While I spent years doing competitive cheerleading, following high school I never considered myself a “fitness girl.” Working out became a chore. As such, shopping for workout clothes that I was only going to begrudgingly throw on to sweat in for an hour seemed like a misuse of money. But then, while tending to an injury and amid a breakup, I fell in love with pilates, the first workout that helped me understand the mind-muscle connection and sparked positive mental results. Working out was no longer a drag but self-care, an escape from reality, and a bit of a party all in one. Slowly, the ritual of getting dressed for a workout became more important, too. I sought out new fitness brands, tested the efficiency of trend-driven silhouettes, and figured out how to accessorize a look in a way that wouldn’t get in the way of class.
Fast-forward nearly three years later, I’m an instructor at my pilates studio (NYC’s Bodyrok, come say hi!). I also continue working as a trend forecaster, guiding brands and retailers on the trends they can expect to see in the coming years and how to translate them for their customers. Unsurprisingly, the activewear market has become a specialty of mine on both a personal and professional level, and if you’re wondering exactly what to wear to your pilates class (or any other similarly minded workout: yoga, barre, etc.) this year, you’ll want to read ahead.
From the most practical yet stylish silhouettes to which brand has the best fabric, consider this your guide to avoid buying sets that’ll get in the way of your workouts and, as a result, sit at the back of your athleisure drawer.
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The Best Overall Activewear Brand
If you’re looking for the holy grail of athleisure brands, look no further than Alo. In addition to working with the brand as a client and wearing it while I teach, I probably wear Alo three out of five days while working from home or the coffee shop, too. They excel in all aspects across the board: silhouettes and details that feel fresh and trend-driven yet are functional, a variety of fabric and coverage options that ensure there’s something for everyone, and a well-rounded assortment from grip socks to puffer jackets to wear en route to class. Some days, I truly am in head-to-toe Alo from workday to workout.
Activewear Brands With Interesting Silhouettes
Finding that perfect cut of a bra top or the type of waistband you prefer on leggings takes a bit of trial and error. Personally, I’m mildly obsessed with V-cut leggings — and JOJA’s and Year of Ours’ options are favorites. I also love how they offer mix-and-match options for the coordinating tops whether you prefer a halter top, V-neck bra, or longer tank.
Activewear Brands With Stylish Yet Practical Sets
If sticking with the tried-and-true silhouettes is more your speed, you can still find brands that add an extra style punch through unique textures, contrast trims, and cool colorways. VEYND is a newer-to-market brand from the creatives behind the cool girl label Kooples that expertly brings a dose of edge to activewear. Think: a deep burgundy, charcoal, and olive green palette and eye-catching cut-outs. On another note, Splits59 has mastered the art of color combinations that make a staple-silhouette set feel just as exciting as the more daring options on the market.
The Best Athleisure Brands
After spending months living part-time in Los Angeles, it’s become clear that the pilates girls of the West Coast have mastered the art of taking their look from the studio to the streets. And it makes sense: With that sort of traffic, you want to keep your day moving smoothly by updating one look rather than running home for an outfit change if possible. This is where layering comes into play. From knitwear options to shrugs, Live the Process has everything to complete a look. As I mentioned earlier, Alo is also another destination for wear-everywhere pieces with zip-ups, cute cardis, and lightweight cargos that you could throw over bike shorts for your commute home.
The Best Affordable Activewear Brands
If you’re just entering your wellness era, there are tons of more budget-savvy selections. Aerie has perfected supportive, comfortable silhouettes that are offered in an array of colors at an accessible price point. If you’re looking for more trend-driven pieces, Victoria’s Secret has workout sets and after-class athleisure with of-the-moment details and seasonal color palettes. Whenever I need a quick budget option, Forever 21 has impressively good pieces — I worked in their retail store as my first job in high school, and the brand’s seamless leggings held up well into my college years.
Activewear Brands With The Best Fabrics
Not to be dramatic, but, when you work out for a living, fabric can make or break a set. Too thin, and you feel unsupported; too thick sans moisture-wicking capabilities and you’re uncomfortable, counting down the minutes until class ends. For the softest feel that’s ready to combat sweat, Gilly Hicks does the job. Personally, my fabric of choice for both taking class and teaching is “seamless” — it’s supportive but not restrictive. New brand on the block House ID and Set Active have some of my favorite mix-and-match seamless sets.
Best Activewear Accessory Brands
To complement your workout set, simple jewelry that withstands tarnishing is the best way to accessorize your look; I look to brands like Jenny Bird and Awe Inspired for unique yet practical pieces. Especially when I’m teaching, an Apple watch is a must-have, and Post Tech has both silicone and more stylish metal bands to switch out. While pilates calls for you to be sans shoes, socks are a necessity; I recommend checking out Doublesoul for the grip-sock variety packs.
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