Recently, I've hopped aboard the (ridiculously comfortable) bandwagon known as the athleisure trend. But before I started seeing sneakers and leggings as acceptable going out attire, I was devoted to more traditionally feminine ensembles — ones that included dresses and heels and cardigans. So how did I learn to embrace this decidedly sporty fad? Let's back up a bit.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people like Audrey Hepburn or Steve Jobs who know what their preferred style is and stick to it and those who, like David Bowie (RIP), are constant chameleons. I envy those in the former group. It must be nice to have a uniform of sorts, to know what your style is and to be able to consistently fall back on that throughout the years. Personally, I'm the sort of person who goes through a major style change every few years. From childhood all the way through high school, I leaned towards unfussy, tomboyish clothes. I spent the majority of my high school years wearing sneakers, jeans, and an oversized hoodie. Frankly, I wouldn't even call my clothing preferences at that time a style choice; it was more of a deliberate lack of choice, since I had zero interest in fashion.
Then I went away to college and started to experiment more with clothes; I had my very first credit card, so I visited the thrift store in my small college town and browsed Etsy. Suddenly my style became much more feminine, with a lot of vintage pieces. I wore dresses and heels and had fun playing around with pattern mixing and adventurous outfit choices.
After college, I cycled through a few part-time jobs at places like a daycare and a library. As the most dressed-up person at work, I was often garnering comments about my outfits. Made hyper-aware of the fact that my sense of style drew attention, I always tried to keep my outfits office-friendly. Inevitably, however, I got bored of cardigans and sensible heels. Luckily by that time my writing career had gained traction and I switched over to full-time freelance work.
Looking back now, it's easy to predict how my latest life change would kickstart another style evolution for me. My transition to working at home happened at the same time that the normcore and athleisure styles became popular. Suddenly, it was not only acceptable to wear your gym attire outside of the gym but cool and fashionable. After more than a year of working from home, I realized that on days when it was tempting to just stay in my pajamas, it was just as easy to switch to leggings and a hoodie. It was still a casual and comfy outfit, but somehow much more socially acceptable. After all, if Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner can constantly base outfits around workout clothes and still look chic, so can the rest of us. I even started wearing sneakers instead of painfully high heels when going out at night in a cute dress with my boyfriend or my friends.
Here are a few ways that I've been making the athleisure trend work for my day-to-day life, despite my usual affinity for all things traditionally feminine.
1. For Working Out & Running Errands
This is the most obvious and easiest way to try out the athleisure trend: for actual athletic purposes. I signed up for my very first gym membership in 2015, and since then I've grown my collection of workout clothes from practically zero. I usually wear leggings or loose joggers (as pictured above) with a hoodie, all in neutral colors. It usually helps me feel more put-together and sophisticated when wearing neutral-colored workout clothes (although if you prefer bright colors, go for it!). I also feel more confident if most of the outfit is tailored; if one element, like the joggers, is baggy then I balance that out with a tighter top to avoid looking sloppy or shapeless. I would wear an outfit like the one above all day to do errands and walk the dog before going to an evening workout class.
2. For Casual Weekend Plans
If I'm hanging out on a Saturday or Sunday with some friends or family, I'll keep things comfy and casual with an outfit like the one above. Switching out leggings for black skinny jeans and a hoodie for a tailored coat helps to balance out the extreme casual vibe of the sneakers. I added the chunky turtleneck sweater for extra warmth and a vibrant dose of color.
3. For Going Out
Finally, I've recently become very committed to wearing comfortable shoes when I go out dancing or on a date. You never know what the night will bring and, as much as I love a good pair of killer heels, I don't want them to actually kill my feet and thus my evening. Not only are sneakers comfy, but they also add a relaxed and fun vibe to even the sexiest or fussiest dress. Don't be afraid to switch out your heels for sneakers the next time you go out; you're bound to have way more fun, and all the other women will be envious as they watch you happily dance all night.
So yes: my latest personal style is quite different from my earlier, dressier preferences. Still, I don't feel as if I've regressed to my lazy, slovenly habits from high school because I still put effort into making each outfit look put-together and interesting. I admit that sometimes I feel a little bad about neglecting all the cute dresses and heels in my closet but I figure they'll keep. For now, my outfits match my lifestyle — and that's the #1 rule of finding a personal style that works for you.
Images: Kelly Dougher