As the copywriter at Sweaty Betty, I recently wrote a blog post about how Victoria’s Secret models are paving the way for a new ideal that favours fitness over slimness on the runway. And as being fit becomes more fashionable, fitness fashion is also becoming increasingly innovative and respected.
When I first started training seriously, about 10 years ago, I would save my worn out old tees and summer shorts for my gym sessions. These days I can’t imagine being so slapdash about dressing to work out. I now have a dedicated gym drawer in which I carefully separate my full-length leggings from my capris and shorts, fitted vests from looser layers and yoga bras from high-impact bras.
My trainer collection is also pretty healthy. Classic black Nike Lunars with ample support for running. Colourful Flyknits for a lightweight gym trainer that’s fun and easy to wear. Understated ASICS with just a touch of colour so they don’t look garish on my commute to work. And two everyday options between Pumas and Converse.
But outfit building for the gym is not simply an exercise in vanity. Since working for Sweaty Betty, I increasingly appreciate the importance of choosing the right fabrics for different disciplines – those mesh-panelled run tights are going to feel itchy and uncomfortable in yoga class, while the thicker opaque fabric of yoga leggings are too insulating for your typical cardio session. Plus, having different outfits for different workouts helps focus your mind on your training goals for the day; and looking amazing is wonderful motivation at any time.
I wanted to share with you some of my current season favourites from different brands, along with some of the thinking that goes behind my shopping decisions when I want to refresh my workout wardrobe. You’ll notice a fair number of Sweaty Betty pieces, and this is because I know the products inside out and can genuinely vouch for their quality. But I’ve also incorporated a number of other popular brands to show how you can build practical and beautiful workout looks under every budget and wherever you are in the world.
Best for standout studio style
For studio workouts like dance, yoga and Pilates, my go-to look is printed leggings with a colour pop bra beneath a sheer t-shirt. Studio workouts are usually really sociable and I always feel upbeat wearing a bold print. It’s also important to be able to move freely and to see your body’s movements, so I find a sheer relaxed-fit tee is a great compromise between comfort and perfect alignment. And when I need extra grip for barre or reformer workouts, I complete the look with these playful Toe Sox.
Best for all-day wear
My favourite weekend activity entails taking a class with a friend, then rewarding ourselves with a really nice brunch. I’ve finally mastered the art of dressing for both the studio and the street, and the solution is black leggings with knitted layers. Sweaty Betty’s Level Leggings are hands down the best black leggings I’ve ever worn – super comfortable and sweat-wicking so they don’t feel sticky after a workout, and more flattering than my favourite blue jeans. I’ll wear a simple vest like this one from H&M, with a complementary low or high impact sports bra. Finally, I throw on a more luxurious post-workout cover-up like this Ballet Beautiful Wrap Top. Then I march for my meal in beautiful trainers – New Balance are on the rise since their US collaboration with Kate Spade.
Best for discreetly covering up
Whether you’re feeling bloated, under the weather (or, perhaps, a tad hungover), the right styling gives you a little extra coverage without giving the game away. My favourite trick is harem pants over printed leggings, and an A-line top that just skims the waistband (this gorgeous one from Blake Lively’s brand Live the Process is ultra forgiving; it does have a built-in bra but I recommend getting extra support from this strappy padded bra by London-based Striders Edge). The double-layered approach to the bottom half feels really cosy and looks just daring enough to be deliberate, and an A-line vest is still a little feminine and sexy but ideal for concealing the midsection.
Best for showing off
Now for the polar opposite. When I’m feeling particularly confident (and all my plank variations have paid off), I always find it fun to show a hint of midriff with a really stylish crop top. I spotted this block marl design by Live the Process on Net-A-Porter and immediately added it to my wishlist. Generally, when I’m baring more skin, I strip back the colours to keep the look understated. These Lexie Sport shorts with the metallic panels would be the dream – especially with this silver Onzie bra to cement the theme. However, there’s always room for a little bit of colour on my feet – these US-only Flyknit Zoom Agility Trainers are calling out to me.
Best for workout motivation
When buying new workout clothes, I try to strike a balance between feeling really amazing and also recognising that workout clothes are for sweating in. This pretty top from GapFit is affordable and sensible, so I won’t mind accumulating sweat patches. In fact, the die hard inside me can’t wait to turn it from light to dark grey with a killer HIIT session.
For the performance factor, compression leggings that boost circulation and also sculpt the legs into beautifully toned limbs are a no-brainer. I love these ones from Sweaty Betty for their subtle pop of blue! It’s also an absolute priority to feel supported by your bra. Racerbacks are a safe option because they give great support and don’t detract from your range of motion. This discreetly printed one by Body Science is designed in Australia, so I also like the idea of imagining Sydney Harbour while I train. And last but not least, these do-it-all triathlon-inspired ASICS are brighter than the sun, so you really have no choice but to wake up and work out.