Free People vs. Amazon: We put these favorite lounge sets to the test | CNN Underscored

Free People vs. Amazon: We put these favorite lounge sets to the test | CNN Underscored

This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.

When it comes to a good lounge set, I’m your girl. Especially since I started working from home during the pandemic and then that turned into working remotely full-time, I no longer crave the structure of pants to sit in Zoom meetings with coworkers when I can have the comfort of buttery soft leggings.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to step up my loungewear every now and again (you know, for special occasions!) and Free People’s sweater sets have caught our eye, especially this Hailee Sweater Set. But at $128, that’s not necessarily a budget-friendly option.

And just like we tried and loved this highly rated Amazon coat and this stylish-meets-casual nightgown dress, this Amazon knit pullover sweater set entered the game thanks to in-the-know influencers and Amazon reviewers. And for $51, we had to try it out and test out the two sweater set options to see if this was truly a worthy budget-friendly alternative.

From the start, both Free People and Amazon’s versions of this are pretty similar when checking them out in person, with only a few key differences. Appearance-wise, these two lounge options both have long-sleeve, oversized henley tops with brown buttons (note that the top two buttons aren’t functional in either, so you can’t button them up on colder days). They also have relaxed-fit pants with wide legs and elastic waistbands — ideal for curling up with a book or pizza, cozy day running errands or typing away all day while staying comfortable.

But before I get into the major lounge set comparisons, let’s take a look at their respective specs.

Both tops are described by the brands as oversized or relaxed. And for the Free People top, which I tried in a smaller version, that was still putting it loosely (no pun intended). This was a generously fitting top.

The pants, on the other hand, were another story. Given my 5-foot-3-inch frame and past history with lounge sets like these, I was prepared to swim a bit — if not in the waist then at least in the length. However, Free People’s pants offered a surprising fit: The high-rise pants are secure at the waist and then flare into wide-leg cropped pants that bell above the ankle. That’s right, these bad boys won’t drag in the snow or get caught in your slippers because they don’t touch the floor — they leave your ankles bare and exposed, flapping in the wind and with a world of new styling opportunities for you to play with. But be warned for those excited to play outside with some cozy Bombas socks or Ugg slippers, this isn’t your average lounge set, so your ankles are going to get cold.

But with those wide-legged cropped pants plus a more form-fitting elastic high-waist, you run more of a risk of unwanted lumps or bumps in the lower waist department.

Despite the Amazon pants looking considerably longer in the comparison photos, I didn’t drown in those pants, either. It’s just an optical illusion because they hit a bit higher on the waist and are floor-length (but actually the right floor length for me, so I consider that a win).

Although the Free People pants were more unique with the crop, the fact that they were tighter in the waist portion combined with just how wildly oversized the top was made the Amazon set an overall better, although more traditional, fit for me.

The Amazon set made for a better overall fit because its top wasn't wildly oversized.

Material and details

Yes, from afar this Amazon set likely gives you the Hailee Sweater Set vibes at a fraction of the price. But that’s likely in part because of the material. It’s not made from the thick 100% cotton with luxe waffle-knit fabrication that Free People’s version is, it’s definitely thinner and you can see and feel the difference. The Free People Hailee Sweater Set also has a dropped raglan sleeve accent, which again proves that you pay more for the details.

However, with the higher quality, including the material, comes some downsides, namely that it wrinkles easily (at least in the pewter color, it was easily visible after periods of sitting and typing), and of course that it’s not machine-washable.

The quality of Free People's luxe waffle-knit cotton is obvious to the touch, but it wrinkles easily and must be washed by hand.

Honestly, both of them are extremely comfortable but I didn’t love the fit of either of them enough to want to wear either of them out and about socially.

While seeing me rock the Free People option, my husband described it as “1970s meets knitwear” and while wearing it, it felt like maternity knitwear on top and cropped knit bell bottoms on the bottom. And honestly, what could be more comfortable than that?

How they feel is even more important because, for me at least, these lounge sets are just about that: lounging. Girls’ trips or long weekend getaways, the perfect travel outfit and yes, my new official favorite WFH outfit that looks just as professional on top as it is comfortable on the bottom.

Although Free People’s fabric is definitely better quality, Amazon’s set was still overall better in professional lounging experience. Ultimately what it comes down to for me is the convenience of it being machine-washable and the better fit for my frame. Plus, having the eleven additional color options to pick from doesn’t hurt. And with that price point, I can order another two (or three when it goes on sale) to add to my rotation of favorite pajamas, loungewear and pajamas that could be workwear (since the lines have been blurred across all three since 2020).

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