You are currently viewing Ultimate Guide to Styling Athleisure
Puma silver sneakers (own), sweater hoodie dress c/o Coolibar, leggings c/o FiShe Wear and wooden sunglasses c/o Winkwood

Athleisure is so comfy, but wearing these pieces can easily end up looking frumpy. This guide to styling athleisure provides tips to look your best ever at the office, in your spare time and on the weekend.

  1. What Is Athleisure wear?
  2. Where, When and Who Started Athleisure?
    • The End of Last Century
    • Athleisure As We Know It
  3. How to Wear Athleisure Fashion
  4. How to Wear Athleisure to Work
  5. Weekend, Farmers Market, Picnic, Etc.
  6. Summing Up Styling Athleisure
  7. Top of the World Style Linkup No. 256

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.
Updated: 5/24/2021

What Is Athleisure Wear?

Athleisure is a made-up word combining the word leisure and an abbreviated version of the word athletic. Thus, athleisure wear refers to clothing that looks like sportswear, but is supposed to be worn also outside these venues during leisure times. They are a slightly dressy version of the pieces typically worn for workout at the gym,  sport studio or when running. They encompass yoga pants, sport tights, sneakers, ballet flats, leggings, leg-warmers, hoodies with and without zipper closure, and shorts, among other things. Today athleisure looks are often worn on the playground. Sometimes, outfits with one or more active wear items can be seen at the workplace on Casual Friday, at school and in the sciences in college.

midlife lady in gym pants and turtleneck sweater

fashion blogger in fake suit with Adidas jogging pants and blazer
Details of current athleisure outfit: Eli Tahari glen check blazer, Brooks Brothers turtleneck sweater, Adidas jogging pants, Harley Davidson booties, Alaskan rose-quartz ring, three strands necklace, baroque pearl necklace (all own), and Akoya salt water pearl necklace c/o The Pearl Source Inc.

Where, When and Who Started Athleisure?

Like often in history, the exact time and origin is hard to pin-point. Furthermore, the evolution of dressing habits rarely changes from one year to the other. Instead the way of dressing is in a quasi steady-state while being in a flow at the same time. Just like water that flows into and out of a lake at the same rate, doesn’t change the water level of the lake, but the water in the lake changes over time.

The timing also depend on which item you group into the category of activewear. When you include wearing culottes and riding boots, you start in the 19th century.

The End of Last Century

Let’s look at our own fashion time lines. In the seventies, the late baby-boomers and early gen-X looked like wearing a school uniform. Nearly every student wore white sneakers, an Army parka, T-shirt and mid- to light wash jeans.

In the 1980s, white tennis socks became popular in menswear, mostly worn with tan boat shoes or moccasins and a pair of straight jeans and a white button-down shirt. At the same time, the pre-war generation started wearing sneakers and sweatpants and sweaters on the weekend; preferably in partner look and pastel colors! The twenty somethings wore leggings and tunics. I even had a legging suit, i.e. leggings with a matching blazer in the same fabric! Sweatshirts became a mainstream top staple that today is work appropriate in casual work environments as well as in business casual style and startup work place in cold region in winter. Often a button-down shirt is worn underneath with the collar sticking out of the crew neck.

In the 1990s, everyone had at least one baseball cap. Hiking gear was a popular work outfit among young IT people. In the zero years, wearing one sports item with otherwise mainstream garments became It. It’s a casual classic today. Donning dance-wear inspired skirts like tutus popped up in the mid of the tens. At that time, yoga wear for over 50 also became a Do.

influencer in a tutu skirt, top, dance shoes in a night bar
Unbranded tutu, pantyhose and top, Neo Tango dance sandals, BGMAXBC belt (all own)

Athleisure As We Know It

Athleisure outfits full on are an ongoing trend since about half a decade. Thus, one may expect the peak of the wave will break in the not too far future. Especially, after over-wearing the trend while living in shelter.

fashion blogger in athleisure outfit of fish print leggings, stripped hoodie top, mirrored sunnies and puma shoes

stylist in black and white trend in athleisure sitting on a bench
Puma silver sneakers, layering top, turquoise studs (all own), sweater hoodie dress c/o Coolibar, leggings c/o FiShe Wear and wooden sunglasses c/o Winkwood

How to Wear Athleisure Fashion

Yes, you can wear gym clothes for over 50 outside of the fitness studio. When going for the current athleisure trend, any sport-gear bottom and top combination is a Go at any age. Of course, the items must match with respect to the vibe, pattern and colors. Wearing sneakers with skirts, dresses and jeans is meanwhile mainstream. My favorite are those with heels! See the photo below for my newest score on eBay.

Puma heel slingbacks
Fendi by Rihanna Puma high heel sling backs (own)

How to Wear Athleisure to Work

In this case, only the cut should scream athleisure while the material should be fancy or everyday work attire. On Casual Friday, a sport jacket may substitute a blazer, or track pants may be worn instead of office trousers with a blazer and shirt or any other typical work top. Try a blousy sweatshirt with a pencil skirt.

In a creative work field, you can get away with wearing nice solid neutral color leggings and a slouchy sweater, tunic or mini dress. Leather joggers instead of dress pants are okay as well. Substitute in a wide-leg pants work look the wide-leg pants with track-pants (see the example with blazer and sweater in this post).

Sweatpants are risky on petites and everyone who isn’t as slim as Victoria Beckham, Meghan Markle or Kate Middleton. If you have a body like these ladies, pair your joggers with sky-high heels and a boxy cropped top.

A slim-cut hoodie looks nice under a blazer with the hood sticking out. Pair this combination with jeans or dress pants. Loafers, oxfords or pumps are great footwear options.

Sneakers with a tweed skirt and twinset may be a good work outfit in a casual workplace, especially when you have to stand or walk a lot. The 1980s pantsuit with sneakers is a Do (again).

Weekend, Farmers Market, Picnic, etc.

Keds look great with a floral above-the-knee dress; think Taylor Swift. Sneakers plus a dress may be too laid back for work. However, the pairing is great for running errands and for the dog- or playground. It’s also a way how to dress stylishly for a picnic in America.

Summing Up Styling Athleisure

Athleisure head-to-toe is still a Do and will remain a Do at the gym. Athleisure shoes may be a dressy alternative to walking shoes, provided they are equally produced with respect to comfort, foot-bed, bounce back, etc. At work and/or as a fashion statement, one piece at a time is best. Doing so looks the most sophisticated. Which of the many athletic pieces to feature is a matter of personal style and lifestyle. However, when you wear the athletic leisure look outside the gym, go for high quality pieces or pieces that just have the sport wear cut. And, yes, gym wear for older women is a Do.

Interested in more dressing tips? Then my style book “how to Dress for Success in Midlife” is perfect for you. Buy the book now.

When you like the outfits, why not pinning them to your Pinterest board?

Top of the World Style linkup No. 256

Top of the World Style linkup party every week on Thursday

Welcome to the 256th Top of the World Style linkup party.

Sabine Gimm in pink sneakers, ski jacket, tank top, abstract print track zipper jacket with sport bag
Sabine Gimm of Lifestyle by Bine became the Top of the World OOTD Readers’ Fav. Photo from her post.
Karen Kocich in red mesh workout leggings and black tank top plus sneakers
Karen Kocich of Lady in Violet became Top of the World OOtD My Fav. Photo from her post.


Alision in sweat shirt, jeans and desert boots
Alison of Midlife and Beyond became Top of the World Style Winner. Photo from her post.


Congrats Ladies! Grab your award buttons.


Top of the World Style linkup party


See these awesome looks at the Top of the World Style #linkup party. #timelessstyle Click To Tweet

Want to throw your own party? Or do you want to get a free feature at the party? Then send me an email.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2021 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Emma Peach

    I love those leggings! They look fab with the striped top!

    Emma xxx

  2. aquamarinastyle

    I know we’re all happy to wear our athleisure now, but as you say, we may tire of it after all of this stay-at-home! I imagine it will stay popular, though, as long as the sneakers trend stays alive! Thanks for the fun history of athleisure.

    xx Darlene

  3. Just adore those b/w leggings! Yes, it will be interesting if we are all tired of this athleisure trend once we get out of this whole never-ending sheltering in!


  4. Rena

    Love the style. Thanks for the history info and how-to tips.


  5. eva @ CostumeTakeOut

    not crazy about athletic-leisure right now since i’ve been wearing it day & night, with very little difference for 6 weeks now–LOL!….pajama leisure needs to stop for me too…
    xo eva

  6. shelbeeontheedge1

    I love your athleisure style, Nicole! Dresses with sneakers is one of my favorite ways to wear this style.

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