January: traditionally a time when all of the sportswear comes out to play, and you’re lurking at the back of a class in a slightly tired t-shirt you got from a work conference way back. NOTHING wrong with that. If you want to update your sporting wardrobe, however, a total overhaul can be both a) expensive and b) overwhelming. You do want something that looks, feels and performs the part, however, as otherwise there’s really no point in ditching aforementioned Fruit of The Loom style freebie top. As such, here’s an edit of affordable fitnesswear that looks and behaves more high-end than it is. Now if payday could hurry itself along that would be most welcome. It’s been a long month.
Looks luxe, costs less. If chic and cheap are on your shopping list, here’s some sportswear inspo, no matter what your style or size
Doing a remarkably convincing Sweaty Betty impression, M&S’ Floral Print Ombre Leggings , £25, and Extra High Impact Non Padded Sports Bra , £25, in the same print, stand out on the gym floor without being too cutesy or garish and won’t let you down from a practical p.o.v either- think moisture wicking fabrics, a mightily supportive bra that caters from cups sizes A-G and never a see-through gusset in sight.
The eco edit
Made from as many recycled materials as possible, the H&M Conscious fitnesswear collection features bold colour-blocking and utilitarian shade combinations that aren’t a million miles from the likes of cult but somewhat pricier Hawaiian sportswear brand No Ka’Oi. The khaki green Conscious Medium Support Sports Bra , £17.99 and Conscious Sports Tights , £19.99, are both fast drying, beautifully cut and far more expensive than they look. The leggings are also available in Sweaty Betty-alike black florals if go faster stripes ain’t your thing.
The structured brights
For acid brights with an edge, look no further than Matalan. I’m serious. The Souluxe Celestial Sports Sweatshirt , £12, is a pale yet vibrant, wearable orange (promise) with unusual detailing that definitely looks more couture than cut-price. To run with the clementine theme, the colour-blocked hot pink and tangerine Souluxe Running Leggings , £14, are ever so slightly Lucas Hugh (albeit much thinner and less supportive).
They do have comfort, antibacterial technology and clean lines going for them, however. Go for the navy and light pink striped colourway if neon orange gives you the shakes.
The supportive high-waisters
One of the major beefs often experienced with cheaper activewear ranges is the lack of ‘hold-in-ability’ and occasionally flimsy fabrics. Thankfully the high street is coming on in leaps and bounds in this area- see Esprit Spot Print Gym Leggings , £29, with a compression fit and a cushy high waist to avoid unwanted mid-exposure, and H&M Conscious Shaping Waist Tights , £17.99, which have a wide, high waistband to keep you comfortable and support you as you move.
The strappy yoga bras
Reminiscent of a certain famous Canadian yoga wear brand, a large selection of Gap Fit’s delicate, strappy sports bras all come in at under £30 and boast cooling fabrics and supportive back bands in addition to a muted colour palette and plain old good looks.
The Insta-star collection
What happens when you combine one of Britain’s most successful budget fashion brands with a social media fitness phenomenon? The Primark x Alice Liveing activewear range, that’s what. Heavy on the reds, blacks and whites, the leggings get particular praise from us for their sleek feel and opaque finish (see above: not always a given in the high street category).
The 42 piece line features classic styling that won’t date, matching bras and leggings and simple, block coloured hoodies for your cool-down. In short, they’re keepers.
The mesh panels
Sheer panels have grown in popularity since covetable brands such as Varley strategically utilised them to contour and cool limbs while adding design interest to monochrome fitnesswear. Plenty of high street brands have gone mad for mesh, but the versatility of New Look Loose Fit Mesh T-shirt , £12.99, allows you to sleekly slip from office to gym floor and vice versa (basically it’s ‘athleisure’ even though that word makes me balk). It’s got mesh, but not too much, and exactly where you’d want it (i.e, well above the cleavage).
The stylish, inclusive and inexpensive
Asos’ activewear range is a penny pincher’s dream, and I recently discovered a small but sartorially awesome range names Rainbeau Curve , which designs sportswear for women who wear a UK 18-36 that’s bright, graphic and brilliantly cut, rather than black and shapeless or far too skimpy, depending on your fitnesswear bugbear. You’ve got breathable mesh inserts, moisture wicking tech and support in the bag alongside slick design, and most pieces will set you back less than £30.