|Actual Super Model...not me|
I do have a good body, (ah...ah-ah, I work out!) ;) but am not in the best nor worst shape of my life. As a petite, 5’4” and under, I am a much more realistic example of athletic wear fit than the average 12% body fat, 34” inseam model the fitness gear companies use to demonstrate the fit of their products. It seems to me that many people fear the gym due to the obvious reasons, but after overcoming those concerns the looming question of what to wear still remains. What I find is people who need to be in the gym most, most often choose workout clothes that would make the gym-rockstar feel over weight and self conscious. Coming to the gym in a tent of a t-shirt and baggy sweats only makes a person look bigger...the opposite reason they came to the gym in the first place...to get smaller. Think about it (aside from the t-shirts...which are not particularly oversized) the female candidates on The Biggest Loser always wear a fitted bottom. As a long-time workout patron I will tell you there is a fashion and a function reasoning behind this...
1) If you want a good workout you have to move! There is a very good reason you do not see gymnasts spinning around the parallel bars in a bunch of baggy clothes...the restriction and tangle factor! Good workouts = ease of motion, ease of motion = clothes that fit (period!).
2) Clothes that fit make you look your best (your thinnest, your most in shape, etc.). What people sometimes get caught up in here is that it is your best, not someone else’s. The harsh truth is unless you are 5’10” and in your best shape do not expect to see the girl on the tag in the mirror!
There is a difference between tight and fitted. Fitted gently hugs your body, while tight stresses the seams and displays all your imperfections. Fitted is comfortable and tight is not. The super thing about Lycra/Spandex is that it stretches. As you shrink it still fits, to a point, and the same is true for growth.
Breathability and wicking properties are important too. Everybody has seen the butt-sweat “t” on the poor unsuspecting girl that just worked her butt (sweat) off. I don’t know about you, but even when I have a great workout I am mortified at sweat lines. This is the reason I avoid light/medium grey cotton gym pants like the plague! So find something with wicking properties in a color that diminishes sweat lines. The tag will say something like: cool max or quick dry. The textile technology for keeping you comfortable is abundant, even in the budget brands.
Remember my dress for your body-type series last spring? The same principles apply to fitness clothing. It is all about the balance...short legs?...make them look longer. Overly large bust?...minimize the girls. You can do this in the gym. Let me help you...
I must really feel strongly about this topic because I am not particularly fond of my legs. Remember you may have different body issues than I do. Therefore I will try to touch on plenty of topics so that you may find some that apply to you.
Let’s first examine the oh so popular banded waists. The wide band such as this blue one is good for those of us that are long waisted, meaning a longer than average distance from your natural waist to your crotch. It breaks up the expanse with a lighter color on a more narrow high hip and a darker color on a full lower hip. So we see the top portion technically works well, but the bottom could be more flattering. Cutting a long waist down to size is a good thing if you have the leg length to go with it. This style may have been more appealing for a petite in a full length pant. The flare in addition to the crop just adds bulk to my frame. Don’t believe me? Scroll down to a fitted capri and you will see five pounds drop in the matter of a wardrobe change.
Again we have a banded waist. I am not particularly fond of this basque “v” style. Although the side out-seams appear to create a longer side leg, the front seam between the dark grey and the black fabrics create a line that gives the visual as a whole a squatty wide frame with an overbearing torso. Now, if I had long legs and a short, straight waist this style would work much better. If you are petite with slim ankles a tapered pant will appear much more slimming than this one.
Neither of the short, fitted capris below were my favorite before the photos. Now I am changing my mind. It is funny how the camera lens allows you to view yourself from other’s perspective rather than the mirror. I encourage you to try it.
The reason these work is balance. Notice the fullest part of the leg is covered in a fabric darker than my skin. The hem is located in a line across the fuller part of the calf. This allows the top portion of my leg to more closely resemble the bottom half in width. Now it is ridiculous to assume the thigh and calf should be the same size and they should not, but the stronger sense of balance between the two the more continuous the vertical space...as you can see I am already appearing taller and thinner. Also, I wanted to note that the capris on the left are made of a strong synthetic compression fabric whereas the pair on the right are a flimsy but good moisture wicking synthetic fabric.
A bit longer capri will help slim large calves, however, in my case I loose a tiny bit of that balance I just explained with the short capris, merely because the hem is lower allowing the calf to taper more. The look still works well because the elongated continuity of the black fabric lengthens the leg without adding bulk. Something else I would like to point out is the difference in the height of the waistband. The higher waistband makes my legs appear longer, but my waist wider. That is okay. I have enough of a curve from my hips to my waist. I would rather gain some leg length even if I have to gain some waist width.
The full length legging is nice because the fabric gives the eye room to trace the vertical space. If you have very noticeable cellulite be careful with your fabric choice. You want something that will compress enough to even out the dimpling. A thicker synthetic fabric with breathability will be your best bet. Added vertical and diagonal seam lines help hold everything in place minimizing lumps and bumps. If you struggle with varicose veins this is a nice option to show off your legs without fear of exposing your veins.
Lastly, shorts. I prefer the biker shorts and hot pants to the traditional cotton short, firstly, because I think they are more comfortable for a workout; secondly, because you do not need to worry if you are flashing people. If you have big thighs and favor the traditional short make sure to find one that is not tight and the hem does not fall at the widest part of your thigh. If you have very skinny thighs make sure a traditional short does not appear too big and baggy.
The biker length short is nice for those that are in pretty decent shape. This length allows for the widest part of the hip to be covered and of course, they are cooler than capris.
The hot pant is not for everyone. Although, it could be, depending on how hard you want to work for it. Again, I am not in my best shape and I have not been wearing these lately. But for the sake of explaining athletic fit here they are. A hot pant’s only great fashion function is to lengthen the leg. The shorter the short the longer the legs (appear). However, the shorter the short the more the cellulite and flaws appear (if present). Also, the whiter the legs the wider they appear. Think spray tan...it’s the quickest way to look slimmer.
I did not cover workout tops. The best thing to remember with tops is pretty much the same as the bottoms:
1) If a built in bra top or sports bra is too tight skin will push out from under it creating unwanted rolls.
2) Support! Sports bras are for the gym, not demi bras.
3)Tops should fit. Even if it has sleeves if it is too big for you, you will not look your best.
4) Sweat happens; choose your fabrics and colors accordingly.