Stylish Exercise Wear #FashionFriday

stylish athletic wear

My blogging buddy Emily from Practical Paleo wrote in and asked for advice for one of her fashion challenges:

I need suggestions for affordable and appropriate exercise wear (I don’t like baggy tops for working out but need to look professional and have an array).

I’m a huge proponent for investing in some flattering exercise wear. I truly believe you will be more motivated to work out if you have something to wear that feels stylish and flattering. Of course, no one wants to break the bank on something you’re just going to sweat in, but I do want to make a case for buying good quality exercise wear. You need clothing that is designed for sweat, and that will hold up to whatever type of exercise you’re going to bring to the table. Look for bargains, but don’t skimp.

Here are my rules for finding good quality athletic wear that is cute and won’t break the bank. Then we’ll break it down.

How to Buy Cute, Comfortable Athletic Wear

  1. Make sure to buy clothes made from moisture-wicking fabric.
  2. Buy tops that are form-fitting but not too tight.
  3. Don’t be tempted to size up. Buy the smallest size that fits; it will look better, and you will feel thinner and more motivated to work out!
  4. Look for cute details like piping or contrasting colors or stitching to add interest and fun to the outfit.
  5. Yoga pants and running tights should be made from good quality, thick material so they aren’t see through and don’t get shiny after they’re washed and worn.

Moisture Wicking Fabric. Why?

This is because when you’re planning to sweat, you need clothes that are designed to pull moisture away from the skin so your sweat and perspiration is drawn off the skin and out to the exterior of the fabric. It is much easier for the moisture to evaporate on the surface of the fabric than when it is trapped between the garment and the skin. It’s healthier and it just feels better. Once I discovered moisture-wicking fabrics, I never looked back! They are so much cooler and more comfortable to work out in.


Make sure your tops have shape built into the waist. They don’t need to be skin tight (in fact, unless you are super buff, they shouldn’t be) but they need to have a feminine shape to them to be flattering. Throw away your husband’s college t-shirt and buy something made for a woman with curves!

Twist Half Zip Hoodie

And don’t be tempted to size up because you’re insecure about how you look. As with street clothes, buy athletic clothes that fit.

My favorite place to find cute exercise wear that doesn’t break the bank is Athleta. Athleta is owned by the GAP and since I’m a GAP card member, I get all the benefits of earning reward points and free shipping when I shop at Athleta – YAY! If you aren’t a GAP card member, I highly recommend it. It is one of the only store cards that I have because it’s definitely worth it if you do a lot of shopping at Gap, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta. I try to wait for one of Athleta’s sales and then stock up. That definitely helps make them more affordable.

It’s All About the Details

This is an example of one of my go-to gym workout outfits from Athleta. Notice the details on the jacket — the ruffle up the front, the patches by the shoulders, these are the details that make this jacket so much cuter than traditional workout gear.

cute workout wear

Shown: Prevail Jacket (great for going to and from the gym or for an outdoor activity) with the Relay Capri (great for gym workouts or running).

I love and adore my Relay Capris. Which brings me to #5.

Invest in good quality pants.

If there is ONE ITEM to invest in, it’s a decent pair of athletic tights/capris. If you are going to wear skin-tight pants, they must be thick enough that they are NOT see-through. I’ve seen way too many women running 5Ks with cheap stretch pants and it is NOT a pretty sight. Don’t let that be you!

You can skimp on tops and jackets, but not on your athletic pants!!  Make sure your stretchy pants are made from material that is thick enough so that it’s not see-through and good quality so it doesn’t get shiny or shrink after it’s been washed and worn a few times.

I also just received the Reflective Relay Tight as part of a promotion with FitFluential. I love these every bit as much as the Relay Capris. They high, wide waistband virtually eliminates the dreaded muffin top, they stay in place, and the fabric is nice and thick so there is no see-through issues. (That model must be 7 feet tall. The waist of the pant comes up to my belly button.)

reflective relay tight

If you’re thinking, no way am I running around in skintight pants!!!! that is okay. They make some really cute shorts too. Such as the Embossed Stability Short.


Want the best of both worlds? Try the 2-in-1.


With those I would wear a performance top such as the Essential Tee or Run On Tank. Notice again, the details, the fit, the contrast stitching.


If Athleta is still more than you want to spend, you can get brands such as Nike and Under Armour at places like Kohl’s and even Marshall’s.

Kohl’s carries a ton of Nike DRI-FIT athletic wear for women. Their dry fit performance tees are a great value at $21.99, and the half-zip running jacket is great for throwing on over top to go to and from when it gets cooler. They have capris and shorts as well. You can see that they’re not quite as cute, but they fit and perform well, and you can often get them at good sale prices.


When it gets really cold and you need pants to wear over your capris and shorts to the gym, you’ll need some warm-up pants that have a zipper at the bottom so you can easily slide them off and on over your sneakers. (I still need to get some of those! Instead, I just freeze my tushy off between here and the gym.)

warmup pants

I usually check Dick’s Sporting Goods or Modell’s when I’m there for my son to see if they have any good sales going on with women’s athletic wear. I sometimes find cute things on Amazon. They carry Under Armour. And if you have an Outlet Mall near you, they usually have outlet stores for some of the major athletic brands. Target also carries a line of C9 by Champion athletic wear that is cute and pretty good quality.

Where do you like to shop for cute athletic clothes that don’t break the bank?? What would you add to my 5 rules?

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15 Responses

  1. All of these are so cute it’s making me want to get my rear in gear again! 🙂 Maybe having cute workout clothes instead of old pj’s just because I’m working out at home alone would help me. I’ve also been throwing around the idea of finding a mom at the kids school to partner up with for working out. (All my friends live 30+ minutes away)

  2. I do get a lot of gym gear at Target. They aren’t cutie, but then they won’t break the bank either. I would add to your list:
    If ANYTHING has a tear, hole or worn area…quit wearing it! It isn’t pretty to see holes on someone’s rear or a thin crotch area from wear. Get rid of it!

    Don’t wear tops that are too low cut or too short. Those young girls in their spandex bras are cute, but you aren’t 20 and if you aren’t excessively fit no one needs to see what hangs out!

  3. Your blog turned me onto Athleta and it is worth every penny. I am more pear shaped and while I would love to look great in tight capri pants it just doesnt work for me. I LOVE Athletas kickbooty bermuda shorts, capris, and pants. They are fitted not tight in the thigh area but not in the calves which works great for my body. If i wear tight every where i look like i have drumsticks for legs:(. Check them out if you are lear shaped.

  4. Interesting that you think Athleta is cheap. My whole running group has decided to ban this company because they are expensive and their attitude about women who wear anything above a size 6. No, our bodies do not cause the malfunction in their clothing…..don’t blame my thighs!

    1. Are you sure you’re not thinking of Lululemon? I did see the press on that. Lululemon is EXTREMELY expensive. Athleta is not cheap, but I like the quality and the styling and when it goes on sale, it is no more pricey than Nike or Under Armor, which I was comparing it to. But when it comes to price point, everything is relative. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the great ideas! I have a lot of tank tops from Target. If you have a Kohl’s nearby, I’ve found some good items on sale there. For deals online, I shop at RunningWarehouse.com.

  6. I’m sending this article to my family for Christmas gift ideas! I joined the gym about 6 weeks ago, have lost 20 lbs!, and am finding that my workout clothes are just not cutting it. Thanks so much for the great exercise wear suggestions!

  7. These are really great ideas! I love those shorts. I have so much trouble finding ones that fit right, I need to check these out. And, you are so right, the details are so important! I LOVE that jacket from Athleta!

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