Robbie Ann Darby
Courtesy of Robbie Ann Darby

Gone are the days of throwing on your old college T-shirt and oversized sweatpants to hit the gym. Fitness clubs are the new golf course, Match.com and runway ready. So if you’re single, looking to make a new business connection or just want to join the rapidly growing fitness-fashion trend (known as athleisure) then learn how to do it and do it well with these tips:

Leggings Are the New Denim

Remember about 10 years ago when premium denim hit the fashion scene? Many of us didn’t understand why we should spend triple digits on designer jeans when our double-digit denim was doing just fine. That was until you tried the pricey pants on and felt the difference. Well, ladies—leggings are having that very same moment in fashion right now. In fact, last year jean sales were down 6 percent from the previous year, according to the NPD Group. Simply put, leggings are the new denim.

I know. It may be hard to drop $100-plus on Lycra, but trust me when I say you’ll wear them beyond your workouts. Two of my favorite pairs are the Perfect Core Legging at Lucy and the Wunder Under Pant at lululemon. Both are made with premium fabric, and I’ve been sweating and sassing in them for close to three years now. Totally worth the investment.

Function vs. Fashion

Quick note: Before you go break the bank of fitness fashion, understand that not all lines function equally. Unfortunately, like any fast-growing trend, there will be knockoffs involved. Comfort seems to be everyone’s go-to lately, so it’s important to know what items are errand-running friendly and which are actually running-friendly. No dis to either; however, when shopping for your next fitness-fashion finds, ask yourself if it will go both ways (work out, and then hang out) or just one direction (work out or hang out).

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The differentiating factor is the fabric. If you don’t see words like “sweat-wicking,” or the waistband seems flimsy, then these looks won’t be able to stand your weekend boot camp. Save those for weekend lunches and invest in gear that can win in both the fashion and function departments. My favorite brand that has mastered this fusion is Athleta.

Know Your Body Type

Just like a strapless dress is trouble for the well-endowed girls of the world, certain styles in fitness fashion may clash with your body type. Once again, your workouts can become the stage for your next big job or hot date, so the last thing you want to do is look a big, hot mess. So if you’re curvier down below, go with dark colors on the bottom, and then punch up the fun on top to draw attention to your small waist and sculpted arms. Or, if your stems are long and lean, then go crazy with prints on the bottom (Onzie will be the brand to hit up for this) and let your tops be solid and loose.

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Bottom line is, many brands have body type in mind. In fact, some are even taking it a step further by offering plus-size options. The top three brands that are serving it up for the fit and curvy are Lane Bryant, Marika and Athleta (which also happens to offer petite and tall options).

Staples for Working Out and Then Hanging Out

So now that you know how to turn heads at the gym, the next step is to learn how to turn heads when you walk out of the gym—the power being in the accessories, shoes and top layer. A bold necklace can make a racer-back tank dinner-ready, and a fun, colored heel coupled with an oversized bag (which can also double as your gym bag) can take you to brunch post-crunch. Or keep it casual and trade your Nike running shoes for a pair of Dunks and a super-edgy bomber like the ones found in the Adidas Original’s collection. Six:02 is a great one-stop shop to make your favorite workout and hangout staples fashionably acceptable, so shop online or in one of its various stores nationwide.

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Be Cute on a Budget

OK, so, last but certainly not least, I know that all fashionistas are ready to blow their budgets on workout clothes; however, if you want to get this “athleisure” party started in an affordable way, I have to put you down on two brands that are affordable yet adorable—Fabletics and Ellie. Both of them offer membership programs (as in boxes of new, fun gear comes to your front door every month); or, if you want to, pay as you go. The price points are still superb.