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Athleisure in the South: A 5-Day Experiment

Terra Athleisure Experiment
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Athleisure: casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use. We can all thank Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner (and all of the other flawless models), for bringing this fashion statement into existence. However, aside from the dynamic-model-duo, I’ve never seen the look IRL in the south.

I’m the kind of girl who loves to dress up. Heels are a daily thing. I don’t leave the house without mascara and concealer on, and I would rather be 30 minutes late to work than show up with a bad hair day. I was raised this way.

Even though I’ve admired the athleisure trend as I’ve scrolled through Instagram the last year, my southern roots haven’t allowed me to integrate it into my own life. Down here, we’re taught from an early age to always dress to the nines before stepping out of the house. When I was growing up, my momma and granny frequently told me to make an effort with my appearance because “you never know who you might run into or meet.”

It wasn’t just the matriarchs in my family teaching this lesson, though; my dad has a strict routine every morning as he gets ready. He always fixes his hair and wears a collared shirt tucked into slacks. Even on the days he stays home, he has a shirt tucked into nice pants. I’ve rarely seen him in lounge wear.

The habit of dressing up each day is very much part of our southern culture. Women wear pearls and diamonds on a daily basis. Heels are just as present at the grocery store as ballet flats. Well, now that gym clothes are actually stylish, and I find myself constantly running from the gym straight to work or from work to the gym, I decided to give the athleisure trend a shot. For five days, I wore nothing but athleisure. Leggings abounded. Here’s what it was like.

Day 1

9:34 a.m.

Athleisure to the rescue, folks. Today I woke up at 4:30am in order to meet a co-worker for a gym intro. Since I was meeting her during my regular gym time, and walking her through a workout rather than actually exercising myself, I didn’t get to hit the gym for my workout until 6:15. Knowing I didn’t need to construct a super professional look or spend a ton of time fixing my unruly hair made the morning significantly less stressful. I just showered quickly, tweaked a few pieces of my wavy mop, and threw on some makeup before pulling on my leggings.

Athleisure experiment day 1

I chose my Victoria’s Secret leggings, a t-shirt tunic, and my favorite leather jacket.Technically, I’m supposed to be wearing a super chic sports bra, but I’m cheating. My boobs are way too big for me to get away with that. It’s not cute on me – it’s just a noticeable uniboob. My momma would have my head if she learned I didn’t wear a real bra to the office. Even if I didn’t tell her she would know – southern mommas are basically psychic. Sneakers didn’t make it into today’s look either, but that’s because I washed them all last night and they were sadly still wet.

Gigi wears booties with her gym wear, so my combat boots are allowed.

In general, I don’t feel terribly dressed down. Initially, it felt a little odd to walk into the office an hour late while wearing leggings, but I’m clean and have mascara on. Mascara solves all my troubles.

I’m doing two-a-days for the next two days in order to make up for some missed workouts this past weekend. I have a feeling this is going to be really smelly. I guess we’ll see how well these leggings are made.

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2:22 p.m.

It’s post lunch, and I’ve never been so comfortable after sitting at my desk for so long. Normally, I’m becoming irritated with my jeans digging into my flesh by now. I’m not even the slightest bit irritated with my beloved VS leggings. No one has seemed to disapprove of my attire—yet—so this is looking up. I still haven’t told my mom though.

7:30 p.m.

After leaving work I came home, changed into a sports bra and sneakers, and headed to the gym in my apartment building. It took me way less time to get ready for my evening workout than it normally does.

I’m not sure if it was because I wore athleisure all day or not, but I had so much energy and determination to crush my workout. I felt like I was on top of things from the second I changed to the very last arm stand I held before heading back to my apartment.

Most importantly: I told my mom about the experiment. She didn’t say much aside from “Oh?” The jury is still debating whether or not that’s a positive response.

Day 2

8:22 a.m.

The unthinkable has happened. I’m wearing a sports bra into the office. The comfort factor has been completely overrun by the paranoia of someone noticing. I’m practically clutching my vest closed and intentionally pulling all of my hair forward even though I hate when my hair is near my face. Aside from the bra debacle, I love that I’m wearing another pair of Victoria’s Secret leggings, my favorite Nike running hoodie, my new WhoWhatWear for Target trench vest,  and my newly washed Chucks. I’m really comfortable and already know I’ll have 10 extra minutes when I go to the gym at lunch. Maybe I won’t take a two-hour lunch break for once.

Athleisure experiment day 2

4:45 p.m.

I feel grungy sitting in the same sweaty clothes I wore to the gym. It just feels wrong. My elbows haven’t left my side since 2 p.m. because I’m deathly afraid the moment I do it’ll be like the office version of Pumba knocking out every animal at the watering hole. I’ve been counting down the minutes until I can go home and hop in the shower. Despite the smell risk, I do like this outfit a lot. I can see myself throwing it on in the future, sans gym sweat.

Day 3

9:23 a.m.

I’m not sure what my deal is today, but I tried on about 15 different outfits—hated them all—and I was an hour late to work despite the fact I didn’t even work out yet. It’s just turning out to be one of those days when I need a caffeine IV and a plate of brownies. I hate what I’m wearing, but I couldn’t figure anything else out so here I am. I’m just wearing the same leggings from day one again, Chucks, and a large knit sweater. I don’t feel cool or athleisurely. I feel lazy and unprepared for the day.

Athleisure experiment day 3

Typically, on days like this I want to dress up because it makes me feel better. Everything inside of me was screaming for a dress and heels as I stood staring at my closet this morning, which is probably why nothing I put on seemed to be right. Since I was late, I’ve got to push my workout to this evening instead of going at lunch. The guilt is stronger than my need for endorphins currently.

Day 4

9:04 a.m.

I might technically be cheating, but I blame Gigi Hadid’s version of athleisure. I am wearing a sports bra (from now on I’ll be calling them “crops” like the Australians do) and a Laundry Room muscle tank from Carbon38, but I’m also wearing jeans and booties. I woke up late today, so I won’t be working out until after work. And my workout is going to be yoga. I like to wear shorts for yoga, but there’s no way I’m wearing shorts to work (and in this 30 degree weather). I still think this outfit is fair game though because I will wear this tank and crop (so fun to say) for yoga, and it doesn’t matter what shoes I wear into the studio since I’ll be taking them off anyway.

Athleisure experiment day 4

I will say this: the moment I pulled my jeans on, I gave a ginormous sigh of relief. It just feels so right.

Day 5

10:48 a.m.

TGIF! I was running super late to work today, and had some trouble choosing a top to go with these badass Aloyoga moto leggings I just bought from Carbon38, but overall I’m fairly pleased with my outfit. I’m comfy and feel appropriately dressed (for the most part) to be in the office. I’ll admit that I’ve used this entire week as an excuse to not really do my hair, hence the half pony today. I’m going to the gym after happy hour because I was late to work again and ended up blogging my early morning away. I’m excited to see how these leggings hold up in the gym. And then I’ve got a ton of stuff to do around my apartment/for the blog before I head out to see a friend who’s visiting. Basically, these leggings are going to be put to work today. I’m nervous to see how I feel wearing them out tonight after wearing them all day and through my leg workout. At the same time, I’m excited to see how they’re received by my adoring public (joking) when I wear them with heels tonight.

Athleisure experiment day 5

7:00 p.m.

The leggings did great in the gym. They stayed in place, and I’m convinced I looked way cooler lifting with them on. But I can’t wear them out tonight. I was basically sweating buckets at the gym so I had to shower. I did a sniff check to see if they could be put back on, but I don’t think even an entire bottle of Febreeze could eliminate that rank odor. It’s also going to be about 20 degrees tonight. Leggings with mesh cutouts would not be warm enough. This marks the end of my athleisure experiment.

Carbon38: The premiere online shopping destination for fashion forward women's activewear.

After five days, I can see how the athleisure trend makes life a little easier for women who have to bounce directly from one place to another with little time to change. I do see that. However, I didn’t feel appropriately dressed for work. Now, if I did this on the weekend so I could go straight from the gym to lunch or to run errands, then I’d feel just fine about it. It’s not a look I want to rock at the office though.

Honestly, if I saw someone else dressing like this regularly, I would assume they didn’t take their work seriously. That’s not an impression I want to give my co-workers or my boss. So I won’t be incorporating athleisure into my weekday routine, at least not in this way. I might, however, wear those Aloyoga leggings out with a tunic and heels.

As far as my mom’s opinions goes, she’s glad I’m back to my old wardrobe. Luckily, I didn’t see her in person during this experiment, so I don’t think she entirely realized what I was wearing to work. I didn’t get an earful about it over the phone (yet) but I expect one as soon as this article goes live. Although, there’s a good chance she’ll be more upset about the fact I didn’t wash my hair all week.

All in all, it was a fun experiment, and I got to justify buying some new clothes. I regret nothing.

Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3

Last modified on January 6th, 2017

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