Workout gear for when you’re not breaking a sweat
Athleisure, the high-performance sportswear originally designed for workouts but now worn everywhere, represents a populist, street-up phenomenon that got its start like this: Women loved wearing comfortable and sleek leggings to the gym. Sweat-eliminating wicking fabrics allowed them to add layers before heading to brunch. And sometimes, they didn’t even work out at all.
The athleisure spectrum now runs from workout clothes to off-duty weekend uniforms to “elevated” high fashion clothes – think Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma collection, characterised as Marie Antoinette-inspired streetwear – that is perfect for after dark. In a roundup of the recent Paris shows, Vogue.com decreed that the trend is now influencing all levels of fashion: “The athleisure effect can’t be denied.”
Athleisure stores stock everything from basic black leggings to this season’s oversize bomber jackets. Bonus: Some of the stores have studios, a few offering free classes, and salespeople who are plugged in to the latest neighbourhood fitness craze. It’s like finding out where the best powder is on the mountain from the cool ski locals while they are setting your bindings.
Lululemon, which helped set off the athleisure tsunami, offers an overwhelming selection of its infamous leggings, mocked by some as overhyped and overpriced ($99 to $149), yet beloved by Luluhead stalwarts as flattering essentials.
The Lululemon salespeople are like legging sommeliers, patiently explaining the various fabric types, and suggesting associated activities for each – wicking materials for hot yoga, for example, or compression fabric for cycling, and lattice sides for barre class. Be warned that Lululemon sizes are not ego-boosting: If you are usually a size 8, you may need an 10. Still, the salespeople will work with you until they can honestly say that yes, it looks good.
And although it may sound like a Saturday Night Live parody, the store has a concierge who will point customers to nearby workout options, like hot new cycling studios, or the latest array of Pilates, barre and TRX workouts.
One caveat: Not everyone is enamored of the athleisure look, and even for its adherents, it pays to remember not to go too basic. As fashion arbiter Tim Gunn told Bloomberg.com of the very idea of wearing leggings and athletic clothes in public: “It’s vulgar. Unless you are Robin Hood.”
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