Proactive(wear)

We’re fashionable. We really are.

Perhaps we’ve Googled designer cheat sheets from our favorite retailers and kept abreast of the latest runway designs. We’ve followed the trends and coveted them — bought them even. Our wardrobes are crowded and we can’t open our drawers because they’re full.  Maybe we have jeans from fashion house Balmain. Or bags from Louis Vuitton and those cute little Alaia shoes we found on sale. 

Darn it, we even continued to watch “Project Runway” after it left Bravo TV. We know fashion.

Still, every morning (and we mean every morning) most of us open our closets and head straight for the one thing in our wardrobe that trumps all else — the illustrious yoga pants and the various activewear that accompanies them. 

There’s the sports bra that lifts and supports yet sits comfortably against our skin. The light fabric of the performance T-shirts that skim gracefully over our mid-sections, that cute little jacket that wicks away moisture and the joggers that are stylish enough to go from workout to streetwear. 

“It’s everyone’s daily wardrobe,” says Hannie Sio-Stellakis, public relations manager of Neiman Marcus Westchester. “From moms to working out to just being comfortable.”

Says Pat Norcross of Greenwich of the garments she’s collected from her frequent trips to the Athleta stores there and in Eastchester: “They’re comfortable but they’re stylish. (Designers) know that women want to look good when they work out and they know how to accomplish that.”

But It’s more than just comfort. There’s been a major shift in our consumer lifestyle. It has, in general, become more fitness-related. We value health and mindfulness as a collective. From work to restaurants, there’s a more relaxed dress standard.  And then there’s the techy fabric.

Fashion brand technology provides options we’ve never had before and makes athletic wear feel cutting-edge. Who doesn’t want clothing that’s stylish and waterproof and with odor protection? 

Lululemon, a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company that created a cult-like following among people who strive for a lifestyle of fitness and well-being, compete with brands like Athleta, Nike and Under Armour for our loyalty. These brands’ multifaceted marketing strategies include fitness tracking, in-store yoga classes and membership in a like-minded community.

And high-end department stores have gotten into the game.

“We have launched an activewear department within Neiman Marcus,” Sio-Stellakis says of the dedicated area that debuted last fall.

A search through the store’s racks will turn up brands like Spiritual Gangster, Terez, Alo Yoga, Beyond Yoga and Blanc Noir — what Sio-Stellakis calls “some great brands.”

The activewear component has bled through every other department, too, expanding to the athleisure trend.

“Within each brand you can find pieces that use fabrics and fabrications as part of the collection for the season,” Sio-Stellakis says. “Last season, it was the statement sweatshirt under the men’s department.” 

Worldwide, sports and fitness apparel is predicted to reach $231.7 billion by 2024, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc. So, the very real public demand for these garments can no longer be marginalized. And, frankly, sue us for trying to fit in a workout whenever we can.

Here’s the point:  We need to stop feeling guilty — inadequate even — when we march past the blouses and heels in our closets and come out ready for action instead. But the judgment is there and the struggle is real. Our style has been called that of yoga moms, ladies who lunch and been the joke of shows about what not to wear. Or worse.

Two years ago, hundreds of proud yoga pants-wearing activists paraded past a man’s house in Barrington, Rhode Island, to protest his letter-to-the-editor criticizing those of us over 20 for wearing them in public. (That’s right, we’ll never forget.)

This should prove that when you try to take away our activewear, you’re going to hear more than “Namaste.”

Let’s just embrace this once and for all. We are fashionistas and we rock a good yoga pant. It’s fashion and it’s more than that. 

Adds Sio-Stellakis, “It’s here to stay.”

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