Not Your Mother’s Gym Clothes

By Sharon Naylor

December 4, 2015 4 min read

Not everyone wearing yoga pants out and about in town has just been to the yoga studio. Athletic apparel, including yoga pants, leggings, tracksuits, stretchy tees and stylish athletic shoes, has become a top trend for fashion.

French Vogue included "athleisure" looks in a recent issue, and when celebrities like supermodel Cara Delevingne or Jennifer Lopez are photographed in designer athleticwear, fashion and entertainment blogs report on it.

In the apparel industry, according to a survey by Barclays, athletic apparel will increase 50 percent by 2020, creating a $100 billion market. And demand for yoga pants, leggings and shirts is outpacing the growth of yoga as a sport, says the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Sales of yoga apparel were up 45 percent in 2013, and yoga participation increased just 4.5 percent. Americans like to look as if they live a fit and healthy lifestyle -- even if they have never set foot in a yoga, barre, boxing or fitness studio.

Yoga leggings and tees, and other sporting-style clothing befitting the coined term "athleisure" are popular on many levels. In function, they are comfortable, flattering, easy to care for, versatile and budget friendly. Yoga leggings cost far less than a pair of designer jeans or a skirt, and a yoga-motif tee can hide a bit of a tummy while running errands or meeting friends for lunch.

In addition to the functionality of athleticwear is a mindset of projecting an image as a health-conscious, on-trend person and fitting into the community of yoga and fitness enthusiasts.

When one wears a branded yoga tee shirt bearing the name of an elite fitness center or yoga studio, there's a sense of belonging to a fitness community and belonging to an economic level that allows one to spend one's days in yoga and kickboxing classes. Marketing geniuses have brought to the fitness apparel realm the psychological benefit of "belonging."

With the growth of athletic apparel so strong, including men's sports pants that look like slacks, stores like Kohl's are reportedly devoting more floor space to athleisure clothing and accessories. And online fashionista sites have created new sportswear sections, like Net-a-Porter's new "Net-a-Sporter." Sporting companies like Nike and Adidas are partnering with celebrities such as Pharrell Williams to tout the athleisure look for men, women and children, and top-tier designers like Tom Ford, Chanel, Tory Burch and others show sporty styles in their collections. Kate Spade & Co. recently announced their new athleisure partnership with Beyond Yoga, bringing the signature punchy colors, prints and unique strap designs of the Kate Spade brand to fitness apparel.

These apparel leaders' immersion in the athleisure realm provides a wealth of fashion runway color, pattern, city-chic and street-inspired style, plus sequined sports jerseys that blur the lines between on-the-field wear and dressy, upscale wear. It is indeed about blurring lines. Casual and everyday apparel lines have blurred, and sport-motifs have bled into dressier looks.

While it has attracted the trendsetting millennial audience, the pairing of comfort and style also attracts an older-than-millennial audience that wants ease of dressing in their busy lives, but also want to look fresh, healthy, young and trendy.

According to the experts at Magic Online, the digital home of the UBM Advanstar Fashion Group, staying healthy never goes out of style. Healthy living and athleticwear fit the movement toward all things organic, locally grown, non-GMO and pesticide-free. Wearing organic fabrics connects to one's values, and athleticwear's global style connect us with the larger world around us.

This clothing style feels good, does good when lines are connected to charitable missions, and makes a good impression in or out of the fitness studio.

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