Top, £79, falke.com Leggings, £90, sweatybetty.com, Trainers, £139.99, sportsdirect.com
Ah, the latest fitness wear. Clothes in which to get the lean, strong body of an athlete, or just the body that looks good in clothes.
It’s the resolution at the top of most people’s New Year to-do list: get fit, feel fit, look fit — or, alternatively, get the gear and the rest will follow (and if it doesn’t, at least you’ll look like you’re running with the In Crowd).
Because (spoiler alert) the clothes on these pages, while designed by experts using the latest fabric technology and intended for people who take their exercise seriously, are seriously fashionable in every sense.
First, fitness wear itself has acquired a cool cachet. Adidas stripes, Nike ticks and high-performance trainers have been fashionable for a while, but now we’re talking about racing-back tops and Lycra leggings, the sort of head-to-toe fitness wear you never used to see other than on professionals at the running track.
Second, fitness wear has crossed over into everyday wear — hence the term ‘athleisurewear’ — defined as casual clothing designed to be worn ‘for both exercise and general use’.
The time for wearing it is anything from pounding the pavements with your Fitbit on your wrist and your iPhone strapped to your arm, to gossiping over a skinny flat white with girlfriends at your local coffee shop.
These clothes are no longer exercise-only, but more fit for life. Whether or not you are actually going to be running, stretching or doing a Pilates or yoga class in your athleisurewear, it’s a good look. A modern look. The opposite of starchy hair and heels you can only totter in. Wearing it is a signal that you are health-conscious, body-conscious, active and living a full and busy life.
It’s what actresses and models wear in their downtime, busy mums on the school run, the self-employed when working in coffee shops, executives for air travel and early-morning meetings.
If you’re on the move with your laptop, it is no longer shocking to turn up to a meeting in leggings and trainers — the right ones, post-shower and blow-dry, obviously.
That’s why the clothes on these pages — which, a few years back, would have been strictly for trophy wives who dip in to the gym to give some structure to their day — have become an established branch of the modern woman’s wardrobe. Active Off-Duty Wear, if you like.
Gloves, £22.95, nike.com, Bra, £30, underarmour.co.uk, Leggings, £100, hey-jo.co, Trainers, £135, on-running.com
Vest, £12.99, mango.com, Bra, £13.99, mango.com, Leggings, £14.99, mango.com, Trainers, £135, on-running.com
Consider the new generation of royals: Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Zara Phillips — they’re all super-fit, sporty and exercise-conscious. Even Kate, whose dress requirements are more formal than most women, can’t resist wearing athleisurewear in public when ‘occasion appropriate’. Back in October, for example, she visited the National Tennis Centre wearing £185 leggings from Monreal London — and did anyone panic that she was letting the side down? Did we think: ‘Oh, whatever next . . . a onesie?’ Of course not.
Fitness fashion: The rules
Don’t match plain tops and bottoms — you’ll look like Catwoman.
Mesh inserts are for poseurs, not multi-taskers.
Avoid fluorescent shades and pastels — if you’re new to fitness, strong, dark colors are the safest bet.
Multi-straps and intricate cuts are strictly for young celebs. The simpler, the better.
Don’t be afraid to try a tight-fitting top with inbuilt support.
Our eyes have adjusted and now — thanks to supermodels such as Gigi Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, thanks to Stella McCartney designing fitness wear (including Team GB’s kit for the 2012 Olympics), thanks to yummy-mummies swapping their skinny jeans and Uggs for stretch leggings, zip-up tech tops and white trainers — high-end fitness wear looks like occasion-appropriate smart-casual.
And, last but not least, did we mention this stuff can be very flattering, whatever your age.
For any doubters out there thinking: ‘You wouldn’t catch me wandering around in skintight leggings. Maybe if I was Pippa Middleton, but fiftysomethings in tights? You cannot be serious.’ Yes, we are.
Ignore the crop tops (unless you’re Davina McCall) and you’ll find that everything on these pages is as suitable for mums as their twentysomething daughters.
The cuts, the fabrics, the strategic stripes and paneling will hold you in, smooth you out and create the illusion of a leaner, tauter, shapelier you.
Exercise tops are a revelation, too, with inbuilt support so you don’t have to wear a diggy-in bra. Colour panels or changes in texture hone your torso, lift your bust line and narrow your arms.
PE Nation bra, £105, thesportsedit.com, Leggings, £32.50, adidas.co.uk, Trainers, £150, asics.com
Jacket, £64.95, reebok.co.uk, Crop top, £40, newbalance.co.uk, Leggings, £45, very.co.uk, Ultraboost shoes, were £149.95, now £104.96, adidas.co.uk
The magic of exercise wear is that it uses all the firming and supporting technology, plus all the trompe l’oeil tricks — with the result that you feel and look that bit trimmer and neater than you really are. Apparently, the makers, whether it’s Gap or Sweaty Betty or Nike, are well aware that we expect more from our exercise wear than just stretchability and sweat-wicking.
We want to keep wearing our kit to walk the dog, to nip to Tesco, to drop off that important thing (taking the steps two at a time), and then maybe do a bit of coffee-shop posing with the book-club lot. Who knows? That said, not all fitness wear gives you a better body. Bold patterns definitely require a decent figure to carry them off.
Black on the bottom, embellished with a slick outer-leg stripe or a calf flash, is the safest option for the woman who is not working out like Elle Macpherson.
But don’t you love something that makes you look like you’re taking control — even if you’ve yet to lift a finger?
Think you know everything about the gym?
1 According to a recent survey, what proportion of people signed up to gyms don’t use their memberships for an entire year?
- 2 percent
- 5 percent
- 11 percent
- 53 percent
2 The word ‘gymnasium’ comes from the Greek word for what?
3 Rank the following objects in order, from highest to lowest, of how much bacteria they were found to harbor in an investigation . . .
- Free weights
- A sink tap inside a public toilet
- A toilet seat
4 TRUE or false? Listening to audiobooks at the gym is likely to boost how often you exercise.
5 Which two of the following reasons could form the basis for canceling your gym membership early?
- Finding a cheaper equivalent membership elsewhere
- Suffering an injury
- Losing your job
- A gym not having enough of the machines you enjoy using
6 TRUE or false? One in ten gym-goers said that they would be embarrassed if they broke into a sweat while they worked out.
- 11 percent. More than one in ten people surveyed by gym clothing brand Banana Moon had not used their membership for a year — despite paying an average annual fee of £564.
- Naked. The gym dates back to Ancient Greece, where exercise was usually done nude.
- The correct order is C. Treadmill; A. Free weights; B. A sink tap inside a public toilet; D. Toilet seat. According to research by FitRated, free weights have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, while a treadmill has 74 times more bacteria than a tap in a public toilet.
- True. A study in the journal Management Science examined ‘temptation bundling’ — combining activities you’re tempted to do with those you feel you should, but often neglect. It found that people who restricted themselves to only listening to audiobooks while working out were up to 51 percent more likely to exercise than those who did not, as they were eager to know what happened next.
- Suffering an injury and C. Losing your job. The Competition and Markets Authority says that a gym contract is unfair if it does not let a member cancel due to serious injury or illness, or because of a major change in circumstances, such as losing your job.
- True. One in three gym members surveyed by home sports equipment firm Kettler said they don’t break into a sweat when they work out — and one in ten of the 2,000 people polled said they would be embarrassed if they did.