The retail apocalypse is killing fashion as we know it as a new dress code takes hold in America

The way the average American dresses has changed drastically in recent years.

Evolving dress codes, comfortable and technologically improved fabrics, and stylish but sporty designs have all combined to carve out a large section of the retail market.

Sales for activewear in the US reached $45.9 billion in 2016, according to NPD Group data. That's an 11% uptick from the previous year, and far greater than the growth of the apparel sector as a whole.

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Schoolchildren attend a yoga session at a camp in Ahmedabad, India January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Participants perform yoga during World Yoga Day in New Delhi, India, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
School children attend a yoga session on the last day of the 10-day long camp in Ahmedabad, India, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Schoolchildren attend a yoga session at a camp in Ahmedabad, India, January 9, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
School children attend a yoga session on the last day of the 10-day long camp in Ahmedabad, India, January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
School children attend a yoga exercise session during a camp in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad January 11, 2011. At least 6,000 children participated, organisers said. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY)
Yoga enthusiasts practice yoga at Yueyan Cave during a session organised by a yoga club in Daoxian, Hunan province, China September 11, 2016. Picture taken September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Participants perform yoga during World Yoga Day in New Delhi, India, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
People practise yoga together ahead of World Yoga Day in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, China, June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
People practise yoga at a tourist spot ahead of the International Day of Yoga, on the outskirts of Beijing, China, June 20, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.?
Women practice yoga during a performance on a glass bridge at the Shiniuzhai National Geo-park in Pingjiang county, Hunan province, China, November 5, 2015. About hundred yoga fans put on the show to promote the concept of green life and the idea of harmony between human and nature on Thursday, according to local media. REUTERS/China Daily CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
School children perform yoga before the inauguration of the international kite festival in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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The rise of athleisure as the dominant way that people dress has broad implications for the rest of the apparel industry. As people are opting to move away from traditional styles and dress in this utilitarian style, fashion brands that have been slow to jump on the activewear bandwagon are suffering.

That means that traditional fashion brands now have less of a say in how Americans are dressing. Fashion is dying. Athleisure is now king.

Athleisure is here to stay.

"Athleisure is the new casual," Deirdre Clemente, a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, recently told Business Insider.

"Athleisure" is commonly defined as a "weird hybrid" of business casual and athletic wear, which has created an entirely new category of clothing. It's combining two trends that have dominated American casual clothing — durability and comfort — in a versatile way.

"I don't think athleisure is going anywhere, honestly," Clemente said. "It'll only get bigger and more accessible to more people, and more acceptable in more environments."

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An overall easing of dress codes allows athleisure to be worn more often.

Theory is all well and good, and sales data tells a compelling story. But we wanted to see how these trends spell out for everyday people, so we took to the streets of New York City to ask average people why they're wearing activewear in the middle of the weekday.

Their answers are illuminating, and they support the data with portraits of how athleisure is worn in the real world.

This spells trouble for retailers that haven't adapted.

Over 3,500 stores are expected to close their doors in the US this year, Business Insider's Kate Taylor reports. Mall visits declined by 50% between 2010 and 2013, according to the real-estate research firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Some of the closing stores are locations of America's most iconic fashion retailers, like Macy's, Sears, and Payless — each of which are closing dozens to hundreds of stores in 2017.

Business Insider/Sarah Jacobs

As general mall traffic declines, e-commerce becomes a bigger threat, and fashion brands continue to put out designs and clothing that don't resonate with consumers, these store closings will continue.

This mindset has customers reconsidering rental.

As purchasing habits change, less of consumer spending is going toward formal apparel. Major events still sometimes require such clothing, however.

Enter rental apparel. A new wave of rental-done-differently companies have shifted both the landscape and the stigma surrounding rental garments. With a focus on service and luxury, companies like Rent the Runway and The Black Tux are making a compelling case for consumers to eschew buying luxury formal garments like tuxedos and cocktail dresses altogether.

Facebook/The Black Tux

In this new reality, brands are not seeing the benefit of stalwarts like the fashion show.

As social media becomes more of a factor in the way brands communicate with consumers, some are now looking at the fashion show as an unnecessary expense. Fast-fashion retailers are creating an additional challenge for high-end brands, as they often copy runway styles on a quicker timeline and at a cheaper price point.

Many brands are electing not to show, cut back how many times a year they show, or only show in certain cities.

Fashion as we know it is dying.

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HONG KONG, CHINA - 2005/10/08: A handstand yoga pose on the rooftop. MODEL RELEASED. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - MAY 24: (CHINA OUT) Yoga enthusiasts perform yoga on a cliff plank road on May 24, 2016 in Yichang, Hubei Province of China. The glass plank road along a 7,500-meter-long cliff plank road is attractive in Yichang City. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 30: Miranda Cobbett and Ryan Scott started teaching themselves acro-yoga just over two years ago, after being inspired by the images they saw in Instagram. (Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA JUNE 17: Rinku Suri, who overcame health issues through yoga, poses in Yoga pose for a profile shoot on June 17, 2015 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint via Getty Images)
LUOYANG, CHINA - JANUARY 17: (CHINA OUT) Yoga fans practice in a hot spring on January 17, 2016 in Luoyang, Henan Province of China. Nearly a hundred yoga fans performed yoga in a hot spring as the temperature dropped to 4 degrees Celsius below zero on January 17 in Luoyang. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
TROLLSTIGEN, NORWAY - JULY 03. EXCLUSIVE: Eskil performing a handstand at the look out over Trollstigen on July 03, 2010 in Norway. Stomach-churning images show how danger man Eskil Ronningsbakken, 30, shows no fear as he balances on the edge of a plunging cliff face at 1,400 metres - incredibly on a unicycle. In the extreme artist's latest stunts seen earlier this month he also teeters on a pile of chairs set on a boulder wedged precariously between two rock faces at 1,000 metres altitude, and balances 300 metres above a lake with one of his students, Kenyan Moses Wepukhuli, 25. All of the amazing feats were caught on camera at lofty locations around Norway. Sure-footed Eskil, a Norwegian, has been pulling off his jaw-dropping balancing acts around the world for 15 years. Sometimes walking for up to six hours to get to the locations for his acts, Eskil uses yoga to train and prepare for his bold shapes in dangerous places. (Photo by Sindre Lundvold / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
Tourists practice yoga in the Meggedat valley, north west of Libya's Akakus mountain region, in the desert of the western Ghat District, on January 2, 2016. / AFP / TAHA JAWASHI (Photo credit should read TAHA JAWASHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Stachia Fey of the Wai Nani Surf and Paddle Tribe strikes a yoga pose on her paddle board next to Minne, the 13-foot fiberglass lake creature, on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 4, 2015. Members of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, the Park Department and paddle boarders of the Wai Nani Surf and Paddle Tribe came together to install Minne, who will be staying on the lake all summer. (Rachel Woolf/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHONGQING, CHINA - JULY 10: 50 women practice yoga on the world's longest skywalk at the Longgang National Geologic Park on July 10, 2016 in Chongqing, China. The glass bridge extends 26.68 meters out from the cliff, about five meters longer than the skywalk at the Grand Canyon in the United States. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
ALLAHABAD, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA - 2016/06/20: An Indian man performing yoga in Water of River Yamuna on the eve of International Yoga day in Allahabad. (Photo by Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LUOYANG, CHINA - JULY 18: (CHINA OUT) Aerial view of three women doing yoga on a 2,000-meter high precipice on Laojun Mountain, main peak of Funiu Mountain, during Laojun Mountain Camping Festival on July 18, 2015 in Luoyang, Henan Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
CHANGSHA, CHINA - JUNE 21: (CHINA OUT) Yoga enthusiasts practice yoga on the water of Shiyan Lake on June 21, 2016 in Changsha, Hunan Province of China. About 100 yoga enthusiasts perform yoga to welcome the International Day of Yoga which falls on June 21 each year. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
BETTMERALP, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 23: Hiker and yoga enthusiast Karin Bittel, who was participating in a guided tour across the Aletsch glacier, stands on her head on the ice of the glacier on August 23, 2016 near Bettmeralp, Switzerland. The Aletsch glacier, today approximately 23km long and up to 900 meters deep, is Switzerland's largest glacier and is shrinking rapidly. While glaciers across Europe have been receding since approximately the 1870s, the process has accelerated since the early 1980s, a phenomenon many scientists attribute to global warming. The European Enivironmental Agency predicts the volume of European glaciers will decline by between 22% and 89% by 2100, depending on the future intensity of greenhouse gases. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
YONGZHOU, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 11: Yoga enthusiasts practise at Yueyandong cave in Dao County on September 11, 2016 in Yongzhou, Hunan Province of China. More than 50 yoga enthusiasts practiced at a moon-shape hole at Yueyandong cave in Yongzhou on Sep 11. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
YUEYANG, CHINA - NOVEMBER 05: (CHINA OUT) Yoga enthusiasts practice on a glass suspension bridge at the Shiniuzhai National Geological Park on November 5, 2015 in Pingjiang County, Yueyang City, Hunan Province of China. 100 yoga enthusiasts practice on the glass suspension bridge with a length of 300 meters and a maximum height of 180 meters at the Shiniuzhai National Geological Park in Pingjiang. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
ALLAHABAD, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA - 2016/06/21: A sadhu performing yoga in a tree on the occasion of International Yoga Day. (Photo by Prabhat Kumar Verma/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a yoga session under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on June 21, 2015, in a mass yoga session to mark the first International Yoga Day. 192 countries join the event. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - JULY 1: Ashley Flowers of Portland Paddle leads a paddle board yoga class off East End Beach Friday morning, July 1, 2016. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
ZHENGZHOU, CHINA - MARCH 23: (CHINA OUT) A woman does yoga on the precipice of Mount Song on March 23, 2016 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province of China. Over 10 yoga enthusiasts practice on the precipice to experience stimulation in nature in Zhengzhou. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
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