You can't beat athletic wear for function when headed to the gym or on a quick dash to the grocery store. With several designers coming up with "athleisure" clothing that promises style and comfort, yoga pants, tops and an assortment of great fitting athletic wear have started to make inroads into the workplace.
In an office with an extremely casual dress code or little interface with clients, the temptation to pull on a pair of joggers and a breezy t-shirt may cross your mind. Though it might be a dream to work in stretchy, elasticized heaven, there's still your professional appearance to consider. As the classic advice about "dressing for the job you want" suggests, you might be sending the message that you'd like to be a fitness instructor instead of the company's vice president.
There are some careers where workout wear will never be appropriate. On the other hand, if you have a home office or the company policy encourages active wear, my advice is not to get lax. Here are four tips to remember.
1. Go for a polished look.
Your outfit should say "I take pride in myself and my job" rather than "my top priority is to go to the least amount of trouble." Put some thought into creating an attractive, pulled-together outfit with a few carefully selected pieces. For example, a pair of black leggings with a slight flare rather than skinny, knee length yoga pants, and a mid-thigh length top versus a tank and exposed sports bra. A longer tee or sweater is another good option.
2. Not all athletic wear is created equal.
The trend may be acceptable at work when it consists of classic-cut tops and pants constructed from well-made fabrics in a muted or dark color palette. Short shorts, tank tops, visible sports bras and wild, colorful patterns are fine for the gym but are no-no's at the office, no matter how relaxed the company dress code is.
3. Athleisure does not translate to "business casual."
To be clear, I am not advocating we all go out and buy office wear leggings! This is merely an alternative for those who work at home, or have a position in the company that generally places very little emphasis on clothing preferences.
If you are potentially meeting a client or will be in a situation where you will represent the corporate brand, it is your responsibility to dress to impress. When working from home, your default uniform should seamlessly transition into a variety of circumstances, including unexpected meetings, running errands, picking up and dropping off children, etc.
4. Make sure your clothing smells fresh.
Part of the allure of athletic wear is the easy transition from the gym to the rest of the day. However, if you actually sweat in them, shower and change. Athletic wear fabrics are famous for drying quickly, but notorious for retaining odor, so consider keeping a dedicated set of workout clothes and a separate athletic wardrobe for use outside of the gym.
You may also like my recent article, Change of Season: Closet Organization Ideas.