We all know how popular athleisure has become in our everyday lives, but COVID may have just pushed us into our lounge clothes for the foreseeable future. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely still need to get dressed “for real” every once in a while to feel more alive, BUT with so many brands and designs... I almost don’t need to.
If you’re like me, you’ve been faced with the challenge of home workouts, outdoor workouts, and every attempt in between to not let yourself lose motivation over the past months. Honestly, one of the things that can get me into the gym or to a workout is an outfit that makes me feel damn powerful.
BUT -- how do I find activewear that suits me? Makes me feel confident? Anddddddd… also agrees with my budget? I’m going to give you a brief review of some of the activewear brands I’ve tried over the years. Hopefully this will give you a headstart with some real insight (rather than reading all the negative reviews on a product website).
From AMAZON to TJ MAXX!
Yes -- our budget-friendly brethren that never cease to amaze us. You’ve probably seen plenty of instagram influencers touting their latest lululemon dupes from amazon,and...they’re not wrong. I discovered both these brands at TJ Maxx before I knew about them from instagram, but since then, Amazon has extended their offerings. If you prefer to shop in the comfort of your home, or hate dressing rooms, they’ve got you covered.
This is possibly one of the best accessible brands out there and you can find them both on amazon and TJ Maxx.
They are size inclusive and don’t run extra small (like some luxury brands *eye roll*). Their high waisted legging styles and performance fabrics are pretty darn good. They have several different fabrics -- one that’s more ‘performance’ which feels thicker, more compressive, and one that’s more like a smooth, stretchier, yoga type feel. They've even come out with a 'squat proof' campaign which looks so cute. Their bottoms range in price but all come in under $40, with most of them at the $24.99 price-point.
They even make a dupe for the classic lululemon zip jacket! Only $39.99
This is potentially the COMFIEST affordable leggings that makes you feel as if you’re wearing almost nothing! These are my sister’s personal favorite and she has them in a variety of colors. We have totally different sizes/body types and they work great on both of us. They all run $24.99 on amazon but can also be found at TJ Maxx. They have pockets, no pockets, high waisted, crop, long, lots of variety. Look for the ‘Ultra Soft’.
They also have a dupe for the classic lululemon jacket here for just $34.99
Mid Tier Brands
These mid-tier brands range in price but with most items or whole outfits coming in under $100.
I will always sing praises for Fabletics as it was the first brand that I really bought into when I started my “fitness journey”. You have to join to get the discounted prices, but it’s really simple to skip months or unsubscribe once you’ve built the wardrobe you want or need.
Their quality for the price, I personally believe, is unmatched. Quite a few of their items I like a lot more than Nike or Adidas in terms of fit and feel. Honestly I don’t even shop Nike or Adidas anymore (except for shoes). I think Fabletics does a great job with their fit, and is made to accommodate a range of body types from lean or thin, to muscular and athletic, to curvy. I personally struggle with brands like Nike and Adidas because they tend to cut their bottoms a little straighter through the hip and thigh. If you have hips or some curves (at any size petite to plus) -- definitely try Fabletics out. You can just see on their website how they are inclusive of a range of shapes and sizes.
Having worked at Under Armour at the start of my career, I can tell you that they have fantastic quality, and they’ve made strides over the past few years in the style department (I mean, when I started there it was so bad I only shopped there for the sole reason that I had a discount). Since Under Armour started out as a performance brand for high level athletes, performance is part of their DNA.
If you want a performance led product, I’d recommend trying out their products. I think they have some of the best sports bras in the market for both small and larger busts. I personally know that that design team was absolutely amazing, and they’ve done a lot of work in the innovation department to improve the product. Their basic mid crossback sports bra is one of the best and comes in a ton of colors and prints, and their seamless sports bras are great and comfy for lounging, light exercise or yoga. Their clothing tends to run true to size. If you have a booty though, check their size chart for the leggings. I had to wear a medium when I am usually a small.
When we talk about upper tier and luxury brands, these are the brands that many many other brands either use as inspiration or aspiration, and in some cases are used to benchmark quality or style.
I couldn’t write a post about activewear without mentioning lululemon. The fact that there have been lines out the door post-total-covid-lockdown honestly should not have been shocking. Despite their insane popularity it took me until last summer to try any of their products. I just couldn’t justify the price tag! However, I’ve been totally converted because of their leggings. The Align legging is my all time favorite now for day to day wear, yoga, and most in between workouts. I bought some when I was having surgery because I knew I would have a hard time dressing, and my body just needed something comfortable besides baggy pj pants. These have been a perfect addition to my wardrobe and look nice enough for under a sweater in the fall or with a cute casual crop top in the summer. I have the shorts, the leggings, AND the joggers. I love them all. My 1st pair of leggings pilled terribly and got a small hole in the seam within 6 months (NOT worth $100) but I contacted customer service and they gave me a new pair, I just had to send the damaged ones in. They are really good with customer service and offer free hemming if the leg is too long -- which for the price, I would hope these services would be good! My second favorites are the Wunder Under in the Full On Luxtreme fabric -- these are more compressive and I don’t worry about them pilling.
My one disclaimer about lululemon is outside of the align fabric (because it’s so stretchy), is that their sizing runs a bit small. I know this from an industry level because their sizing charts are almost a full size smaller than comparable brands.
Athleta was actually my introduction to higher-ticket athleticwear. I absolutely love the quality and fit of their items and find them to be much more size and shape inclusive than lululemon for a similar price point.
I think it simply comes down to personal preference of style -- athleta honestly has so many more styles and colors to choose from. So if you’re interested in print and color I would recommend them! They also have great transitional clothing that’s nice enough to wear to work, wear out etc. Since they’re owned by Gap they also have their own denim line! But for activewear, I love their tops and leggings. I always get compliments on the salutation leggings; I think they are buttery soft like Lululemon Aligns, but thicker and have such nice details like the ‘v’ back waist seam, and pockets! (I can even wear an x-small which I never do...so their sizing is more forgiving - however they are typically true to size). They also come out often with variations on their staple pieces, some with laser cut details and interesting hems, so keep an eye out for special pieces like that that will differentiate your legging wardrobe and are limited edition.The details they have on the special leggings make them a little more ‘worth’ the pricetag.
If you’re wanting luxury, Carbon 38 is the place to go. Not only do they have their own private brand, they also sell other luxury active brands. In my work life they are constantly an inspiration for us and we drool over their pieces. You’ll have to potentially deal with the smaller sizes of ‘high fashion’, so they are less inclusive. But their site still offers a range of brands so it’s worth checking out.
If you want to be a fashionista in activewear or just have that special piece that no one else is going to be wearing, this is the place.
I mean how gorgeous are these liquid metallic snake print leggings?!
And who doesn’t need a laser cut bodysuit? Leotards are back. I can’t imagine wearing them to go lift weights, but every time I see someone wearing a bodysuit to the gym I do get a little FOMO for the leotard moment.