wardrobe planning: chic athleisure essentials under $50

image: H&M

love it or hate it, the advent of athleisure in the last few years has one big upside: it's never been easier to look good in your gym clothes.

thankfully, stylish workout gear is also much more affordable than it used to be. you don't have to be stuck with the lululemon price point anymore, which is great news for all of us who want to look good in performance basics, but would rather save the splurges for more substantial wardrobe items.

there's been some discussion recently on whether athleisure is 'over'. i suppose it depends on how you define its purpose for your lifestyle. personally, i find it more perennially relevant as a versatile category of workout essentials. gym clothes that can also serve as travel essentials and casual basics for running errands = a good buy in my book.

these are my picks for the best athleisure basics, all (except one) under $50:

1. basic workout leggings // these inexpensive but well made alternatives to lululemons are the LBD of the workout lineup. also essential as travel leggings, and work-from-home pants (at least a couple steps up from your pjs!).
2. mesh panel yoga leggings // same as above, but injected with a higher dose of 'fashion'.
3. space-age track pants // the loose track pant is generally hard to find in a stylish version, but these have just enough of a space-age, Bowie vibe to go from gym to (almost) everywhere else.
4. ankle socks // my go-to sock silhouette any time i'm wearing sneakers.
5. minimalist chic sneakers* // all of the characteristics of the perfect chic sneaker: clean lines, minimal logo, ultra cushiony sole.
6. seamless sports bra // a stylish low-impact foundation piece that's simple and comfortable (for more mid to high impact workouts, i find that Under Armour makes the best ones.)
7. strappy yoga tank // i prefer a fitted tank for yoga so there's no excess fabric bunching up and getting in the way of different poses. love these colorways and subtle styling of the straps.
8. loose racerback tank // the universal tank for nearly everything else at the gym and beyond.
9. sleek layering jacket // i've found that the thumb holes in the l/s thermal workout jacket are particularly useful for chilly days. the sleek profile also makes this a warm but not bulky layer under a little black leather jacket or coat.
10. lightweight down vest // a perennial favorite in my basics rotation – the ultralight version by uniqlo is still the best inexpensive down option for travel, workout, and getting out and about with a trusty layer of warmth.

do you have any athleisure favorites in your wardrobe?

*these are a bit over $50, but still a great value and price on sale.


  1. Welcome back :) hope all well!
    I turn to Uniqlo for most of my yoga/hiking needs -- and to the North Face for anything more substantial. Happy to splurge on something essential like hiking boots but save on standard tapered sweat pants.

    1. thanks Ammu! :) i'm always surprised when i see 'designer' sweatpants with the $$$ pricetag :P agreed on the necessity of splurging on footwear, especially for something like hiking.

  2. Love the list! Was just going shopping for more exercise clothes. I like Spanx leggings. Nice and sturdy and with strategic spandex in the right places. They also have a mesh insert version. Keep these posts coming!

    1. aww thank you! i am so glad that you find this helpful :D

  3. i got Lululemon gift cards for my birthday last year and again when I left my job this year, so I've been swimming in their stuff - this would never happen if I were paying with my own money as I find their items incredibly pricey. That said, I think the quality and thought put into their designs are a cut above the rest. The fabrics are very breathable and dry quickly, I've no pilling or fading issues, and I like the wide variety of cuts for their leggings, so there's something for different body types. I could never fathom the terrible reviews on their website for various items - my experience is the exact opposite.

    I am willing to spend more on leggings and sports bras because these affect my enjoyment of an activity the most, and these items also last the longest in my experience. I stopped spending on tank tops because I realised it's much cheaper to just exercise in my sports bra, haha - Lin

  4. I like Allbirds smeakers they are minimalists, comfortable and perfect for travel. I also like the leggings for yoga from patagonia.

    1. ooh, thanks for that intel - i will need to check out both of these :)

  5. I see it everywhere, but I still like the classic Adidas 3-stripe superstar track pants. A good tip is to try on the youth sizes, either boys' or girls', because they're half the price of the adult sizes!

    Just today I discovered oursecondskin on Insta (through the Barneys acct) and she has the athleisure thing down to a T!

    1. i have those track pants! and can attest that they're great for travel, weekend and general nonathletic wear :D


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