If you’re the kind of person who rises with the sun to catch a workout before heading to the office, you’re most likely running around with a bag full of clothes. Getting ready on the go is tough enough without having to iron your clothes with a hair straightener or stand butt-naked under a locker room fan so you don’t sweat through your shirt.
The good news is that you can find stylish and comfortable clothing that supports you from gym to work to happy hour and beyond. These days, there are so many brands that have performance properties like four-way stretch, moisture-wicking, and anti-wrinkle material. They make essential pieces you can wear in a business casual work environment or out to dinner with friends—all without looking like a total slob.
I’ve been in the fashion industry for 15 years, so I’ve worked closely with a bunch of athleisure and performance brands. Here are my picks for the top 11 athleisure pieces to incorporate into your wardrobe.
Ever have one of those days when you’ve neatly packed your work outfit in your gym bag, only to find it a few hours later in a wrinkled blob with no iron in sight? Not gonna happen with Untuckit’s Pio Cesare Wrinkle Free Shirt. True to its name, it stays crease free so you’ll never have to look like an origami crane as you walk into the office. Untuckit’s stuff is also super lightweight, which means that you can wear this shirt year-round and your bag strap won’t drench your shoulder in sweat.Throw on a blazer for a more formal feel or layer a sweater over it during those extra-cold winter days. Untuckit is also known for its semi-custom fits, and I’ve dressed all sorts of different body types in the brand.($88; untuckit.com)
Sometimes you don’t have a clue what your day will bring—you might get pulled into a meeting with the head honcho of your company or land that hard-to-get dinner reservation for a first date. Whatever happens, having a suit you can move in freely ensures that you at least look on top of it all.Both of these pieces from Bluff Works are wrinkle free, lightweight, moisture-wicking and low-maintenance (hello, machine washable!). I always recommend choosing a navy suit—it will go with every color in your closet.($295 & $140; bluffworks.com)
A lightweight zip hoodie is an essential staple in your wardrobe year round. This slub front zip hoodie from Canadian brand Wings + Horns is awesome to wear on a warm spring day with shorts and a t-shirt; in the winter, it’s light enough to layer under your coat. The price-tag is steep, but I recommend the hoodie because the zipper is super sturdy, and it’s truly a quality piece.($165; nordstrom.com)
For those days when the weather is unpredictable, it’s helpful to have waterproof shoes. I’ve searched high and low, and these waterproof Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars are the most functional and stylish option I’ve found. The outside is nubuck waterproof leather, and there’s an additional interior bootie to ensure that no water gets inside. Depending on your office’s vibe, you can pair these with trousers and a sweater for an effortless but functional look.($120; nike.com)
Lululemon nailed the ideal commuter bottom with its On the Fly pant. They have a great fit and are made with Lululemon’s super-comfortable Luxtreme fabric. They’re movable enough to bike in, but trousery enough to give a presentation in.Luxtreme has four-way stretch, making them the perfect pant to wear while traveling—they’re cozy enough to wear on an airplane but still look more put-together than leggings.($118; lululemon.com)
When you’re rushing off to work after a workout, your time is precious. One way to make sure you’re as efficient as possible is with a killer makeup bag—trust me, keeping everything in one organized pouch is a lifesaver.I love the light gray camo print of Dagne Dover’s Lola pouch as an upgraded alternative to a solid color. It has two interior slip pockets to store small belongings, secure magnetic closures, and an exterior clip that you can attach to your bigger bag. Another use? Take it out at night as a clutch!($95; dagnedover.com)
Lululemon’s collaboration with principal dancer Francesca Hayward features more than just leotards and legwarmers—this jumpsuit is made with soft and breathable cupro fabric and is as comfy as it is sleek.You can pair it with a blazer and heels for the office and even swap out the blazer for a sassy leather jacket look for happy hour. It doesn’t have any zippers or buttons, so it’s super comfortable for sitting in the car or on an airplane.($138; lululemon.com)
Nothing makes getting ready easier than having that go-to piece that you know will go with everything in your closet—especially if it doesn’t require an iron—and Athleta’s Nopa shirt is just that.This dreamy shirt has a relaxed fit, so it’s roomy throughout and can be worn a bunch of different ways. Keep it long and tunic-like to pair with leggings and flats, or tuck it into a skirt or trousers to dress it up. You can even tie it up in the front for a more relaxed look. However you style it, the fabric is stretchy and anti-wrinkle, so it will move with you through your busy day.($79; athleta.com)
I’m all about finding those “basics with a twist”—you know, like leggings that are tough enough for a workout but also nice enough to wear to a coffee date? The high-waisted Takara leggings from Carbon38 have my vote.They have a high waist that provides the right amount of comfort and stretchy fabric that’s so sleek I’ve even paired them with a sweater and heels after barre class. They also come in a variety of colors, so if you want to make more of a statement, go for the gray or rose color.($109; carbon38.com)
Plaid is the perfect print to wear into work or a more formal occasion because it instantly classes things up. Pick a multicolor plaid to make a statement or go more subtle with this black-and-white print from Wesley. This hoodie is slim fit, and you can easily pair with a skirt, trousers, sneakers or heels.($148; bandier.com)
I have to admit I fought the backpack trend for as long as I could. My right shoulder and I have always just endured the pain of schlepping a purse that’s packed far too heavy but full of stuff I need for my day. Then Caraa answered my bag prayers by making a highly functional but stylish backpack that has plenty of space to hold all of my belongings for the day and more.The Studio 2 Mini comes with organized storage (like mesh pockets and a shoe pouch), a quick-grab phone pocket (no more digging for minutes trying to find it!) and best of all, it’s actually waterproof—I’ve worn mine in torrential downpours, and not a drop of water gets inside.($165; carrasport.com)
Cassandra Sethi is an NYC personal stylist and founder of Next Level Wardrobe. Before starting her own styling company, she worked in the fashion industry for 15 years—most recently as a senior buyer for Equinox. She also loves Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, no matter the season. Ready to take your style to the Next Level? Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.