Should the Gym Have a Dress Code?

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Just a few years ago, what I wore to the gym wasn’t given a thought. I used to go work out in my ex-boyfriend’s baggy sweatpants and a ripped t-shirt. I wore whatever was convenient and whatever I didn’t care about.  It just didn’t matter.

Times have changed. Over the past decade, the fitness and health industry has exponentially grown in popularity and the fashion industry saw a unique, untapped niche. Designers transformed humdrum spandex workout clothing into chic, hip fitness apparel with a high price tag. Workout clothes became tailor-made, stylish, seasonal, high-end and “runway-worthy.” Nowadays, brands like Lululemon are so popular their logo is as recognizable as Chanel.  

The other day I went into a fitness apparel store and I saw over fifteen styles of spandex pants to choose from. A friendly sales rep walked up to me, clearly well-trained. She knew which pants would make me look the slimmest, hide imperfections, and suit my personality.

That’s right. Workout pants for personality. In this store, there was everything from David Bowie-inspired zebra prints for fitness divas to the more structured and subdued garments for the less enthusiastic client. Picking out my gym outfit was turning out to be the equivalent of shopping for the right prom dress.

In the past, the high price of items like a timeless Hermès purse or Manolo Blahnik shoes made sense because of their longevity. I have a hard time imagining fitness clothes falling into the category of classic or couture. It seems a little ridiculous that such nice design and care goes into something that is just meant to be soaked in sweat and only last a couple years.

On the other hand, one can feel okay buying designer fitness gear in the same way that you see the necessity for buying nice lingerie for yourself. Regardless of whether anyone ever sees the little lace number under your suit, you feel pretty wearing it and it alters your attitude about your body. In a way, it inspires you to want to look and feel better in it. Similarly, the right fitness gear can be the motivation to exercise more.

Here’s another reason I justify buying these clothes: now, workout clothing is becoming everyday clothing. Spandex pants have replaced jeans for what you wear for mundane activities: running errands, lounging around the house, or meeting someone for coffee. They’re even incorporated into work and evening attire. Personally, I have worked out and then thrown a jacket and pearls over the outfit and I was ready for dinner. So, really, why not make them the most stylish and flattering form you can? Why not feel amazing while doing something so beneficial for your body, mind and soul?  

But like all things in fashion and beauty, if you have the right eye you can find great deals anywhere without breaking the bank. While designer labels are a treasure and great for the ego, they aren’t always necessary to look your best. You may have to search a little harder, but less expensive fitness options abound! Here are my top three finds for stylish workout clothes on a budget:

FOREVER 21 SPORT

With extremely low prices, bright colors and patterns, this new line is hard to beat. It also has a surprisingly good fit.

Obsessed with:

Metallic Racerback Tank and Foldover Waist Athletic Pants

OLD NAVY ACTIVE

Although they don’t play much with color or patterns, the price tag is beyond reasonable and the clean-cut lines make the cut. 

Obsessed with:

Women’s Active Compression Jackets and Women’s Slub Knit Dolman Pocket Tees  

TARGET C9 BY CHAMPION

Let’s be real—Target is the one-stop shop for less. C9 definitely holds its own by being form flattering, comfortable and sporty-looking.

Obsessed with:

Premium Tops, Long and Lean Running Tank, and Stripe Rib Tank



Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.