Gym workout outfit

How To Dress For The Gym | Darling Magazine

At the age of 6, I was put into sports. I even went to college on a small athletic soccer scholarship and before then had probably never been inside a real gym. It wasn’t until the off-season when I was pushed into lifting weights and getting fit for the fall when my eyes were opened to a whole new world of athletes. After I graduated and attended a gym on my own (ahem, that was years ago, whoops) I realized that not only are they intimidating, but there are some real faux pas happening at places of fitness. With the help of a good friend who frequents these kinds of places, we hope this steers you in the right direction.

We understand that gyms can be scary with all the large machines and awkward staring (it can be meat market, if you catch my drift), but there are ways to dress appropriately for an intense workout, or even a light one.

Find A Good Fit
Even if you feel uncomfortable and think baggy clothes are hiding your body, it’s not a good idea to wear them to the gym for a couple reasons. First, they can get caught on equipment (especially pants) and possibly do harm to you, and second, they don’t provide the best silhouettes for overall athletic performance. Baggy clothes can get in the way, and once sweating, get even heavier on your body.

Let Others Stay Focused
There are plenty of things a woman can do at the gym to be a distraction, but how tight or revealing her clothes are, should not be one of them.

– Wear a sports bra. In fact, for some of the more voluptuous women out there, you might want to wear two. Just don’t leave home without one, no matter how big or small you are up top. And it’s wise not to wear JUST a sports bra. That’s only asking for attention that you might not want.

– Test out your tank tops or low cut t-shirts beforehand. Even though they may not look flashy, bend over and do some stretches at home to make sure you won’t be exposing anything extra once you get to that Pilates class. This goes for shorts as well.

– No denim. It’s uncomfortable and inappropriate for any kind of exercise. Even denim printed leggings are a no-no.

– No bathing suit tops. These are for the beach, and anywhere with water. If your gym has a pool (lucky you!) that should be the only place where your swimsuit is seen. Triangle bikini tops under a tank top is not proper workout attire.

Try a Techie Fabric
Yes, cotton is comfortable, but it also holds moisture longer than we want. If you plan on sweating (and we hope you do), consider looking into technologically advanced fabrics such as Dri-FIT and CoolMax.

Own Suitable Shoes
Keep your Converse and Vans at home. Wear qualified athletic shoes that will support your posture while moving, and also maintain your ability to go further in your athletic goals.

Hygiene Is Everything
To stay as ladylike as possible in these types of situations but still feel fit and healthy, we want to ensure hygiene is a large focus.

– It’s completely natural to have an odor during or after working out, but don’t try and mask it with perfume or fragrance, as others around you could be ultra sensitive to strong scents. However, always wear a deodorant to keep odors at bay.

– Hair should always be pulled up in a ponytail (or pulled back by a headband for those with shorter hair), otherwise, sweat can get trapped in the hair around the face and cause breakouts.

– Another way to prevent breakouts is by not wearing heavy make-up. It’s best to wear none at all, but if you feel you need some, just a little under eye concealer and waterproof mascara should be just fine.

Know Gym Ettiquette
Even if you’re a first timer, these are a couple things that should be followed:

– Take off chunky jewelry. It can be complicated and loud.

– Use your cell phone for music, not for having your weekly hour conversation with your mom on your blue tooth. Nobody wants to hear about how your sister got food poisoning at the new restaurant in downtown.

Being active is always a great thing, but if you feel like going to the gym is not your thing, try other alternatives like finding an all women’s gym, or even try just going to classes you enjoy. Anything to keep your body healthy year round is fabulous, just make sure you aren’t turning heads for the wrong reason!

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  1. I recently have started working out in a gym and I loved this article. I found it very informative and it was very refreshing to hear a woman advise other women on modesty. Women should be thinking of things like this. Kudos & great job dear!

  2. When there was an outbreak in assaults against women at night, a minister in her cabinet suggested a curfew to keep women in after dark. But it’s the men who are attacking the women, Golda Meir responded, if there’s a curfew, let the men stay at home, not the women.

  3. It is obvious you have written this article with a pure heart and in the best interests of your readers. Unfortunately, it seems our human race is quick to judge and slow to overlook unintended offense. Thank you for caring, for taking time to love others through your posts. My 17yo daughter loves your website and articles, and the spirit in which they are written. Thank you for providing a wonderful alternative to what the world often offers. We are called to be in the world, not of it. Be encouraged and keep running your race!! 🙂

  4. As someone who hasn’t been in a gym for many years (walking, hiking, and snowshoeing instead) I came across this and found this article informative. Although I would guess I am a bit older than your typical reader, and pretty comfortable by now about my own art of being a woman, I’m going to be helping a physically disabled friend at her gym and wanted an update on what would typically be worn. I found it reassuring and practical. The author also seems very kind and mature in her response to a misunderstanding of a phrase misused elsewhere. The internet can be quick to magnify misunderstandings between people. Thank you for writing it.

  5. Anne, I have to say I disagree with you about Cathleen learning a lesson here. The entire purpose of this series on Darling’s blog is to help guide women as they figure out how to dress approproately for any situation. Darling doesn’t take an “anything goes” approach to modesty, but rather is founded with a high value on modesty (in character and how women behave, and also in how women dress). Perhaps wording could have been changed, but I think Cathleen’s article is 100% aligned with what Darling is about and isn’t inappropriate in any way.

  6. Cathleen learned a valuable lesson here: don’t presume to tell other women what to wear, particularly when it comes to modesty.

    The ones who *do* dress inappropriately are not going to change what they wear because of something they read on the internet. The ones who don’t are going to be insulted that someone would even suggest they would. I know no ill will was meant, but I also knew before even reading the comments that people were going to be angry.

    Darlings, let’s all try to love one another as though we aren’t just ones and zeroes on a screen.

  7. Dearest readers, I am so sorry that you found this article upsetting. I never meant to offend anyone or make them feel like I wasn’t delivering only the best advice I could give. I understand your concerns, as they are all relevant, but I have to assure you, sexual violence or judgement against women were not even close to where my heart was going when I wrote this. Modesty is beautiful, and I think encouraging other women to do their best no matter where they are (even the gym) will always be what I am trying to advocate.
    Until now, I can definitely see how powerful words can be, and not only the ones I write, but yours as well. I’m glad this article started a conversation about real issues, but honestly, it was meant to give some tips about how to maintain our mind and bodies using humility and awareness. My intensions are consistent in past articles (as well as future ones) to helping women, not hurting them.

  8. Well, I personally, don’t want any random person in gym to stare at my ass or even worse half naked butt(!) or hard nipples just because I forgot to check if this clothing can handle certain activities like leaning down or squatting (nowadays it’s hard to buy jeans that wouldn’t show off half of your butt when simply sitting down on a chair).
    So, yeah, I think that too many people who read this article might be too self defensive and used to hear continuous attacks from society about their appearance.

  9. I agree with LS, SC, Nicole Z. and others above who have pointed out some troubling ideas in this article. This sentence made my stomach turn: “That’s only asking for attention that you might not want.” As SC said, such language is regularly used by our society to justify street harassment, sexual assault and rape.

    Plus, this idea that we must be lady-like at the gym stems from deeply misogynistic ideas about how women should appear in public. It is not a woman’s responsibility to make herself smaller and less offensive, but the responsibility of others to not address her from a sexist viewpoint that asserts that women should tiptoe around male desires and preferences.

    Why not focus on comfort and functionality? For example, I would recommend wearing a shirt at the gym because I wouldn’t want my back against germ-laden equipment.

    I understand that as a women who lives in this society, the writer has internalized a lot of misogynistic nonsense, just as the rest of us have. It is difficult to escape. However, I do think that the editors can work with their writers to do better in the future.

  10. I think this article attacks an unnecessary issue from a ridiculous viewpoint. It is one thing to discuss clothes that improve a person’s work out experience, but to discuss the way various women look in the clothes they chose to wear to work out in is distasteful. Heaven forbid a women have large breasts or own a pair of shorts that aren’t long enough for someone else’s liking. Women should support each other and stand up for one another regardless of appearances. This article reads like a Mean Girls journal entry, and honestly sounds nothing like a positive forum for improving femininity. I think women should work out in clothes that make them comfortable. Who cares what someone else looks like at the gym.

    The unnecessary issue: clothing etiquette for the gym. A helpful article may discuss gym etiquette. I.e. how long to run on a machine, or how to sanitize equipment when you finish. Another good idea would be the best work out clothes for your exercise of choice. I.e. when running wear X and when lifting wear Y. But what to wear so that other women think you’re feminine…..absurd, unnecessary, distasteful and disrespectful. Believe me – I get the idea of dressing tastefully. I used to be a teacher and I have seen my fair share of half dressed women. However, I would not use the language used above to discuss the reason certain clothes were chosen or the response given by some men. Instead I would politely explain certain attire is not appropriate for school. However, at the end of the day when I went to the gym, I didn’t care what anyone else wore. I was only concerned with the speed I was running and the weights I was lifting.

    The ridiculous viewpoint: you should dress so as not to attract attention. That reads to me as: minimize yourself. I get the immediate response: we are not asking you to minimize yourself, we are asking you to be modest and respect your body. But that’s not it. Women are beautiful beings. We have curves in all of the right places. And sometimes our clothes show them off. Not every woman can afford the most perfect outfit. But you know what: wear some cut off jeans and just a sports bra to the gym. If you can run faster and lift more – I am FAR more likely to be looking at the speed on your treadmill than the clothes you adorn yourself in.

    This is one of the most disappointing articles I have read. Regardless of whether you “agree” or “disagree”, I hope you think twice before condemning the clothing of another. I am so ashamed that this article was written by my gender. I want women to rule the world, not step aside and dress modestly.

  11. I would add that the suggestion not to work out in only a sports bra is meant to HELP us help gyms move away from that “meat market” atmosphere we all know well. One woman walking around the gym in her sports bra and booty shorts not only invites ogling eyes, but changes the atmosphere for other women working out too (either making them feel “on display” too, or driving them to make unfair comparisons of their own bodies.) You might say that’s their problem and not Sports-Bra-Lady’s, but I say it’s unnecessary immodesty and it definitely detracts from the positive work-out environment.

    I think these suggestions (from modesty, to hygiene, to fitness) are in perfect alignment with Darling’s values and a good reminder for women everywhere. The female form is powerful, and it’s not anti-feminist to promote harnessing that power for good.

  12. I also liked it as it addressed the true issues and didn’t try to side step the facts to be polite. Well done.

  13. I appreciate this article and the important discussion around this topic for us as women. I absolutely agree that under no circumstance is sexual violence EVER a woman’s fault. And as a regular contributor at Darling Magazine, I feel confident that Darling would agree. However, I don’t feel that this is the point the author was making. What I heard Cathleen saying is that if we are going to the gym for an invigorating workout, we are wise to dress with that goal in mind. We are wise to dress in a way that does not take away from our fitness goals or take away from others’ experience at the gym. We are also wise to not dress in a way that warrants unwanted attention. While we are NEVER responsible for others’ inappropriate comments or behavior toward us as women, we can do our part by being as modest as we can and dressing in clothing that works well for the body that we have. From my perspective, this is a well-written and thought provoking article. Thankful for the opportunity to discuss this issue with everyone!

  14. I appreciate this article and what it has to say. I love that this article is promoting modesty! Thank you Darling.

  15. Like some of your other readers, I feel a little irked by the wording used in regards to sports bras. As a larger busted woman, I’ve spent my entire life having unwanted attention paid to my chest and it’s made me hyper-aware of what I wear. I can’t wear a v-neck tshirt without cleavage and this makes finding activewear that is supportive and appropriate a challenge. I really do appreciate where you’re going with this article overall, but the wording here suggests that I should wear two sports bras so as not to attract attention, rather than for support or comfort and that’s what seems inappropriate to me, personally.

    Additionally, as a women’s magazine who professes to be inclusive and who wants to change the narrative about femininity, I think it’s important for Darling to be very aware of the language used when discussing modesty in clothing choices. There are several points in this article where the language used feels overly judgmental (the “asking for attention you might not want” line, in particular — though I do see the point the author makes). I think as women, we need to be especially careful about how we talk to one another about these issues. Have faith in your readership Darling, if we’re here we most likely share your values, we don’t necessarily need to be reminded that inappropriate workout attire may garner attention we don’t want!

  16. I don’t think encouraging women to have self respect and modesty is “decades backwards.” If you’re in the gym to work out, then dress accordingly (what the article is giving tips for), if you’re looking for attention by dressing immodestly, it’s a distraction to those around and a hindrance to the purpose of the facility. No one said anything about sexual violence in the article.

  17. I agree with SC. I found this whole article distasteful. I’ve enjoyed the What to Wear articles in the past, but the whole tone of this article extremely patronizing. By all means give us an article on clothing that is comfortable and safe to use on equipment. And certainly gym ettiquette, such as no perfume or cell phones is useful information as well. But lets leave out the bit where we judge women by what they wear. Also, the idea that a woman should worry about remaining ladylike at the gym, as if working out may detract from her femininity if she’s not careful is a step several decades backwards.

  18. SC—I have to disagree with your view. Personally, I think Cathleen was very appropriate in this guide and that she wasn’t victimizing women at all. The fact is, dressing immodestly and flaunting our bodies *will* get attention we don’t want. That doesn’t mean that it makes it okay for men to gawk at women’s bodies (nor does it suggest that women are to blame for sexual violence…a very different topic than dressing appropriately for the gym), but it is just sort of a fact. This piece has nothing to do with sexual violence, but rather speaks to the way that Darling Magazine values and promotes modesty in women.

  19. I appreciate the desire to discuss gym etiquette, but as a magazine dedicated to “The Art of Being a Woman” I am shocked to see such misogynistic view points in one of your articles – “That’s only asking for attention that you might not want.” Asking for it? Is that really something you want to project to your readers? One third of women experience sexual violence by the time they are 25 and the whole “asking for it” excuse is how perpetrators blame the victim and are not held responsible. And here you are buying into that excuse and further imposing it on women. Victimizing other women is not very ladylike, Darling.

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