Active Wear

I have a friend, one of my best actually, who seems permanently dressed in workout clothes. She’s adorable in them, but she’s even more adorable in regular clothes. She just refuses to wear them because she finds workout clothes more comfortable. I get that, but there’s still part of me that thinks of George Costanza from Seinfeld who goes through a period where he loved sweatpants for their comfort, but ended up looking like he’d given up on life. Seriously, if you wear sweatpants in public it’s basically admitting you have nothing to get dressed for. So is active wear any different?

A few months ago I would have said no. Active wear is for activity, not your daily wardrobe. If you’re on the way to or from the gym and you stop at the grocery or some other errand you get a pass; obviously there is no need to put on clothes for the events that bookend your workout. But if you are volunteering at the school, going to lunch or having company over you should get dressed. A gray area is what to wear when you’re just planning to be home. Not working out, just sitting at home. I used to think this too was a no no. You aren’t exercising so there is no need for exercise clothes. Then exercise clothes got damn comfortable. And cute. And easy. And now I’m afraid I’m turning into George.

As I write this I’m in my leggings and cold weather running top (even though I hate running and don’t do it, it’s just comfy and warm). I actually have no plans to work out today, and if I do it will be indoors due to a forecast of snow, so I’ll have to change into something less warm in order to avoid overheating. There is no valid reason for me to be wearing active wear. But since I don’t plan to leave the house I wonder if I can get away with wearing this all day. I also sort of wonder if I could wear them and leave the house.

First off they’re cute. There’s all different colors, patterns and styles that can be form fitting or loose and flowy. Second, they’re comfortable, see the loose and flowy comment. Third, your bra straps don’t show, and I know sometimes the trend is to show them off but for me it’s like wearing black and brown together – it works on other people but for me it’s just a bad look. Fourth, they look good. Seriously, I am tempted to wear them more often because I actually look good. I have boobs in workout clothes. I have a flat-ish stomach in workout closes. (Pants with buttons and zippers make your shirt billow out and make your stomach appear bigger. I work hard to have a flat-ish stomach so I want it to appear that way). Plus the pants don’t get baggy or bunch up around the ass or the ankles like jeans do. I honestly think I look better in active wear than in regular clothes at least fifty percent of the time. So if they look good and they feel good I get why you’d want to wear them regularly.

This is a difficult time for me. I have always, for every day of my life, gotten dressed, even if I had nowhere to go. I refrain from heels when I’m staying home, but that’s it. I’m often accused of ‘looking nice’ for book club or football games when in my mind I’ve only gotten dressed. I might pick a nicer shirt to go with my pants if I’m leaving the house, but until now I’ve always put on actual pants. I do not want to give up on life, to live in my active wear. But I see the appeal. And if I’m being truthful, a recent slowdown at work has sapped my interest in taking the effort to get dressed. When you have stuff to do, even if you’re doing it from home, you’re still motivated to accomplish something. So it’s easy to get dressed. When you don’t really have anything to accomplish it’s much harder to motivate yourself, even for something as simple as putting on actual clothes. Hence my fear I’m becoming George.

I think the only thing stopping me from becoming a full blown active wear junkie is the fact that I like clothes. And shoes. I am always looking for the perfect outfit for every occasion. Business casual – I got a nice pair of simple black flats. Brunch – I scored a little black dress with a subtle flower pattern in cream, goes with heels or flats. Kids’ football game – sporty Puma sneakers. I may have a minor addiction. (But some really cool new thrift store options like Thread Up make it affordable so my husband doesn’t need to panic). I wouldn’t go out to dinner in my active wear, but I’m tempted to run errands in them, even if I’m not actually on my way to the gym. Is this an, “I’m forty now so who cares,” attitude or is it a “giving in to the reality that I’ve got nothing to get dressed for,” attitude. I don’t know, and that’s what scares me.

My friend, the one who always wears active wear, skews more toward the, “I’ve got nothing to get dressed for,” excuse. She calls it comfort, and I know she legitimately means it, but she’d also be hard pressed to deny that she doesn’t have anything to get dressed for. She’s been staying at home for years to raise her kids, and now that they are both in school her days are empty. She could get a part time job, and has in the past, but the hours she had to work weren’t the ones she was actually available for. Her husband’s travel schedule and her kids’ activity schedule left only a limited window in the middle of the day that she could offer a company, and no company is really looking for that. So regardless of whether her active wear is comfortable, she’s got nothing to get dressed for.

You’re probably thinking this friend I describe is a metaphor for me, and there’s an element of truth to that. My friend does exist, but I have virtually the same existence, so I am describing myself as much as I am her. The only difference is I had some freelance work to keep me busy during the day, but as that has slowed I’ve slid toward the, “nothing to get dressed for,” mindset. That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on life a la sweatpants, but it does mean I’m a little lost. Hesitant to disrupt the “family” schedule by taking a job outside the house. Afraid that I couldn’t qualify to work a decent job outside the house. Ashamed that I put the burden of supporting everyone entirely on my husband.

I know my friend and I aren’t the only women who fall into this sad state. You can spot us in the active wear uniform we are both proud and ashamed to wear. We look damn good, but only because we have no better way to spend our time than working out. On the plus side I’ve never been healthier or looked better. But that’s superficial so it’s not very satisfying. So to all the active wear wearers out there I see you. I understand you. I know you are surviving not thriving. And I give you credit for that. There’s nothing wrong with living in active wear, but let’s keep each other out of sweatpants.

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