It seemed to have begun with the movie “Flashdance” in the 80’s; the movement to combine workout clothes with streetwear. Remember the leg warmers? How about those off-the-shoulder sweats and headbands? At the time, it seemed like the optimal solution in combining the elements of comfort with fashion. At least we could feel good and look good at the same time. As the trend evolved, the clothing did as well with designers constantly coming up with ways to make their clothes even more flattering to the female body. The clothes began to feature built in support, and the patterns and materials became more attractive. More and more, this “athleisure” became a staple of the average woman’s wardrobe. It might even be safe to say that many women preferred these clothes to more formal wear, feeling they better complemented her body and enabled her to move more freely. The growing popularity of these clothes began to bring up questions about propriety. While they might be appropriate for the grocery store or picking the kids up from school, were women crossing a line by wearing these clothes to the office?
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman,” Coco Chanel
One can hardly deny that Coco Chanel may have the last word in fashion. Well, then that decides it right? If you want to give a professional look, no athleisure, right? But maybe we should define shabby before we draw any conclusions. A Bloomberg Business article described $400 couture yoga pants and another told of sweatpants going for upwards of $800. These clothes are constructed impeccably with strong seams and quality fabrics and, of course sport designer labels. Does this make them acceptable office wear?
Kara Martin Snyder, a lifestyle strategist from Massachusetts, reported wearing workout pants as a CPA for a New York tech startup. She reports, “Occasionally, people confused me for an intern….” Mae Demdam, a digital analyst from Sydney says, “leggings are slim fit and they hug thighs, which aren’t appropriate to the workplace…. I mean, imagine if guys wore that to work.” Demdam added that she preferred clingy pants, which while relaxed, were sexy and appropriate. Fashion publicist Samantha Slaven-Bick admits to wearing assessor pants to work, but says she would “want my employees to dress a little nicer” and “feels a little self-conscious when others around me are more dressed up.” Slaven-Bick also claims that dressing up makes her feel “more productive at work.”
Stylist, Monaco believes it is all in the delivery. He believes that pairing the right pants with office appropriate wear such as a blazer and heels would convey, “a certain air of cool confidence,” but adds the best rule of thumb for determining whether or not athletic pants are ok for work is to, “simply look around. Is everyone else in suits and day dresses? Probably not a good idea. Jeans and t-shirts? Might be ok.”