When Ann Butzier first opened her shop, Namaste, five years ago, you couldn’t find the word “athleisure” in the dictionary.
“It was a word I’d heard, but it wasn’t common,” she said. “I remember using it in a conversation with a customer and she said, ‘Oh, that’s a cool word.’”
The word “athleisure” was first used in 1979 in Nation’s Business magazine, but it didn’t pick up steam until the New York fashion industry started using the word about 20 years ago. Finally, in 2016, it earned its official spot in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
A combination of “athletic” and “leisure,” the athleisure wear market has come to be known for clothing that is comfortable and can be worn for both exercise and leisure activities.
That used to be good ol’ sweatpants, but nowadays, the first thing you’d probably think of is yoga pants — stretchy, casual and oh, so comfy.
“It really started with yoga pants,” Butzier said. “We were wearing some leggings to exercise, but then, it evolved into, ‘Hey, these leggings can be nice, and we can wear them for other things.’”
A trend that’s here to stay
Julie Berstler has owned Gotta Have It, a clothing boutique located within Dubuque’s Cable Car Square, for 29 years.
“Several of my staple brands have included athleisure wear groups in their collections because they have seen that this is a trend that is staying with us,” she said.
As the athleisure wear universe has expanded, Berstler said the pieces being manufactured are blurring the lines between what you’d wear to the gym and what you’d wear to have lunch with friends.
“Your workout clothes might include a legging and sports bra, but you could add more fashion pieces to create more style,” she said. “You may have fun leggings with a long tunic or a bomber jacket with a simple V-neck T-shirt and a pair of joggers.”
Not just for athletes
You don’t have to be an athlete to take advantage of the styles athleisure wear manufacturers are producing.
“It’s not just yoga pants anymore,” Butzier said. “It’s jumpsuits, blazers, tops. It’s become something that’s not just for exercising but things you can wear out on the town and even to a wedding.”
Starter pieces for an athleisure wear wardrobe could include a long cardigan, bomber jacket, a pullover with a zipper or hood, a fun sweatshirt, print leggings, jogger pants and full leg pull-on pants with pockets.
The pieces also can be mixed and matched for working out, hiking, biking or going out for dinner.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a fitness person or not,” Butzier said. “You can wear these pieces and they can look really nice.”
Finding the right fit for the right occasion
Most pieces are made from polyester, cotton, rayon, spandex or a combination of these materials. They’re constructed to allow stretching, which is a big plus in a lot of women’s books.
Eco-friendly options are available, too, with some manufacturers using recycled materials or materials from regenerative, fast-growing trees like bamboo and eucalyptus.
If you’re looking for athleisure wear for colder weather or for more strenuous activities like hiking or biking, look for clothing with more thickness and durability than your standard summer or spring pieces. They are out there, Butzier said, and they’re just as comfortable as what you’d wear to the gym or to exercise at home.
“Comfort and softness,” Butzier said. “Those are the two words I’d use to describe every piece of athleisure wear. And you can find just about anything and everything now.”
Jeans, dresses, dress tops, dress pants and shorts quickly have found their way into the collections of athleisure wear makers.
“It’s really about creating a comfortable, casual look with style,” Berstler said.
Namaste is located at 955 Washington St., Suite 106. Call 563-580-9612 or visit www.namastedbq.com for store hours or to arrange a shopping appointment.
Gotta Have It is located at 315 Bluff St. Call 563-588-3956 or visit www.facebook.com/gottahaveitincboutiqueonbluff for store hours or to arrange a shopping appointment.
Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.