Stylish Ways to Wear Athleisure Pants

athleisure pants

By now you have probably heard the word athleisure.  Who comes up with these terms?  If you have heard the word but don’t know what it means, athleisure is described as wearing athletic clothing designed for workouts in settings such as school, the workplace and other social occasions.  Wikipedia has an interesting entry on the topic.

I guess my feeling on the whole movement is that we have just given a fancy name to something most people have been doing for years.  Does naming just give the movement validity or people free license to wear sweatpants to the theater?  I don’t know.  Quite frankly, I find the whole thing perplexing.

Yet, here we are, in a time where there isn’t much delineation between what a woman wears to bed or to yoga and what she wears to work.  I’m not saying we all have to get dressed up when it isn’t necessary, but there is something about naming it athleisure  that makes me feel like we have hit a very slippery slope to never putting on anything without a waistband again.

Stylish Ways to Wear Athleisure Pants

Despite this, I still feel inclined to write a post on wearing athleisure pants (a.k.a. your sweatpants) in stylish ways so that you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed and started your day.  If you want to make this trend work, here are some tips to keep in mind.

#1- Pair athleisure pants with tailored pieces to create balance

athleisure pants

I call the pairing of two unlike wardrobe pieces from opposite ends of the spectrum to create a whole new look dichotomy dressing.  As a result of this way of putting a look together, a middle ground of balance is struck.  For example, the structured blazer from Theory elevates the super casual athleisure pants from Athleta to create a middle ground of a relaxed casual appearance.  The jacket elevates the pants and the pants bring down the jacket.  Laugh if you will about pairing a blazer with a pair of pants like this, but this is one of the strongest ways I have seen athleisure styled….at least in photos.

The next thing I did was to add a pair of casual wedges to further dress up this look.  I have seen some of these outfits styled with stilettos, but, I’m sorry, I don’t care how many times I see the look styled this way, I don’t know anyone who would even consider stiletto pumps with sweatpants.  A casual wedge just seems more approachable.  Finally, I finished this outfit with a t-shirt from Banana Republic, a layered necklace from Madewell and bag from AllSaints.

#2- Add some jewelry and a little shine

athleisure pants

Jewelry and some shine can go a long way towards dressing up an outfit with next to no effort.  You can take the most basics of outfits and throw on some jewelry to take it from day to evening.   The same is true for taking a pair of casual athleisure pants and making them look less workout-y.

In the outfit above, I styled these athelisure pants from Judith & Charles with a cold shoulder blouse from Madewell and finished the outfit with a gold statement necklace from Bauble Bar, a cuff from Argento Vivo, black wristlet from MICHAEL Michale Kors and gold slip on sneakers from Frye.

Tip #4- Avoid pajama-like color combinations

athleisure pants

The next tip is to not leave your house in athleisure pants in colors that look like actual pajama bottoms and avoid creating color combinations in your outfits that look like sleepwear.  Typically, these are pastel shades.  And if your athleisure pants have bunnies or clouds on them, leave them for the bedroom.

Using the white drawstring Athleisure pants from J. Crew, I added this cobalt tank from Boden to create a summery casual look.  To add some polish, I styled the outfit with a colorful ombré scarf from Nordstrom and finished it with a bright purple bag from Baggallini, grey comfort sandals from OluKai and navy tassel earrings.

#4- Embrace athleisure pants for what they really are

athleisure pants

Let’s get real for a second and talk about what athleisure pants really are.  They’re basically sweatpants with a fancy name.  The day I thought to write this post, I saw at least three women in the span of five minutes wearing them casually in my Brooklyn neighborhood to do things like grab coffee, take their kids to the park or get breakfast.  Their athleisure pants were serving the sole function of being comfortable and easy.  This is how I think most women will wear these pants.  Sure, there may be a fringe few who style them in other ways, but, for the most part, athelisure pants are what they are.  Don’t shy away from wearing them as such.

I styled the last outfit exactly as that, like an early morning stroll, a day of relaxation or for a beach vacation where high style hardly matters.  Using these navy athleisure pants from Madewell, I created this outfit using a vintage tank from J. Crew, a navy and white striped summer sweater hoodie from The Gap, tote from Draper James and Birkenstock Gizehs in white.

I truly think athleisure pants have their place in the continuing casualization of the way people dress.  How you choose to style them is up to you.  I hope this post gives you some realistic options to consider.

  • Patricia

    I have seen women out in public (not just the emergency run to the grocery store) in actual flannel pjs with bedroom slippers. This is way beyond wearing your yoga pants for everyday life.
    Please people, follow Bridgette’s tips and no flannel pjs outside the home (grocery store runs and the school drop off run can be excluded … but if you’re picking up AFTER school, you should out of your pjs by then).

    • tgchi13

      I think about Bridgette’s suggestions on dressing well to suit your life…you can change up these outfits easily by thinking for five seconds and switching shoes out (while staying casual) and adding a piece of appropriate jewelry.

      I can be dressed pretty casually and toss on an a pendant necklace and where good shoes and be asked why I’m dressed up 🙂