Women's Wear
From Work to Play 4/4/2019 | PromoJournal Staff, Product Feature
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The promotional garment sector for women is hot and heating up further – there’s virtually no difference between what employees or end-users can wear at work and off work. Athleisure-wear has been fine-tuned for layering and is now more appropriate for a relaxed work atmosphere. There’s also been a return to Boho – an homage to the principles of the latter1960s – free, flowy, natural updated with a touch of mod chic. This blend of what to wear on and off work presents spectacular opportunities for promotional products distributors.

The number of silhouette and fabric options has exploded in the last five years, notes Summer Barry, creative and marketing director of BELLA+CANVAS. And because women in any business are a wide variety of sizes and shapes, BELLA+CANVAS offers more than 60 styles to fit an array of body types and preferences. “For example, we have both slim fit and relaxed options, so we can satisfy different personal preferences as well,” Barry says. “We also have women’s styles in a number of fabrics like Airlume cotton, Heather CVC, Triblend, Flowy, and Fleece.”

The past couple of years has seen new dynamics setting the pace for promotional women’s wear. For example, observes Vicki Ostrom, trend editor, Sanmar, “When you think about selling to women in today’s market, consider these new facts: Age is not relevant and the look of the power suit’ is changing.”

At the same time, she says, the trend toward wearing clothing with performance qualities for all parts of our lives is now a well-established fashion movement. “When these two factors are combined, you now see women of every age dressing in clothing that moves and flexes with every part of a busy day. Less and less is there a definitive line between what is acceptable to wear for work or for working out,” Ostrom states.

The new “power suit” for women are no longer the highly tailored, button-down corporate attire, she says, it now comprises garments that blend synergistically to create a powerful presence. For example, the Luuma collection by OGIO features styles that layer together, draping softly while also allowing for easy movement. Comfort is provided by the fabrics of the base layers that feature stay-cool wicking technology, making them attractive choices for working out; and they are also offered in colors that are as appropriate for work as for the gym.  

“Over the past decade we have seen a blurring of lines between these categories of products,” Ostrom observes. Racerback tanks, which used to be exclusive to the gym, are now so fashionable that they are frequently a favorite underlayer for a blazer. And a blazer is no longer the boxy jacket it once was – today’s blazer is now,  more often than not, a fashionable swing jacket. Many of these, she asserts, are made of a sporty French terry fabric, formerly reserved only for sports and the gym but is now chic and comfortable.

Many businesses need to have a uniform look so the concept of a men’s and women’s version of the same top remains important and a great sales opportunity. Gina Barreca of Vantage Custom Apparel offers as an example, the Vansport™ Sandhill Dress Shirt, which she describes, “offers a light and airy feel but is also breathable and wicks moisture to keep the wearer cool throughout the day, and it’s super stretchy, thanks to its 95% polyester/5% spandex blend, which is perfect for all seasons.”

A style tip for this shirt for women, she elaborates is, “Never underestimate the power of good layering techniques. This is a piece that can take you from a boardroom meeting to out of office, in a second. Simply leave the dress shirt unbuttoned to allow visibility of a tank top underneath, add a sweater on top and finish with a perfectly polished tie-front detail. Seal the deal with a sassy heel or mule and you are perfectly equipped for a day-to-night look.”

When discussing garment layering with your clients who are seeking to add women’s promotional pieces, “a T-shirt is the most basic and powerful clothing item women can own,” asserts Marc Vitulli of SS Activewear. “There’s something intrinsically satisfying about a blank canvas that pulls together an outfit with such simplicity. A good T, when you find it, is the epitome of the ‘no-makeup’ makeup look.”

T-shirts have morphed in design and how women wear them. Vitulli says, that today, women are looking for three key characteristics in T-shirts they want to wear: stylish, versatile, and a flattering fit.

The Redefining of Wellness
Women of all ages are talking to other women in increasing numbers through social networks – and many view getting into shape and improving their health as a social event. According to Ostrom, women are not only embracing wellness but also sharing supportive images of their fitness journeys.  Every generation is getting fit, being active and breaking up preconceived notions of what “old” looks like.

And wellness apparel is more versatile than athleisure, she adds. The concept of wellness is more than just working out, according to Ostrom. “Wellness is big business and it is opening up opportunities to look at core items in new ways.”

For example, wellness is not just physical health but mental health as well. To that end, many people, especially women, have taken up hobbies such as ceramics that require deep focus. Crafts of many kinds are finding new popularity for the same reason – they provide relief from stress. And this has also given energy to the maker movement – artisanal goods crafted for sale and an extra income – while feeling fulfilled and an enhanced sense of well-being.

So, how does this translate to promotional garment sales? Ostrom suggests considering garments like aprons in a new light. Food service is a given use for aprons, but they are finding an ever-expanded importance in ceramics and painting studios and classes for all kinds of crafts and DIY activities.”

Retro is Back
Another strong trend is throwback retro – a bohemian vibe that recalls the hippie days, and more important the same social activism and music festivals that embrace that benevolent mindset. And here’s the kicker – it’s back now from the 90s’ versions based on the 60s.

Opines Barry, “It’s pretty much guaranteed in fashion that certain trends will come back around again. Right now, that decade-of-the moment is the 90s and if we could point to one 90s trend you should be paying attention to, it’s crop tops.”

Crop tops, she describes, come in many shapes, lengths and forms -- BELLA+CANVAS added three “of our favorites” to its 2019 collection. The cropped T and T cropped fleece items were all favorites from BELLA+CANVAS’ Fast Fashion collection, Barry notes. “One of the reasons people gravitate towards these styles is the flattering fit. They all have looser fits and when paired with high waisted jeans, they show just the right amount of skin.”

Next Level Apparel has launched its Festival Collection, says Vitulli, which features fashionable styles offered in 11 muted and earthy colors “perfect for those vintage casual looks,” he describes. “Fashion is like a boomerang: trends and styles always come back around. This is undoubtedly the case for the summer 2019 lookbook, from old-time grungy favorites to sporty-turned-chic statement pieces,” he describes.

He adds, “Tie-dye made a comeback as a fashion favorite last year, and the psychedelic style is at the forefront of this summer’s trends—from blazers to maxi dresses to Ts. Though now the resurgence of this hippie wardrobe staple displays a modern update. Luxury labels were seen mixing tie-dye and floral, experimenting with kaleidoscope patterns and trying more subtle design approaches across the runway.”

The Ts and tanks in the Festival Collection are lightweight (3.5 ounces) make these pieces great for layering, while the poly-cotton blend is perfect for vintage sublimation designs. Available styles are the Festival Scoopneck T, Festival Muscle Tank, Festival Tank, Festival Sleeveless T.

Whether it’s for employees of all types, as prizes, or sold as swag, today’s promotional women’s wear hits all the right notes and has all the right moves.

Summer Barry, creative and marketing director of BELLA+CANVAS: “We’ve seen our 7502 in just about every use category. It was one of the biggest sellers at Coachella music festival. It also flies off the shelf at Equinox fitness clubs. But this crop fleece also is found in less obvious use cases. For example, this was given to new female hires at a big tech company while the men received the traditional pullover. It’s a great layering piece that looks effortless and fashionable with a flowy tank underneath.”

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