I know I’m probably going to throw you out for the week by posting on a Monday but this Bank Holiday always feels like a good time for setting new intentions so I’m taking my first look at what we might be wearing over the season ahead. Of course the last five months have made us reconsider our lives in countless ways and one of those is our approach to style. The whole world of fashion has been disrupted and you could say that change that would usually take decades to evolve has happened in a single season. After all how many of us can imagine wearing pointed stillettos again any time soon? Or tailored skirts? Or structured dresses?
When I chat to my friends about it I find there’s a mix of nostalgia for dressing up but also a sense of relief that elasticated waistbands are no longer seen as a sign of giving up and that comfortable shoes are seen on everyone. I was thinking about it while we were on holiday and remembering my mum coming home from her teaching job every day and rushing to take her girdle off. Our generation wouldn’t dream of wearing a girdle and I know some people wear control pants but I can imagine that most of those are now in the recycling pile. And the more you think about it the more ridiculous it seems – the forms of torture that we’ve allowed our wardrobe to inflict on us make no sense in an era when we’re used to questioning everything. Change is upon us in so many ways and the way we dress is very much a part of it.
So as the new season collections start to land you’re going to see that the most forward thinking retailers have an increased focus on Athleisure for AW20. It makes sense for them to allocate some of the space that would previously have been focused on formalwear to the new way that many of us are dressing now. Today I’m working with John Lewis & Partners and looking at their new Athleisure department which will be celebrated next weekend with a virtual Wellness Festival that you can take part in. I’ll tell you more about that later but first of all let’s think about at Athleisure and then move on to how to style it when you’re over 40.
Unsurprisingly it’s something I’ve been asked about repeatedly over the last few months. Athleisure is a style that was already growing in popularity amongst people who were home based before lockdown and now that so many more of us are continuing this way, it’s growing exponentially. As a result, it’s becoming much easier to put the look together without flashing huge sports logos. Thankfully there are a cluster of brands that focus on fit and fabric rather than overt branding and John Lewis & Partners have pulled a collection of them together.
The key to pulling Athleisure off well is no different to the approach you’d take to any other kind of dressing – you just need to choose pieces that work well for your body. Tighter items such as leggings can feel a bit unnerving but once you’ve experienced the fit of high tech fabrics you’ll probably see yourself differently. Baggy cheap leggings don’t do anyone any favours but the ones with good compression and cleverly designed contouring work magic. The contouring breaks up the line of your body and the compression fabrics suck you up and in – and they still feel as comfortable as pyjamas.
The good thing about market disruption is that brands are able to start from scratch. As Athleisure is technically a new category it means that the growing focus on sustainability can be factored in from day one. This season John Lewis & Partners have a new focus on ‘Style With Purpose,’ working with brands that behave with an ethical stance and it’s something you’ll be hearing more about over the next few months. However you can see it coming through in the brands that they’ve selected for the Athleisure section – they all have high standards in terms of the fabrics they use and the supply chain that they manage.
The new Athlesiure department at John Lewis & Partners
One of the brands that may be new to you is Athleta which JL&P are introducing to the UK for the first time. It’s part of The Gap group and has a mission to empower women by helping them to live a more active life. Not only does it create great sportswear but in the US it has built an online community of active women and girls who support each other to achieve their potential. It’s also a Certified B Corporation which means that it uses business for good.
Other key brands in the new JL&P Athleisure collection include some of my all time favourites: Sweaty Betty; Ilse Jacobsen and Hush who will be launching their first Athleisure collection any day now. Adidas by Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein Performance are also part of the mix.
So how do you put together the kind of Athleisure outfit that looks good all day rather than just for the gym? It’s something I experimented with all through lockdown because as soon as the gym closed, I discovered I was unlikely to do any exercise if it meant I had to get changed. For at least three days a week I now dress in Athleisure as soon as I get up in the morning.
Back in March, everything I owned was black because it made it easy to throw a gym bag together in the morning without thinking about what worked with what. However I soon found this became tedious for wearing all day at home so I started to play around with colour. My breakthrough moment was introducing patterned leggings purely because of the visual trickery – as with swimwear, pattern breaks up the block of your body and distracts the eye. I’m now proud to say that I have a Marie Kondo style drawer that has sections of rolled leggings, tops and sports bras in colours that all work together – it’s the most capsuled part of my wardrobe.
Athleisure – the basics
Putting together an Athleisure capsule is no different to any other kind of wardrobe planning in that it’s best to start with the silhouette. For me this means that I’d usually begin with looser bottoms and a tighter top. However you then need to factor in any kind of activity that you have in mind. If you’re doing something low impact such as dog walking, yoga or Pilates you can choose whatever feels best to wear. In my case though, I’m doing a mix of outdoor running with Strength and Circuits classes back at the gym. This means that my clothes have to move with me. I look for:
- Leggings that have – good compression (to suck me in), no transparency if I’m doing squats and a pocket for my phone when I’m running. I only buy leggings that feature contoured seams to take away from the width of my hips and thighs. By the way don’t be put off by brands calling their leggings ‘tights’ – it doesn’t mean they’re super thin, it’s just a bit of an affectation.
- Tops that balance the tightness of the leggings by skimming but not clinging.
- An extra layer for warm up and cool down or working in the office.
- Sports bras that stay in place and socks that don’t show or slip down my feet when I run.
- A consistent colour palette of navy, grey and black with splashes of colour to brighten it up.
If my Pilates classes start again I’ll add in some looser options so I’ve looked through the new selection at JL&P and put together both tighter fitting and looser styles. Let me show you what I’ve found.
Athleisure – how to style it when you’re over 40
Loose-fitting Athleisure Outfit Ideas
Good for Pilates, Yoga or just lounging around.
- Zip jacket (with 50 SPF rating)
- Black marl pants (also available in blue marl)
- Soft blue Uptempo top (also available in pink or navy)
- Grey Cross Trainers (also available in black)
- Olive marl pants (also available in berry and beetle blue)
- Semi-transparent khaki rain mac
- Neon running top (also available in mint green)
- Long sleeved gym top (also available in black, white and grey)
- Khaki parka (currently 25% off)
- Neon sports bra (available in lots of different colours)
- Camo joggers
- Running shoes
- Water repellent jacket with stepped hem (also available in black)
- Contoured top (also available in grey, black and white)
- Camo sports bra
Close-fitting Athleisure Outfit Ideas
- Pink tank top (available in lots of colours)
- Pink and Khaki camo leggings
- Khaki sweatshirt (also available in rose)
- Pink Cross Trainers
- Tonal grey leopard leggings
- Pink running trainers (also available in black)
- Contoured Sports vest (also available in white, black, blue and berry)
- Cool down jacket
- Cup sized sports bra (also available in black or white)
- Pink sweatshirt
- Navy leggings with contouring and phone pocket (also available in black). Navy leggings are ridiculously hard to find so these are a brilliant buy.
- Dipped hem fleece (also available in black or white)
- Raincoat (also available in black)
- Vest with shelf support (also available in black, grey, navy, rose and berry)
- Cross Trainers
John Lewis & Partners invited me to choose a few pieces to show you as part of this which was good timing because I forced myself back to the gym last night. It wasn’t pleasant after two weeks of eating and drinking and lazing around in the sun. Our classes are currently being held outside which is fine at the moment but I can imagine myself slinking away if they’re still having to do that in November. Anyway here’s my new kit:
I was intrigued to try Athleta and the top is great. It has a genius feature of small strips of rubber grip around the hem which means it doesn’t rise up when you’re doing something like mountain climbers leaving your tummy hanging out (my worst moment in every session). As you can see I chose a lime green bra for a pop of contrast underneath. It’s a really good deep fit so I won’t have to tug it down all the time. To stop the spread of the virus they’re not putting the aircon on when we’re inside and I’ve found that in recent heatwaves I’ve sometimes had to join the 20-somethings in my group and whip my top off halfway through a session – so I’ve come to understand the importance of a good (and attractive) cropped bra.
The leggings are specifically designed for running and the fabric is very flexible. I don’t find they’re the best for the gym because they do show through a little if you’re doing squats and the waistband tends to roll down. If you’re gym-based I recommend this style instead, they have minimal transparency and they stay put. The pair I’m wearing are good for running because they have two pockets (big enough for an iPhone Plus) and reflective flashing in case you’re pounding the streets at night.
The John Lewis & Partners Virtual Wellness Festival
Although sadly we can’t get together for an event in store at the moment, there will be one online next Saturday (5th September). It feels like good timing because I think we all need to make a plan for our wellbeing over the next few weeks as it starts to get darker and colder. There are three sessions and each one lasts for two hours. They’ll include talks on mental health, workshops, yoga and dance classes that you can join in with and even cookalongs. The midday mindfulness slot is the one that I think I might do with calming yoga, an honest chat about mental health ending with an immersive sound bath experience (and that’s the moment when one of the boys will no doubt walk in and ruin it with hoots of laughter).
Anyway I do think it’s a good way of getting our minds on track and perhaps starting to work out what we’re going to do for ourselves in the months to come before Autumn actually begins. Tickets for the sessions are just £5 and you can book them here.
So that’s it from me for today, I hope you’re enjoying your Bank Holiday. I want to say thank you to John Lewis & Partners for supporting Midlifechic again, it means that soon I’ll be able to get back to posting twice a week. In the meantime I haven’t forgotten about Turkey. I’ve nearly finished going through the photos so there will be one last blast of sunshine in the next post but until then let’s start setting ourselves up for a change of season.
Disclosure: ‘Athleisure – how to style it when you’re over 40’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners. As always I had full editorial freedom over the content. Thank you for supporting the brands that are standing by Midlifechic.
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