By Dr. Ashley O'Rourke PT, DPT, ATC, LAT
It’s the holidays. It’s quarantine. There’s nothing more practical right now than athleisure. Now, I’m finding it hard to go back to wearing normal clothes. Here are my top picks for women’s athleisure:
(Disclosure: By clicking the links below, I may earn a small commission)
To be honest, when I left Miami to quarantine at my parent’s in North Carolina, it was March so it was still cool. I knew I wouldn’t be going out anywhere for the next 2 weeks- just spending my time lounging around or maybe working out at the house. So, what did I do? I packed a carry-on full of leggings and sports bras. That was it. Fast forward and that 2 weeks turned into 5 months. For 5 months I lived out of the small bag I brought wearing nothing but work-out gear. Now, I’m finding it hard to go back to wearing normal clothes. Here are my top picks for women’s athleisure:
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a lululemon girl through and through. I love their products for both work-outs and for my work as a physical therapist. Lululemon was there for me when no other brand was. Finding pants for female physical therapists is hard when you have to dress business casual. I tried everything from Nike and Adidas golf pants to Banana Republic cropped dress pants- nothing worked. The dress pants were too constricting and I wouldn’t allow me to demonstrate exercises to my patients and the golf pants made me look frumpy.
All of my coworkers were male. They would wear and rave about the men’s lululemon ABC pants. I drove to the store that day to see if they had anything similar for women. Unfortunately, they did not, however, they did tell me that they had a female buy the smallest pair of ABC men’s pants and had them hemmed. (Another reason I love lululemon- FREE HEMMING. This is super exciting when you’re 5’3” like me and need petite sizing for your bottoms). I tried them on, but they still swallowed me whole. The store worker pointed to the pants on a mannequin (On The Fly 7/8 Pant) and told me that she had seen people dress them up with heels and wear them out at night. I was not sold by what I saw. They were baggy and unflattering, but I was desperate so I tried them on anyway. To my surprise they were PERFECT. EXACTLY what I had been looking for. I guess I had sized down in them so they were more form-fitting that what the mannequin had on and, as a result, they looked identical to the Banana Republic cropped dress pants I had on at work that day. The employee was convincing as well. She too was surprised by what they looked like. She told me that when they first came out she had no interest in getting them for herself, but after seeing them on me sized down she, herself, was going to buy a pair. I guess that was the secret- size down. With my polo untucked covering the draw string they 100% passed as business casual yet they gave the comfort and ability to move like a legging. I was so excited and relieved. I can honestly say that I’ve never looked back and I will never change to another pant- EVER. I own these pants in every single color they make. The “knit” are a little dressier, but the non-knit are more comfortable and moveable. I own both and both work just fine for what I need. I recommend the 7/8 versus the crop or full length and I get them hemmed about an inch so that they don’t touch the top of the tongue of my shoe. I can’t tell you how many times my patients have commented on how much they like them or how flattering they are. Every person I have recommended them to has absolutely loved them. I always recommend them to females in my field because they literally changed my life since I have to wear them every day and they allow me to do my job better. I’ve had female students who have gone out and bought them same-day after their first day working alongside me- never have they been disappointed. Lululemon’s customer service is impeccable and the quality will make them last forever (but if they don’t lululemon has a quality guarantee). Well worth the price you pay. Don’t forget, if you are a personal trainer, yoga instructor etc, sign up for their sweatcollective to get 25% off every purchase (INCLUDING SALE!)
DOWNSIDE: A little on the expensive side and no returns on sale items (so be careful to order the right size or try on in store first!)
This is a new, up and coming brand, but I love them. They are still in their pre-launch phase, but I’m convinced they will become as popular as lululemon. Priced slightly lower, they offer the same quality of product and are made for all sizes (XS-3XL). In addition to their fitness line, they are also launching an everyday wear with key basics and a Lux line with a few hire end-higher priced products. This is definitely a company to keep an eye on.
DOWNSIDE: Because they are still in the pre-launch phase, their return policy is not the best at the moment. Expect to exchange sizes or get store credit, but not a full refund. Also, you must pay shipping when ordering.
(code: AshO15 for 15% off)
I love this company for a different reason. While I don’t like their clothing AS much, it’s still good quality. I just don’t find it quite as comfortable and I would recommend sizing up in both tops and bottoms. The upside to this brand is that they are a charitable organization so when you buy, you are also giving back to the charity of your choosing. When you purchase you can choose 1 of 4 charities and they will donate 5% of your purchase total. You can choose from water, hunger, sex trafficking or mental health. The specific organizations are: charity:water, Action Against Hunger, Operation Underground Railroad and ADAA.
DOWNSIDE: Run a little smaller/tighter and not quite as comfortable as lululemon in my opinion.
Another brand a little more on the expensive side, but I’m a sucker for the uniqueness of their pieces. If you’re looking for something different that’s going to make you stand out and not be the same thing that everyone else is wearing- this is a good place to look. I especially like their metallic and faux leather pieces, but if animal print is your thing- look no further.
DOWNSIDE: More expensive.
5. Alo Yoga
Great quality. Their style is very recognizable in my opinion and they sell sets, however you’re most likely looking at 200+ for one of those. I would consider Alo Yoga to be at the higher end of designer athleisure.
DOWNSIDE: Expensive. This is what many would consider "the designer label" of athleisure.
I’ve always preferred Nike shoes, however, they are not the best for most people. Most people tend to pronate (or their foot caves inward as their arches flatten or they have flat feet to begin with). If this is you, Nike is not a good brand of sneaker for you. You need something with more support. However, if you are like me- someone with high arches and who supinates (or walks on the outside of your foot), Nike is a good choice because of the minimal support. Too supportive of shoes causes me pain. In terms of clothing, I’ve always found nike to be comfortable, durable and fashionable. They are my favorite brand out of Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Under Armour.
DOWNSIDE: Their sneakers have very minimal to no support so are not the best brand for most people.
I find Adidas to be a classic- a good staple- but also a hit or miss for me. I find things that I love from time to time, but most of the time it’s just kind of blah. Their shoes, however, are a different story. The Ultraboosts in particular are a hit and their slides- a classic.
DOWNSIDE: Hit or miss. Prefer their shoes to their clothes.
8. Under Armour
I have always been a huge fan of the Under Armour. Unlike some of the other Athleisure companies that are aimed more at lounging and yoga or strength training/HIIT workouts, Under Armour offers more sport specific apparel and equipment. Not my favorite for general athleisure, but good for sports. I’ve always loved their women’s Heatgear Racerback Tank and own it in just about every color.
DOWNSIDE: Prefer their clothes to their shoes. Better for sports than athleisure.
Athleta has a very wide range of products. It includes everything from Girl’s to post-mastectomy friendly bras to swim and dresses. Prices and quality are comparable to lululemon and they carry sizes 0-18. I find them good for those looking more for basics. Their colors tend to be a little more on the muted side and their pieces less unique. So, if you’re looking for a workout set that’s going to turn heads or stand out, this is probably not the best place to look.
DOWNSIDE: Colors more muted. Less unique pieces. More on the expensive side.
Clearly the best part of Fabletics is its subscription service. That means NEW CLOTHES EACH MONTH and a significant discount for going this route. Their quality is up there with lululemon and price is a little better when buying individual pieces and a lot better when subscribing as a VIP. They have an extended range of sizes XXS-4X including maternity options.
DOWNSIDE: Most of the “deals” they have only apply if you subscribe.