Friday, May 15, 2015

Fiat luxe workout duds

I am quite content that the gym  I go to is an adjunct of what is primarily a PT location. The gym is pretty rundown. Much of the equipment is dated, purchased second hand when a “real” gym upgrades. And much of it is falling apart – at any given time one of the machines I want to use is out of order, and will remain that way until the missing piece comes in. That or someone, anyone, fixes it up with baling wire and spit.

There’s a radio that plays a station with a playlist that includes Perry Como, Kate Smith, and the Mermaids. And the radio competes with the TV that’s always on, sometimes on the news, sometimes on a sports network. (The TV, by the way, was paid for with donations from the regulars to replace the one that broadcast fuzzz.)

Good thing the PT is excellent. (The head guy is a genius.)

But what I like about my gym is that, while people who work out there there actually do take fitness quite seriously (if not the fitness of the equipment), no one cares what they look like.

Among the women, I’m in the upper echelon, gymwear-wise, in that I actually wear fitness tee’s rather than oversized, faded, worn-out tee-shirts from the 2008 company outing.

And the worst dressed woman there is a fashionista compared to the average guy.

Forget 2008 company outing. We’re talking 1992 company outing for the guys.

In any case, I was very interested to read that workout gear, which – thanks to Lululemon and other yupscale brands – had already done a price and prestige upward climb, is now going “luxury.”

Forgot my fabulous L.L. Bean workout pants – three pairs long, three pairs cropped, all washed weekly, still holding up after seven years! And you can even forget about your Lululemons – which is easy enough for me, since my understanding is that in Lulu’s world, I’m an XL Amazon, and that they hide the pants for us zaftig gals in the pack.

Quietly, a smattering of new true luxury activewear labels have appeared, each with the hope that affluent shoppers are willing to shell out $300, $400, or more on a pair of pliable pants. Think about it this way: If you're a luxury shopper who buys $1,500 designer dresses, pays $250 a month for an Equinox gym membership, and totes around a $4,000 Chanel bag, why would you spend a mere $100 on the leggings that you wear to the gym, on errands, and on the weekend? (Source: Bloomberg)

Well, my crummy gym membership isn’t a whole lot more than $250 a year, and my priciest handbag is a Longchamp (gift). So I guess it goes without saying that I’m not the market for $400 “pliable pants.”

“Some of the newer brands that are emerging are going to give activewear a whole level of status we haven’t seen in this business before,” says Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at trend intelligence firm Doneger Group. The “designer casual” look is prominent these days, championed by luxe labels like Brunello Cuccinelli and Isabel Marant.

Look, I’m not someone who believes there’s no quality difference between something the costs nothing and is shoddily made, and something that costs plenty and is well made. And that most of the time it’s worth paying more even if it means buying less. Good stuff lasts.

One of the most beautiful and durable items of clothing I have is a Jill Sanders skirt I got for about $60 at Off Fifth about 15 years ago. (The tag price was $400 or $500.)

The cut is wonderful, the fabric is lovely, the skirt couldn’t be any comfier (even when compared to my workout gear), and I love it to death.

So much so that I brought it to an “invisible weaver” when I got moth hole in it, and they had to do some costly odd-ball hemming and hawing to weave that moth hole into invisibility. And the skirt still looks great.

But black leggings, black workout pants?

After a point, they all pretty much look the same, so why, after a point, pay more?

Oh, well.

One of these days, my trusty LL Bean workout pants will finally fall apart, and I’ll have to replace them.

I don’t think I’ll be paying $400 for the pleasure…


A tip of the cap to my sister Kath, who looks great in her workout clothing, even if she didn’t pay $400 a pair for those leggings, and who first pointed this story out to me.

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