The Most Flattering Workout Gear for Women

So here’s the deal with what you look like in your fitness gear. I matters to literally no one but you but that can matter a lot! I love the quote that goes something like “You would care a lot less about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” So if you care what you look like because of what others are thinking, just stop and wear what makes you the most comfortable. If someone drives by you while you’re running, cycling, walking they really don’t have time to imprint your ensemble of their mind anyway. Often people you know well don’t even notice it’s you! But it does matter how you look for how you feel. If you look in the mirror after donning your gym clothes and think “Well that looks terrible,” you’re not going to give it your all, feel great doing your workout or maybe even go at all. A shirt that’s too tight in the wrong places to the point you feel like you look stupid and you’re pulling at it the whole time can truly ruin your run.

So feel free to follow these suggestions or not and wear what performs well, makes you feel good and is comfortable. These tips are not rules just a list of shortcuts that might help you get there. I will confess it’s something I think about almost always when I work out because I usually snap a picture or two for the blog and instagram. You’ll see some of these sorts of pictures of me making these ‘mistakes’. Whether you want to post your own runfie or want kick a$$ race photos it’s totally cool to just care what you look like too. Even though I take pictures I’m not willing to sacrifice function for form on any single run and silly race day outfits are a standard for me. So it’s totally possible to look AND feel great! 

Opt for solid and or dark colored bottoms

As much as I love this one pair of Nike leggings honey bought me and as well at they perform they are just not flattering. They give me thighs that just aren’t there. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear silly printed pants for races that I think will jazz up the day. As boring as it is plain black is it looks the best but the darker the better generally. I know ground breaking right?

Tight on the bottom, looser on the top

As women we usually have the odd body hang up or two. Generally we want to look slimmer and hide our flaws. You know the old minimize the thighs, hide the belly and look taller. A winning combination is dark tights and a top that’s slightly looser. The tight pants smooth out legs and a high waisted version helps with the tummy. Tight tops do wonders for this but only if you really are comfortable wearing them. Personally in life and working out a tight top only makes me feel bloated, uncomfortable and spoils the fun. Opt for something a little looser, ideally with a bit of waist narrowing on top to look AND feel your best.

But not too loose or long

A top that is too long or loose in particular tends to make you look a little sloppy, wider and shorter than you actually are. This look tends to happen to your favorite items that you wear over and over again with time. It happens so slowly that you might not even notice as the item wears or if you lose some weight. While it doesn’t look bad exactly the proportions of the garment just don’t look quite right anymore. Almost all activewear items have a degree of stretch to them and over many wears, washing and time the elastic within the fabric starts to degrade and it just doesn’t feel or look like it really fits your body any more. We all notice when this happens with sports bras over time right? Keep an eye on your favorite items and if they just aren’t what they used to be replace them after all you know you will get plenty of use out of the next one too!

Shorts are hard, skirts are easier

Certain clothing items are just hard to fit no matter who you are. But summer temperatures mean you have to find something eventually. Things like jeans, button up tops and swim suits mean you might be trying on for hours before you finally buy something. The best example of this in activewear is probably shorts. There is no one style, length or cut that is universally flattering for all body styles. Sometimes with it shorts can actually seem impossible to find the perfect pair. There are a lot of options including tight or loose, length, color, cut and fabric. Even though there are so many options it can still seem impossible to get the perfect one for you. Personally I find loose styles seem to have too much space in the seat leading to a puffy butt look while tight styles seem to ride up and shrink leaving me overexposed and adjusting them often. Since tighter styles are less likely to interfere with my belt I tend to go for those. If you find something you truly love it might be worth it to stock up on colors even if it hurts your wallet. The good news is that loose short styles seem to last literally forever so it is likely to be a good long term investment. Know that you are not alone if it has been a decade and you still don’t have a perfect pair you are not alone. You might want to check out a running skirt or two since it’s no secret I find them largely superior to shorts!

Capris aren’t cute

Just wrote a whole post on these ‘pointless pants’ go check it out but long story short, they mess with your body proportions and cut you at a weird wide spot on your calf leading them to be less flattering than other options. Plus I would argue that they don’t serve any purpose that shorts or pants can’t.

Avoid old school elastic waists

The vast majority of activewear bottoms feature a flat elastic waist band over a gathered elastic one similar to those on pajama pants for a reason. The extra fabric in the gathered version adds frump right where you don’t want it and interferes with belts you might be wearing around your waist. Sometimes you get the best of both worlds in a larger flat waist band with a hidden elastic that you can tie a knot in to make minor fit adjustments. The good news is that the old school elastic gathered bands are super rare at this point but the pair of pants I’m wearing below has one. What ends up happening is that you are left with a bunch of ‘extra fabric’ that hangs out under your shirt but doesn’t quite hide itself entirely. Because these waistbands are so rare, interfere with function, are uncomfortable and don’t tend to look great I’m going to go out on a limb and just say to avoid them entirely unless you absolutely love the garment otherwise.

These pants have a gathered elastic waist and aren’t quite tight anymore and they aren’t the most flattering pair of pants I own!

Watch those panty lines

This is something I don’t put much thought into because you gotta be pretty close to see it, they might only pop out at one fleeting part of your stride and that’s exactly what the retouch tool was created for. If my bottoms and under bottoms can coexist and be comfortable that’s enough for me. However if the VPL is something you avoid at all costs be aware that tight often thin activewear material lends itself pretty easily to unsightly lines from behind. Some super lightweight materials make avoiding them almost impossible. To test out your rearview perform a squat and do a deep forward bend in front of the mirror. That should reveal what you’re working with. If it bugs you you have options. Seamless underpants go a long way to reducing the look of these lines as do thongs if that’s your thing. But… a lot of activewear bottoms are designed to be able to worn sans underpants entirely and still be comfortable. They may feature a built in ‘liner’ layer or a wide gusset just like underwear. Give going commando a try you never know right?

That’s quite a VPL!

Things that require a perfect body to look good in

There are a few pieces of kit that that I have discovered (perhaps you did too on Instagram) that you pretty much have to have a perfect body to look smoking hot in. That doesn’t mean that you have to look like that to wear them. While I’m pretty thin, toned and fit these things don’t look great on me either. I also know sometimes we pick those items out because we want to look like that so here’s my list do with it what you will:

  • Nike pro shorts (at least at 3”)
  • Short wetsuits
  • Wide bright headbands
  • Intricate tight cropped tops especially with cutouts
  • Thin strapped sports bras
  • Calf sleeves or even arm sleeves
  • Mesh panels in pants

I firmly believe that you should wear what you want but it’s okay to want to wear what makes you look good too. Wearing anything with confidence also makes you look great! If something makes me feel self-conscious then I don’t reach for it that’s just the bottom line. If how something looks never crosses you mind that’s great. Certain items perform so well I don’t even care that they look less than awesome I’ll wear the crap out of it anyway. I also have a hard time parting with favorite items that are past their prime. But… I would also love to know if an expensive piece of kit I was spending a lot of time lusting over looked good on pretty much no one before I lay my cash on the line. In other words you do you! Do you let the way something looks factor into your fitness clothes choices? What piece of gear always makes you feel your best? Leave it in the comments!

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