The debate began after the first few visionary women chose to sport their yoga outfits on the street — could leggings really be worn as pants? People flocked to Twitter, Instagram, and fashion blogs to voice their opinions. Supporters of stretch argued for comfort and convenience, whereas the proponents of ‘propah’ insisted that style and substance were non-negotiable. And it’s been a minefield ever since. But no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, the hotly-debated trend called athleisure is becoming a mainstay of gym rats, homemakers, and professionals alike. So let’s break it down and see what it’s all about.
To understand the trend, we’ll first have to learn to recognize its elements. Obviously, yoga pants are at the top of the list of athleisure essentials. And tights, leggings, joggers, and sweatpants have also begun to replace regular old denim. While t-shirts have always been a wardrobe staple, they’re now re-emerging as a vital piece of the athleisure ensemble. Boasting a variety of multi-hued fabrics — cotton, synthetics, and blends — athleisure has options ranging from t-shirts and camisoles to cropped tees, mesh tanks, and sports bras. Athleisure isn’t just tops and bottoms, though. Look for bomber jackets, snapbacks and the ubiquitous sneakers — kicks, if you will — that seem to go with everything. Bonus points if you stay on trend with white high-tops.
Now that we know what it is, the question is why it’s so popular — what makes these athletic outfits the choice of millions of millennials? The biggest plus here is that athleisure is, above all, comfortable. Inspired by athletic clothing, it is designed to stretch and move with you, which makes it infinitely easier to live in than starchy trousers and shirts. You can well imagine the original yoga-pant-wearers, just after their workouts, wondering why they couldn’t be clothed in comfort in their daily lives as well. They were clearly on to something — and adding it to your wardrobe is easy. We’ll show you how.
Let’s face it — jeans and formal trousers are fine if you’re spending all day in an air-conditioned office. But as the weather gets warmer, you want something that lets you (and your limbs) breathe. Entrez leggings. Stretchy, thin, and versatile, leggings and tights can easily replace pants in most, if not all, situations. You could pair them with shirts, camis, t-shirts…anything you choose really. But they tend to look particularly flattering with long t-shirts. Bear in mind, though, that some leggings made with thinner fabrics tend to become sheer when stretched. Choose a long top or short skirt to wear over them, to avoid a fashion faux-pas.
Okay, this one’s easy. We women can wear t-shirts with anything without looking like we’ve stopped trying. So it’s lucky for us that athleisure brands stock t-shirts galore. Wearing a workout top instead of your regular crew-neck is a very easy way to dip your toes into the water. You could even layer a gym tank under your shirt to make it a little more work-appropriate, or wear it under a sheer top and throw a light jacket over. Feeling a little more adventurous? Sport a mesh camisole over a cotton tank or a bright sports bra, if you dare. Pair this combo with a high-waisted skirt or pants; you can ditch the cami and bare your bra if you’re going out to party.
The key to making gym wear look like it belongs outdoors is to pair items correctly. Workout tops tend to be more colorful, often leaning towards neons and contrasting shades. Pair brighter tops with muted bottoms to make you look less like a bag of skittles. But if color is your thing, you’ll have no shortage of options when you’re shopping for athleisure.
Once you have the day’s outfit planned, you might need to throw on an outer layer, depending on the weather. Instead of reaching for your denim jacket or black blazer, why not choose a sporty bomber instead? Depending on the weather, you can choose a lightweight wind-cheater, a puffer jacket, or the ever-dependable sweatshirt. The growing popularity of this sporty trend means that you’re bound to find jackets in all sizes, shapes, prints, and colors — so there’s definitely something for everyone, and a jacket for any outfit.
Sneakers are quickly becoming a comfortable alternative to flats (heels, too) — and it’s not just restricted to sports shoes anymore. If you do a lot of walking, choosing well-cushioned walking shoes would be your best bet. But if you want to add a subtle athletic touch to your look, slip-on sneakers or flat canvas shoes might be a better choice. You could even jazz it up a bit by choosing sneakers with a flatform-style heel, glitter, appliqué details, high-tops, or even just a colorful print. No longer are sports shoes seen as boring, clunky, and functional — they’re a fashion choice for a generation of fitness enthusiasts.
Ultimately, fashion is all about looking and feeling your best. Adding athleisure to your wardrobe elevates you to fashionista status, while still letting you feel as comfortable as you would in pajamas — after all, what are sweatpants and hoodies used for, anyway? This is good news for everyone— the look can be dressed up or down, allowing for infinite possibilities. Athleisure is forgiving, yet flattering, letting you be stylish, be comfortable, and (most importantly) be you.