I just recently figured out what “activewear” means. My lightbulb moment happened in the back of a T.J.Maxx when I realized that the leggings, tanks, sports bras, and tees were separated from the sundresses, capris, and peasant tops — you know, the fancy clothes you wear to the Cheesecake Factory on your birthday. Until then, I’d called “activewear” simply “clothes.” That’s because I’m one of those people who wears Lycra in public, as in every single day and not just when I go to the gym because that is literally never.
I’ve heard criticisms, both whispered in polite company and also screamed across the internet, that activewear isn’t acceptable outside of, well, activity. But as a mom, I’d like to argue that parenting is the very definition of active, and I’d also like to declare my intentions of never giving up my stretch pants and tank tops.
People who dress like me often find themselves nominated by their friends and family members for makeover shows. As much as I’d love five grand to spend on two jackets, a pair of dark-wash “dress jeans” (whatever that means), a chunky bracelet, and a scarf at a pricey New York City boutique, I know myself. I’d come home, hang up my new clothes, and throw on the hoodie I got from Goodwill last year. I love that thing. The zipper’s broken, but it’s soft, and hey, it’s Abercrombie. Abercrombie from 17 years ago, but still. I’m not throwing it away.
The reasons I love my activewear are many. Its virtues are plenty. In fact, I have a hard time understanding why everyone isn’t wearing it all the time. I could easily live in a uniform of elastic-waist capris with a moisture-wicking tee and a pair of tennis shoes. Twist my hair into a ponytail, push a headband over my forehead, and I’m ready to go. Activewear makes getting ready efficient, especially when I’m trying to wrangle a kindergartner into a romper after she’s had 29 costume changes before 7:30 a.m. and we’re already 10 minutes late.
For me, my athletic clothing is aspirational. Every Monday, I swear I’m going to start a diet — something that eliminates basically all of the food groups and will help me hit my goal weight by the following Friday. I vow to turn over a new leaf and exercise a whole lot more, and I’m convinced that if I’m dressed for the occasion, I’ll eventually hop on a StairMaster and go to town. It’s the wardrobe equivalent of faking it ‘til you make it. I dress for the role I’d like to fill, when I actually mean I’d like to fill a roll with whipped butter and jam.
That brings me to another reason I love my stretch apparel. The vast majority of my friends don’t eat gluten, dairy, meat, refined sugar, or nightshades, but I hold these things near and dear. Plus, I love to cook, so since I have no one with whom to share my cookie-crusted espresso chiffon pie, I have to eat it all myself. At times, there is bloating.
Some days, I am less than perfectly svelte, and I am one of those people whose weight fluctuates wildly. Elastic is my friend, my dear friend, and it hides a lot. At least, I’ve deluded myself into thinking it does. The hosts of the makeover shows would probably beg to differ, but I’m not stuffing myself into some cigarette pants and prancing around in stilettos when I’ve just housed a large burrito, okay?
Believe it or not, I actually go to a yoga studio on a regular basis — to shop. Have you seen yoga clothes? They are the cutest. I cannot resist mermaid-print leggings paired with a tank top that says “Nama-Slay.” I can wear these outfits and be adorable, comfortable, and advertise inspirational messages to everyone who sees me? I am ALL in.
Yoga clothes are my version of dressy outfits, and far more practical than a sundress, Spanx, and a lacy bralette. I’m sorry, but I don’t have boob-lettes, so these 36 Ds are getting smashed into a sports bra, and I don’t want to deal with buttons, zippers, or hemlines. I’d much rather eat bolognese than worry about my spaghetti straps.
I don’t go to the playground with my daughter and her friends to pose for romantic Instagram photos in flowy linen under a sunlit weeping willow. I’d rather roll laughing down a hill than sit on a bench because I’m scared of getting grass stains on my pencil skirt.
These bike shorts I’m wearing might not be pretty, but they were perfect for a hiking adventure in in a heat wave, and when we waded in the stream, I didn’t have to worry about wetting my silk shantung.
Have you ever pulled a 5-year-old out of a mud pit? Or stopped the car on the side of the road to run with the kids through a field of sunflowers? I have, and it was a lot easier in high-waisted compression pants than a blazer and crisp blouse.
The everyday ins and outs of parenting can get messy. I don’t want to carry in 15 bags of groceries, mop up bodily fluids, or boil a pot of mac and cheese in a stylish, beaded sheath. I may not always look chic and alluring, but I’m able to drop to the floor for a mean game of Candy Land at any given moment. I can go from watercolor painting to relay races in the yard in 30 seconds flat, and then I can run through the sprinkler with my daughter and her friends until we fall to the ground drenched and laughing.
I know my activewear isn’t necessarily pretty, but it lets me live life on my own terms. I can be efficient and spontaneous. I can play, and I can definitely eat. You wouldn’t think a few simple pairs of leggings and some tank tops would make me a better mom, but I think they do. I’m never giving up my activewear, and I’ll always be grateful for elastic.