Find the right fit with ‘athleisure’

Nikia Jefferson

There once was a time when wearing Lululemon gear as clothing would automatically deem you as fashion’s worst offender. Then something strange happened. Not only did it become more acceptable to wear athletic wear outside of the gym, but designers and fashion magazines alike celebrated the concept thus birthing a new trend: athleisure.

As a combination of the terms “athletic” and “leisure,” it is clear that no typical sweatshirt, pair of leggings or sports bra will do. There are certain design elements that you must look for in order to achieve the look of athleisure in the most stylish of ways.

The proper ingredients

To ease your way into the trend, start off with a good pair of “joggers.” The key is to find joggers, whether they are knit, denim or leather, that have a slim fit and taper at the cuff with either a wide band or elastic. With those features, your joggers will look equally good with sneakers and heels.

Wearing leggings as pants has long been a faux pas in fashion. However, athleisure has somehow made it more acceptable (although, some would still disagree). I’m not talking about any old pair of leggings, though. To make your sporty outfit look intentional, don leggings with a bold print or strategically placed mesh panels. If you want to go a bit edgier, try moto leggings. Angled seams and ribbed knee panels have a way of ramping up a look, especially when paired with a simple tee and leather jacket.

When it comes to tops, they should also have some type of print or colorblocked pattern. Tops and tanks can have a loose fit, but hoodies and track jackets should have a slim cut throughout, including the sleeves, to keep the look clean. There will be some exceptions, especially if you can find a jacket with a unique characteristic like a pleated swing cut or poncho style. A sports bra peeking through the back or sides of your favorite oversized tank top is another way to add interest. And because of that, make sure your sports bra of choice has interesting details on the sides or along the straps.

Who’s got the goods?

With the staying power of athleisure, many brands and retailers are embracing the fact that the trend isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Even though there are a slew of places to find fashionable athletic wear, there are several standouts.

Athleta has always been great for basic pieces (e.g., joggers, sports bras, tops). Their collaboration with Derek Lam, however, has made them the go-to spot for more fashion-forward items. A simple search for “Derek Lam” on their site results in more than 70 athleisure options, majority of which can also be paired with non-athleisure items in your closet (see the Leather Lane Tank and Block Luxe Cashmere Sweater). And with Athleta being under the Gap, Inc. umbrella, there’s always a sale in progress.

Lou & Grey has also made a name for itself in this category. Whereas Athleta is for bold colors and prints, Lou & Grey is more for light and airy designs in muted colors and patterns. There is such a high level of effortlessness in their clothing that will entice you to want to live in it (see the Playa Chambray Jacket and Form Skyline Crop Top).

Other brands include Ivy Park (Beyonce’s collaboration with Topshop), Outdoor Voices and Beyond Yoga. There’s even a monthly subscription service called FITBOX that will ship athleisure garments directly to you starting this fall. As with any other subscription service, I’m sure it will be a hit for those looking for more variety and new brands to try.

Now that you’re well-versed on athleisure, you should feel quite confident about building your own looks. Just be aware that they may be too cute to actually workout in. And that’s perfectly fine.