Merrick, NY—We all know Millennials are giving the fine jewelry industry heartburn. But does a major shift to 24/7 athletic wear also have something to do with why they aren’t buying as much expensive jewelry as their parents?
The Economist last week asked in a tweet why Millennials don’t buy diamonds (had its editors read anything at all in the past five years, they’d already know that answer), but less noticed was a page in InStyle magazine’s August issue that had this headline in an advertorial: “Diamonds Were Once A Girl’s Best Friend, And Then Yoga Pants Happened.”
Luckily, the headline is somewhat misleading and the article itself had nothing to do with diamonds. Rather, the article was about the proliferation of women wearing workout clothes to the supermarket, to Starbucks, to go shopping, to lunch, and even out on dates--though you can probably win big on a bet that a decent percentage of those outfits never saw the inside of a gym and the only downward dog their owners do is following Fido with a poop-scoop.
The apparel industry has even coined a term for the trend, “athleisure,” and the fact that all kinds of high-end designers are launching activewear collections tells us this isn’t a short-term fad. It’s a trend that has grown organically and it’s a real shift in how women get dressed. And as a trend it’s far more impactful than whatever color, hemline, heel height, pant width, or handbag shape makes news in any given season.
In the late 1990s and early aughts, the Juicy Couture brand rescued designer tracksuits from the detritus of lamentable 1970s fashions (hello, Pierre Cardin?) to popularity once again. But this time around, the ongoing growth of casual dressing and fitness means that while terrycloth tracksuits might have run their course, wearing comfortable workout clothing 24/7 has not.
But it begs the question, “what kind of jewelry goes with Lululemon?” Do women even wear jewelry with sports bras and yoga pants? (Image at top of page: Lululemon athletic wear.)
In InStyle, luxury adventure travel blogger Lesley Anne Murphy of The Road Les Traveled points out that the lines between work and workout have been blurred, and she calls yoga pants and a tank top “the new power suit.” So The Centurion Newsletter asked her where jewelry fits into that. Luckily, bare is not the new bejeweled, says Murphy.
“As athleisure wear makes its way into all categories of dress (workout, work, dinner dates, etc.), I think gold, silver, and diamonds are all on the table,” Murphy told The Centurion. “I wear my gold with anything, including spandex! I wouldn't bust out any statement Cartier pieces, but now is the time to be expressive. If you want to wear major bling with Lulu, you do you. Confidence (with some sparkle) is sexy!” (Follow Murphy on Instagram here.)
Though she's wearing a skirt above, blogger Lesley Anne Murphy describes herself as someone who lives in yoga pants—and jewelry. “The gold diamond piece is a Christmas present from my dad. My mom and two sisters have the same one. The thin coordinates bracelet was a piece that I made from the same jewelry store that my dad bought his bracelets from (Romance Diamonds in Fayetteville, AR). I had the same bracelet made for both of my sisters, and the coordinates are from our childhood home in Fort Smith, AR. The third gold, thick cuff is Giles and Brother and has been monogrammed with 'WIN' on top, [in memory of] a childhood friend who passed away a few years ago. My sisters have the same one as well. I guess you could say we keep it all in the family, so no matter where I go in the world, they are always with me. I also never take off my Arkansas state necklace—that's the one people constantly ask about. I designed it and had the same jewelry store from above create it. Now they sell them in-store!”
Lesley Anne Murphy's Instagram post shows her usual wardrobe choice--workout gear.
Jewelry and watch blogger Barbara Palumbo of Adornmentality.com says Spandex and status go hand in hand, especially with Gen-X and Millennial women.
"Now that I work as a full-time writer, I often find myself amongst the stay-at-home moms who frequent the local hipster coffee house in my formerly tree-hugging, currently Muppie-overrun city of Decatur, GA. Believe me when I say that Lululemon should film commercials here.
“But that doesn't necessarily mean that I see a lack of jewelry: on the contrary, I see plenty. The newish mother who pulls her thousand-dollar jogging stroller from the back of her Range Rover Evoque is still dripping in the bejeweled essentials of today's dressed-to-impress woman: large diamond engagement ring, layered gold necklaces small enough to not be cumbersome, and a smart watch.”
Jewelry style expert Michael O’Connor adds, “People are more casual in their style and their clothing needs to transition from situation to situation easily and comfortably. Add to this that people are still largely unsure about their economic future and want more value in everything they buy. Everything must have a dual or multi-purpose in order to justify the price and be relevant to today’s lifestyle.
“The athleisure lifestyle means that too-fragile, too-frilly or too-flashy jewelry becomes irrelevant. This has paved the way for “stacking and layering” in jewelry, using smaller pieces to add impact when needed and/or “buildables” that can be added to change the look, such as earring jackets, add-on drops, et cetera.”
“Regarding the women who layer gold necklaces with their sports bra, think along the lines of Zoe Chicco, Lisa Kim, or KC Designs as their brands of choice,” says Palumbo.
Diamond station necklace in 14k white gold and diamond initial pendant in 14k yellow gold, KC Designs.
How much jewelry goes with yoga pants also is somewhat dependent on regional taste. iDazzle.com author and blogger Monica Stephenson says, "I do see some people wearing jewelry with their yoga clothes because Lululemon pants have replaced their jeans. It makes sense that they would accessorize their current outfits with jewelry, since adornment is always important, but I do think there are regional differences. While in Los Angeles recently, a celebrity jewelry designer on Rodeo Drive told me that he makes a slightly (only slightly) smaller version of his major diamond cuff bracelet as a “Starbucks” version."
But bling isn't always a thing. In some markets--such as Philadelphia's preppy Main Line suburbs--women are very understated in their dress, and few will pile on heaps of jewelry with yogawear.
Practicality matters too. Women who actually are working out are better off leaving jewelry at home during class. Pam Danziger of Stevens, PA-based Unity Marketing tracks the jewelry industry closely in her work, along with other luxury categories—but she never wears jewelry while working out.
“I just don’t,” she told The Centurion. “I have, however, been thinking about getting an exercise tracking device like a Fitbit to give me some feedback on my daily routine. If I buy one, I’d like it to be colorful and maybe come with different bands so I can switch out the colors to match my outfit. Sounds so old-fashioned—handbags and shoes should match, oh my—but I would like a bright colored band to harmonize with what I am wearing, not clash.”
Andie Weinman, president of Preferred Jewelers International and Continental Buying Group is a devotee of both yoga pants and jewelry—it’s like her uniform, she says. Like Danziger, she doesn’t wear jewelry when she’s actually working out, but once out of the gym she throws on Chanel boots and Dior tops—and her jewelry—with her Lululemons.
“I feel great because I'm mixing it up. Wearing workout clothes or a LBD [little black dress], you always wear jewelry. It defines you that day, and gives you a sense of style. Make it your own and it will never take sales from a retailer!”