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Leggings and workout clothes at the office: OK or not OK?

Workout clothes aren't just for the gym anymore.

The new crop of sexy, form-fitting and fashion-forward fitness apparel has women wearing their gym clothes to the grocery store, out with friends, and even to the office.

(Even though some people, like the woman in this viral Facebook video, disagree.)

 Leggings and workout clothes at the office

Image provided by Carbon38

"It's not just a trend, but a cultural shift in the way women are dressing, and how they're approaching their work style," Caroline Gogolak, co-founder of Carbon38, a website for luxury activewear, "People realize they need to be able to perform throughout their every day life, and maybe that doesn't mean pounding it out on the treadmill. But there's a reason that Lululemon leggings created such a market. Women realized they wanted to wear this legging to more than just the gym, because it's comfortable, it's machine-washable, it looks nice and it's presentable."

As companies start to shift toward more relaxed environments, adopting policies like flexible vacation days and the freedom to work remotely, it makes sense that there's room for a more casual wardrobe. Add in the recent wave of designer fitness apparel lines, and it's no wonder women are wearing their yoga pants from breakfast until bedtime.

It also aligns with the recent push toward healthy lifestyles: "There's been a big shift from personal luxury to personal fitness," Katie Johnson, Gogolak's partner in Carbon38, said "The way that five or 10 years ago we were saving up to buy a handbag, now we're saving up to buy a meal-delivery plan or personal-training sessions."

Or, a wardrobe of fancy yoga pants. Many women said that basic black yoga pants make for a perfect work outfit.

 a wardrobe of fancy yoga pants

Courtesy of Erica Harriss

Erica Harriss shows how she dresses up workout leggings with jewelry and high heels.

"If I know I'm going to the gym at lunch, I'll put on black leggings, a black tank top and some type of sweater or top over it," Erica Harriss, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who lives outside of St. Louis, said "And I just amp up my jewelry a little more."

"Sometimes you'll see girls with a full Lululemon outfit; they'll be wearing the top and the workout pants," she said. "Or they'll wear workout pants with a sweater and a leather jacket and nice sneakers. People definitely look presentable. They're not showing up in scrubs."

 Women at work in Yoga Pants

Courtesy of Christine Pierson


Christine Pierson keeps it casual but stylish in New York City.



Plus, the outfits motivate Pierson and her colleagues to exercise after work, she added.

Sales prove women are investing in their workout wardrobes. As shoppers swap jeans for yoga pants, denim sales are down and athleisure sales continue to rise. Americans spent $323 billion on apparel in 2014, a 1 percent increase from the prior year that's largely due to athletic-related purchases, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm.

Some brands are even creating clothes with the specific intention to transition between work and workouts. Apparel brand Tanya-B was created when two New York City yoga instructors realized they were sick of lugging around multiple outfits, to change in between teaching classes.

 Apparel brand Tanya-B was created when two New York City yoga

Phillip van Nostrand

Tanya-B's signature tie-dye halter.

"There was too much changing and going back and forth from the yoga room to drinks or errands or whatever else outside," co-founder Tanya Boulton said. She also wanted to make clothes that are just as fun and sexy as they are functional. One of the brand's most popular pieces, a tie-dye halter, passes as a cute top.

Ready to try it? Here's how to pull off gym clothes at the office:

1. Pick the right black pant

"Start with a great set of leggings," Johnson said. "You want something that's not terribly branded."

Fabrics matter, too. Choose something with a "soft sheen," she added, which looks dressier.

2. Embrace layers

Many women said their go-to fall outfit is black leggings and a long top or sweater, paired with boots and a leather jacket. Use the black yoga pants as a base, and add layers from there.

3. Play up accessories

If your goal is to wear yoga pants but still look like you're wearing regular clothes, consider jewelry your new best friend.

"I'll put on pearl earrings or a big necklace," Harriss said of how she dresses up a leggings look.

Legwarmers peeking out of boots is a warm way to add dimension to otherwise simple yoga pants. (Plus: Legwarmers are fun!)

4. Or, go all out

If you're ready to try a full-on fitness look at work (and your job allows it!), the trick is to make sure every component of your outfit is sharp, including footwear. Wear sleek sneakers, never dirty running shoes.

October 29, 2015

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