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Reinterpreting Athletic Wear as Casual Wear

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Athletic clothes
Photo Credit

In preparation for my 2013 “Go to the gym” resolution, I went out and bought a lot of cute, sporty gym clothes. However, with a busy school schedule, I never actually got around to wearing them for their intended purpose.

So what we’re going to do today is take a piece of clothing you would wear at the gym – or maybe when you’re just lounging around, who am I to judge? – and try to build a campus-appropriate everyday outfit around it. Some of you may be gasping in horror, but hear me out! It actually is possible to style a pair of sweatpants (or hoodies, or sneakers, etc.) into a fashion-forward look… without looking like you’re “wearing sweatpants to class”, if that makes sense.

I decided to follow the same pattern I used in my last post: Start with a piece and slowly add up until you reach the desired result. Ready? Let’s go!

1. Pick the sporty piece you’d like to use.

The idea here is to choose something that looks good on you and can be worked into a casual, but interesting outfit. Yes, you are wearing sweatpants, but no, you are not wearing them because you were too lazy to put something else on. The key word here is not “effortless”, but “stylish“.

Example gym clothes that work for casual wear:

Here are some athletic pieces that could easily be worn on a daily basis without people judging you for not wearing “real” pants:

Gym clothes
Products: Black Sweats, Purple Hoodie, Blue Hoodie, Grey Shorts, Grey Sweatshirt, Coral Shorts, Sneakers, Grey Sweats

All of these pieces are made from quality materials, but what you really need to worry about is the fit: these are made for people to run in them, to sweat in them and to feel comfortable doing so. That means that they are a bit slouchy and not exactly figure-hugging, so that’s something you have to work around.

A real-life example:

Now I’ll show you exactly what I mean… on myself! To give you the full effect, I chose a pair of sweatpants that I sometimes wear around the house, which I thought would be relatable for every college girl.

Now, if I were an active person who jogged or at least went to the gym every now and then, this is what I’d wear:

Lazy day outfit

But since I’m not, this is what I wear while spending my days eating junk food and watching TV series. But I digress.

2. Start building your outfit around this piece.

When wearing sweatpants during the day, you need to go for a slightly dressier look: your goal should be contrast. 

My first move was to change the top – I put on a plain, white, tight t-shirt in order to create a balanced silhouette. I tucked it in and added a grey belt with the idea of making the pants seem less gym and more city. As you’ll see, I stuck with a rather muted color scheme this time.

Styling sweatpants for daytime

3. The risk-move

This is where I’ve had my doubts. As I said, our goal is contrast so I thought that the best way to achieve this was by wearing a pair of shoes that were the complete opposite of the pants. I went with low, grey heels – very comfy and college-appropriate.

How to wear sweatpants without looking lazy

At this point I also did my makeup and let my hair down, since my outfit was almost complete. In the last step I added the finishing touches – you know exactly what I am talking about!

4. The grand finale

Of course, it’s time for the accessories!

How to make sweats look fashionable

I piled on necklaces: the t-shirt was plain, so I needed something to cover that white area because the eye was drawn to it and it made the whole outfit seem unbalanced. On top of everything, I wore a cardigan. (Rolled-up sleeves make everything look better.) The only bold color I’m wearing is red – in the bag – but I would say it’s enough, along with the orange lipstick, to brighten the entire look.

Reinterpreting Athletic Wear as Casual Wear

Your turn!

How would you reinterpret athletic wear? Would you wear my outfit and if not, why not? Do you dare style your “lazy day” pieces into a fashionable look? I am very, very curious to hear your opinions!

Posted on on February 7, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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60 Responses to “Reinterpreting Athletic Wear as Casual Wear”

  1. 1
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    I’m sorry but sweatpants will forever look sloppy to me when worn outside of the gym or home. Sure your outfit beats a plain tee and sweats but it doesn’t look right to me, if I went out of my way to wear accessories and cute shoes then I might as well throw on a pair of jeans, or at least leggings.

  2. 2
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    love this post!! nice job :)

  3. 3
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I wouldn’t wear this outfit just because of the sweatpants. Seeing sweatpants worn in public (when it isn’t to the gym) is my biggest pet peeve, it’s on the same level as wearing leggings as pants. To me, when I see people wearing sweatpants to class, it seems sloppy and unprofessional. I do, however; like the idea of making “lazy wear” more fashion forward, but i still would not wear my sweatpants in public.

  4. 4
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    We don’t need yet another excuse to be lazy with our appearance/

  5. 5
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    This is such an amazing idea. I think the belt is what really converts the sweats into casual pants. Great post!

  6. 6
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I don’t mind the sweatpants, and the outfit looks great – apart from the heels! The heels just make me go EEEEK. Converse shoes would work so much better with this outfit, or Vans for example, just not heels. When I see girls dressed like this but wearing heels, I can’t help but think that they have no taste :/ sorry.

  7. 7
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    This is such a great concept for a post and I love the outfit that you created. I don’t understand what is so horrific about sweatpants in public, especially if you have a busy schedule and need to go to the gym immediately after class because you have work later and need to squeeze in a workout. And I would love a post on dressing up a hoodie because I am so addicted to hoodies but I think they make me look younger than I really am. All in all, super creative post! Loved it.

  8. 8
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    if you’re gonna wear something sporty, just LOOK sporty! it doesn’t make sense to me to “dress up” exercise clothes..that’s kinda disgusting, imo. unless of course you’re goin for an urban hip hop look, then yeah, it makes sense to jazz up sweats and sneakers but at least you’re going with the casual theme and not trying to make it trendy with belts and heels.

  9. 9
    February 7th, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I think you’ve done a fantastic job; you look put together, even wearing predominantly athletic gear because of your choice in accessories and heels. I think this is an attainable example to set for the ‘typical’ college girl. Kudos!

  10. 10
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I really had my doubts with this one, but the transition from before to after is incredible!! I personally wouldn’t wear sweatpants in public – its just not a look that would flatter me – but I think Maria really pulls it off. Part of the reason it works is because they aren’t the scrubbiest sweatpants to begin with, the pockets make it work.

  11. 11
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Can’t even tell that they’re sweatpants in the last few pictures. They look more like the harem pants from a couple seasons back, or the more popular slouchy city pants that have been popular in my metropolitan area recently. Fantastic!

  12. 12
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I loooovvve this. I wouldn’t wear it (mostly because i have about zero of the pieces), but would love to see some more articles on the subject!

  13. 13
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Can you come out with one about Jeggings too?

  14. 14
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I think this looks amazing on you. However, I would never be able to pull it off as much as I would like to.

  15. 15
    February 7th, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    I appreciate the work and effort you put into the outfit, but I really dislike when people wear sweatpants. There are so many other comfortable options (jeans,leggings) that look so much more put together. They aren’t figure flattering on anyone.

  16. 16
    February 7th, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    It looks good on you but I don’t think not everyone can pull sweatpants as jeans combo.

  17. 17
    February 7th, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    I’ll admit. I had my doubts when I read title for this post. I was thinking “we don’t need more girls on campus getting validation for sweats” but I love the end result! I think you’ve totally transformed the sweats into something that is fashion forward and unexpected. It looks so comfortable and easy to throw on! This would be perfect for the morning after a night of studying.

  18. 18
    February 7th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I love to see a variety of suggested looks for this scenario: between ballet (leotards), stage combat (yoga pants), musical theatre (tank tops) and rehearsals, I’m wearing nothing BUT athletic wear this semester and I miss looking cute for classes. At least for my desk-sitting classes, I’d like to throw something over it to make it look a little dressy.

  19. 19
    February 7th, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Call me crazy, but I really don’t see the problem with wearing sweatpants. Some people just want to be comfy.

  20. 20
    February 7th, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Wow this actually isn’t bad. What I REALLY love about this post, though, is the way you edited the pictures! Very comprehensive and tasteful, with the white arrows and nice font.

  21. 21
    February 7th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Absolutely love this! Chic, and practical for my 8AM Stats class. Where did you get those precious sweat pants? I want a pair!

  22. 22
    February 7th, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I would love to see more posts like this! I’m taking self defense classes this semester and I have to wear sweat pants all day because I have regular classes immediately before and after. So I love this idea of ways to make athletic wear look cute! I worry everyone thinks I’m lazy when its really not by choice!

  23. 23
    February 7th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Love the final look! The shoes are borderline in my opinion but not because of the idea, just that particular pair. I’m convinced that a slightly higher, skinnier heel would look better. Like, brown booties (because your belt is brown) or black pumps (chic) because I’m just not feeling grey with such rich colors.

  24. 24
    February 7th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I am loving your posts, Maria!

  25. 25
    February 7th, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I love this post, the sweats look amazing with all of the pieces you paired with it!

  26. 26
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:09 am

    I love this series!!!!
    My go-to outfit staple when I don’t have time to get ready (read: finals week) is a sweatshirt….any ideas how to style that to make me look like less of a slob? I’ve seen girls wear oversized sweatshirts with leggings but I’m not brave enough for that look….can’t bring myself to wear leggings with anything but a dress, skirt, or pants.

  27. 27
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Where I go to school, comfort and warmth is the first thought in the winter months, so I’m used to seeing (and okay, sometimes wearing) sweatpants on campus. I was a little hesitant about this idea scrolling through the pictures, but the final look is fantastic!
    I personally think it’s great to embrace a little comfort, especially when it’s cold or you are in a rush.

  28. 28
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I really like the outfit, it looks pretty pulled together as far as a white tee and sweatpants combination can look! The only element i don’t like is the heels, they look a bit odd and don’t go with the whole sporty (?) theme of the outfit, I guess I’d switch them with boots.

  29. 29
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Wow, this actually looks great. I used to be totally against wearing sweatpants in public (for myself), but now that I have heaps of homework, sometimes I just want to go to the library in comfort. I was looking for a stylish way to wear sweatpants, and I think you’ve showed me! :)

  30. 30
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Wow, I would have never thought to change a pair of shorts into something so sophisticated and nice as that! :)

  31. 31
    February 8th, 2013 at 4:57 am

    I’m super impressed! I had my doubts majorly in the beginning but you look really cute and classy and put together. Going bigger on the bottom (wide sweatpants, etc), isn’t usually my look, so I actually don’t own pants like that…which never bummed me out until right now lol. I only ever rock the athletic wear/pajamas as clothing (yoga pants, slippers, tshirts) for early morning labs, etc, but this is way cute enough to go out in. Also, do not understand why everyone thinks it’s gross to wear athletic wear like this–it’s not like she just left the gym guys. Clothes get washed sometimes lmao

  32. 32
    February 8th, 2013 at 5:25 am

    i didn’t think it would look good but it actually does. personally i wouldn’t wear it though. i’m not a big fan of sweatpants.
    i’d love a post about hoodies too! my closet is full of those

  33. 33
    February 8th, 2013 at 8:40 am

    You look cute, but I still think sweatpants make everything look lazy. If you’re going to put on a belt and heels, why not just take one more step and put on nicer pants? I guess if you’re really adventurous with your fashion, you could wear this during finals, but otherwise…. I don’t know, it looks cute but I would never wear it.

  34. 34
    February 8th, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Meh… I have disagree with this one…

  35. 35
    February 8th, 2013 at 9:35 am

    where did you get those pants! i totally want to recreate this look!

  36. 36
    February 8th, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Wow. I was really doubtful about this (like a lot of others), but I actually thought the look really worked. Which is even more impressive because a few days ago I saw a girl who’d paired sweatpants with a pair of heels and just thought: ‘No…’
    It worked better here, I think partially because the sweatpants look like they could be harem trousers from a distance.

  37. 37
    February 8th, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Love the outfit…hate it with those shoes :) x

  38. 38
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I like it! You look like Sarah Silverman :)

  39. 39
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Ehh, I’d have to say no to the sweatpants. I think you made a terrific attempt though, but honestly why sweatpants?!! I think the outfit would look so much better with jeans.

  40. 40
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I’m very much not a fan of sweatpants in general – I own one pair, and they’re only ever worn when I’m sick at home. I LOOOVE zip-front non-hooded sweatshirts, though (Lululemon’s “Forme Jacket” is a good example, though I go for off-brand stuff for the sake of price) – they’re great to wear out walking the dogs, but I can also toss them on over a nice blouse or collared shirt and some skinny jeans and boots and they work just like a cardigan or light jacket.

  41. 41
    February 8th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I just got to tell you that I love your posts!! For me its easier to mix and match clothes if I see them on a person! so I hope you publish more!

  42. 42
    February 8th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I love these posts where you do sort of a step-by-step, please keep it up!

  43. 43
    February 8th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    In England, we have a name for people who wear these types of clothes. We call them ‘chavs’.

  44. 44
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    The English chav look is not attractive whatsoever, and this outfit just looks sloppy. Sweatpants are sloppy – end of story. No matter how to dress them up, they’re sloppy. Wear an Oscar de la Renta over them? Still sloppy. At the gym? There ‘ya go.

  45. 45
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Wow, this was a controversial post! I had a blast reading all of your comments! Now, about the shoes, some (perhaps a majority) of you pointed out that they do not match the rest of the outfit at all. It’s always good to get an outside opinion, because sometimes you get to a point where you don’t know if you like something or not. I think a pair of wedge sneakers would have worked better, or anything else for that matter.
    For those of you asking, the pants are from an Italian company called Tezenis.

  46. 46
    February 8th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    i am not too crazy about this outfit because it still looks a bit lazy to me, and the heels? :/ hm maybe with some jeans.

  47. 47
    February 8th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I like it, but if you put that much effort into the outfit I’d think you might as well wear jeans. Abercrombie’s jeggings are riduculously stretchy and comfortable so I would replace the sweats with those, and then that way the shoes would match too!

  48. 48
    February 8th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Your posts are the BEST on college fashion!! Please do more :) :) They are really popular!! And I love them ^_^

  49. 49
    February 8th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Thank you for this post! This is a huge help in trying to look presentable when there’s not enough time between classes to fully change before dance!

  50. 50
    February 8th, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Wow, your outfit looks much more polished & put together than your typical sweatpants ensemble. Sure I wouldn’t necessarily wear it now that I’m not in college, but it’s a perfect look for puttering around campus while looking good and staying comfy at the same time. Fashion and style are more interesting when people take interesting risks. Push those boundaries girl!

  51. 51
    February 8th, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I personally love this outfit, after you added the accessories I could barely tell that you were wearing sweatpants! The shoes added some nice contrast, which I loved as well :)

  52. 52
    February 8th, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    lol most of the comments against this look just sound like “nope *I* don’t like how you are wearing YOUR clothes on YOUR body so you should style them the way *I* like them because MY opinion carries more weight than yours when it comes to YOUR style” i honestly really like this look. its different and allows the wearer to be more comfortable. aren’t we ALWAYS talking about breaking fashion rules and whatnot? Good job, Maria.

  53. 53
    February 9th, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Ooh I like!

  54. 54
    February 9th, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Well the thing is that it’s too much trouble for nothing. If you’re going to make such an effort just to make a pair of sweatpants presentable, why not wear a pair of jeans or pants instead? It doesn’t make sense. Plus, if you want to be confortable and that’s why you choose the sweatpants, I don’t think it makes sense to add heels, they’re more unconfortable than jeans and leggings.

  55. 55
    February 10th, 2013 at 1:10 am

    i honestly don’t see the taboo about wearing sweats to class or in public. i wear sweatpants with a form-fitting t-shirt or tank, a cardigan, and moccasins/snowboots/converse (or sometimes even flats) as well as a cute knit beret. it’s comfy, warm, and makes me feel good about my body. if you just coordinate all the colors and make sure your top isn’t boxy, it’s the same effect that you see in victoria’s secret PINK catalogs (alas, if only i had that type of body… oh, well, at least i can steal the loungewear look.) sweats with heels just looks really weird and a little try-hard.

  56. 56
    February 11th, 2013 at 3:00 am

    Did that just happen? Sweatpants? What? How?

  57. 57
    February 15th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I had my doubts at the start of the article but your outfit completely changed my mind. I don’t think this would work with anything with logos on it, but all the same, the concept is awesome!

  58. 58
    February 17th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    I was honestly skeptical, but you’ve proved me wrong )

  59. 59
    February 17th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    This is an awesome post! It’s nice to do something a little different every once in a while to keep things interesting!

  60. 60
    November 20th, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Love it! Why is there such a stigma about wearing sweats in public? I don’t understand who decided it was a “faux pas” but I disagree. Sweat pants are infinitely more comfortable than jeans, hands down, and if you disagree please let me know what jeans you wear. Hell, I’m gonna wear my sweat pants in public just because the majority of you hate it! That’s what I call fashion forward :)

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