A rising fashion trend to correspond with our busy working lives, athleisure wear has become a staple in our visual style of everyday clothes. Gone are the days of explaining why you’re wearing leggings to a nice dinner, or spandex to the grocery store. Athletic fashion is as ingrained in the everyday couture of modern society as kale, smartphones or e-cigarettes.

How Mainstream Are Workout Clothes?

Companies like Fabletics, Sweaty Betty, and Outdoor Voices are marketing products directly toward busy women who value both comfort and functionality. Athleisure is the evolution of wearable accessories that marry the best of workout clothes with the comfort of pajamas. In fact, sport-specific brands like Chrome, Rapha and even Levi’s are giving their products a duality of high fashion styling and attributes reserved for clothing items reserved for bicycling.

In this way, society is proving that we are moving towards healthier, more active, conscientious lives in which physical cultivation of our bodies is as important as our leisure time. A boom across the fitness industry that began during the cold war in a propaganda campaign against the rise of athletic Communist dominance has seen steady growth ever since. In fact, while trends like Tae Bo, Zumba and Jazzercise are seen largely as fad aerobics regimens, the clothing associated with all activities hasn’t faltered.

What Does Athleisure Wear Do?

Technological developments in fabric and construction have afforded athleisure a great deal of expansion in recent years as well. Materials designed to wick moisture away from the body, resist or repel odors related to physical exertion and sweat, and stretch ability or shaping have all been popular attributes of an increasing number of products.

Wander into any private gym, yoga studio, or spin class in the world and you’re likely to find brightly-colored malleable fabric stretched across sweaty bodies attempting to better themselves. In addition, athletic fashion has turned the dance studio in a runway of comfortable fashion. Workout aesthetic has become as much about how you look out of your clothes, as you do in them.

Building Iconic Clothes

An era of “influencers” has skyrocketed some of the lesser-known athleisure brands to stardom. These celebrity endorsements of consumer goods have brought products that may have remained in obscurity due to their minimal labeling and lack of logo placement, to the forefront of what’s considered fashionable. Clothing as iconic as Ursula Andress’ bikini in Dr. No, Farrah Fawcett’s one-piece famously emblazoned on a memorable poster, and Jane Fonda’s leotard from her celebrated workout tape have canonized this genre of fashion as not only memorable but stylish.

How Popular Are Workout Clothes?

The consumer athleisure market was valued at $83 billion dollars and generated $270 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. While this included sneakers and other footwear which notoriously have a premium price point, it’s projected growth is expected to increase 30% by 2020. Websites like Farfetch are charging up to $10,000 a pair for custom designed athletic sneakers.

A growing sentiment is the rejection of what is perceived as a fashion that famous designers have decided society wants versus what they choose for themselves. Influencers appear to give a voice to the people. Though they are prominent figures, they choose their aesthetic based on personal preference rather than the dictation of the fashion industry. This has given rise to the social media runway, an online look book filled with beautiful people endorsing a wider spectrum of clothing than the inner cabal of sacred design houses.

The Rise of Shapewear

Going back as far as the 16th century, shapewear has molded not only the way we wear our clothes, but how we present ourselves to the world. Garments such as corsets, bustiers, girdles, and foundation undergarments have shaped the world of fashion as well as the bodies that wear it. As modern athletic apparel sets society on its way to looking and feeling more fit, shapewear is giving us a boost in the bust, as well as other bodily regions.

Clothes that mold us, not simply into what we want to be, but who we want to be are nothing new. However, the aforementioned developments in garment technology and materials have aided this variety of clothes in achieving exponential growth recently. In fact, many large corporate retailers and manufacturers are rushing to offer shapewear product lines to answer a growing demand.

What Does Shapewear Do?

Shapewear uses a stretchy, flexible material to create a desired figure through a method of bodily displacement that smooths curves and re-concentrates their appearance to the optimum aesthetic areas. To explain, they move the parts of ourselves or adjust them into something we find pleasing and complementary. These garments may smooth out areas where our body sags or flares, streamline our profile to change the way the natural curvature manifests, or simply compress them in order to hide their existence.

While this isn’t an ideal way to reshape our bodies, it gives many of us confidence and encouragement to continue pursuing physical health to achieve our desired appearance. At the end of a workout, we all take our clothes off and the only thing left is ourselves. However, knowing who we are and accepting our bodies however they may look to us and others should always be a primary goal.

Fitness is a wonderful way to feel confident, carefree and attractive. However, what’s inside your chosen workout attire counts equally if not more than what you wrap it in. While fashionable exercise clothing can give us the confidence to step into the gym, it’s the empowerment we give ourselves that keeps us coming back. See you there.