not match the ensemble or the fact the she pulled a 32 ouncer of high life out of it in the middle of dinner and asked for a glass.

    oh, wait, we’re not talking about sweats anymore. i better go.

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