This essay, penned for the long weekend, is part of an exploration of the idea of “infits”, which is what one wears when staying in rather than going out. An infit is the opposite of an outfit. 

What’s new in fashion right now is what’s in, as in what one wears when staying at home. This ensemble has been dubbed the infit. As people are staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shift in what people are wearing on a daily basis. In these times, the use and sale of leisure or athleisure wear is on the rise. For those working from home, an entire business ensemble is no longer necessary. Some are taking a cue from a few newscasters and just dressing professionally from the waist up.

Since the introduction of athleisure wear in the late 20th century, athletic attire no longer needed to be just for athletes; it could be categorized as lounge wear and be worn as very casual clothing. With the rise of social media and digital technologies, anyone can model their own fashions instantly online. It will be interesting to see what the future holds and to look online for infits.

Leisure wear, or more relaxed clothing for the home, is not a new concept. Previously people wore dressing gowns, smoking jackets, wrapper dresses, or housecoats when at home. Many of us can remember watching Mr. Rogers come home to his house in the neighborhood where he took off his suit coat and leather shoes, and donned a comfortable sweater and canvas shoes—his infit.

In the 19th century with the development of the specialization of dress, such as one outfit for walking, another for dining, and so on, there was also clothing designed for wearing at home. For example, a gentleman might come home from work and remove his soiled outerwear and put on a smoking jacket or dressing gown. If staying at home, a lady might wear a wrapper or housecoat, which was only intended to be worn at home and was acceptable for seeing family and friends.

Pictured in this lithograph titled Deshabillé (French for “undressed”) by American impressionist Childe Hassam, we see a woman at home seated in a comfortable chair with a book and wearing a dressing gown. The sitter in the image is not identified, but we can surmise that she is in New York City, where the artist was working between 1918 and 1919. During this period the artist depicted intimate images of women isolated in their New York apartments, on the home front during World War I, during the time of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

– E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion

Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935)
Deshabillé, 1918
Gift of Mrs. Childe Hassam, 1940 (11443)