What do LA and Lancaster have in common? I’ll give you a clue: It’s figure-hugging but slouchy, likely lime green or baby pink, it was born in 2001 and it has plastic gems all over the ass. That’s right: the Juicy Couture tracksuit.
At this time of social isolation, when we’re saying yes to the dress(ing gown being worn for a full 79 hours nonstop), it feels only right that we are looking to the warm, comforting bosom of loungewear. That’s why, last week, I dug out my blood red Juicy Couture tracksuit from 2013 (it was of course a bit snug but, thankfully, that velour has some serious four-way give). As I sat in my study, in head-to-toe Juicy, reading Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on Camp, I had the realisation that what I was wearing and what I was reading were one and the same. I decided to investigate the brand, since I had the time. And I was fascinated by what makes an item of clothing such a signifier of camp.
First of all, it’s the material itself. I mean, velour? What even is that? A question which can be applied to many camp things like ’70s food made of jelly and luncheon meats, a lot of Carrie’s SATC outfits and many, many drag queens. Then there’s the diamanté. Plastic masquerading as diamonds? The essay writes itself, Susan. Plastic masquerading as diamonds which spell out ‘Juicy’ across the booty of white women who, like me, have very un-juicy asses? I mean.
Then there’s the historical context of the garment, imbued with so much pop cultural iconicity that it lives beyond the wearer and places you in the annals of Glam Gals Everywhere who Chose Juicy. These camp historical moments are beyond belief: Paris Hilton in Juicy exclusively for like 100 years after the tracksuit was born – that’s hot; J.Lo in dusty pink Juicy in the “I’m Real” music video – she really is real; the messy mom in Mean Girls? Iconic. Monica and Rachel in Friends – camp. Kylie, Kim, Britney, Eva Longoria, Beyoncé, Katie Price, Charlotte Church, Mariah Carey. It’s been worn to the Met Gala and the V&A has it in its permanent collection. Juicy Couture opened its first store ever in Vegas? Camp, camp, a big stunning vat of camp.
See, in the noughts the Juicy tracksuit was the uniform of celeb-gone-Starbucks, the ultimate camp signifier, the pap shot. The beginning and end of capitalism as we know it. The alpha and the omega. It was the time when people would dress up in luxe loungewear to be papped (LA) or to drink in a park (Lancaster). It was the most accessible yet luxurious piece of clothing; it was denim for the new millennium and holy shit, was it comfy.
Juicy, the brand, was the knowing master; it never tried to be something it wasn’t. It had become the totem of aspiration so aspirational it demanded you have a luxe loungewear suit in a range of pastel-ish colours. Yes, it was juicy but it was also couture: an audaciously noughties claim, which took the finest things in life and plastered them all over the cover of Heat magazine. One can only imagine the drama over at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture HQ. It was aware that Juicy across the ass was tongue in cheek, that the mom on Mean Girls was an iconic stereotype of the rich, white, bored housewives of America. It, like J.Lo, was real. It, like Paris, was shallow.
Of course, after the noughties ended things took a bit of a turn for Juicy. The world of paparazzi became way too dark just as velour-clad celebs began to take control of their own image on the old Instagram. We were, after the noughties, somewhat disgusted with ourselves; with what we’d done to celebrities via our pap obsession and what we’d spent our time actually caring about. Gaudiness was gone and the athleisure era arrived: sleek Sweaty Betty, functional Nike. Workout leggings became the new track pant and as authenticity was sought, people stopped dressing up their dressing down. We were no longer pretending to be papped and so our athleisure became less diamanté and more diabolically dull.
But as any brand with a mastery of self-knowledge would do, Juicy evolved. Instead of sticking to its guns and doing a Victoria’s Secret, it collaborated with the new titan of athleisure: Vetements. Soon the stylish celebs of the now were smacking Juicy across their asses – Kylie Jenner, Winnie Harlow, Rihanna – and lo and behold, she was back. This time, however, not donned by a chihuahua-toting heiress but at New York Fashion Week.
And now here we are: a while away from the next New York Fashion Week and equally far from taking our gorjus little rescue mutt down Starbs, with no reason to dress up other than for Zoom meetings as instructed by that one editor at Vogue who documented her super fazsionne outfits every day for her online hangouts. Now, more than ever, we need loungewear. Not the athleisure type that makes you feel bad that all you stockpiled was chocolate, wine and a cheeseboard, but the type that makes you feel like that was exactly the right choice. Choose Juicy!