Athleisure Wear for Work? Here's How to Pull it Off!

Keep comfy and classy at your desk.

May 13, 2022

Here’s the scenario. You’re going to work, but you want to feel comfy. What do you wear?

The answer: it depends.

If you work from home, you’re lucky because you can wear nearly anything you want to the “office” (your kitchen table). Keep the top half of your body professional and the bottom half…stretchy. You can wear sweatpants, pajama pants, joggers, leggings, and so on and so forth. The options for you are limitless. 

But, as more places require employees to come back into the office, this may not be an option. Even if you are your own boss, work is becoming increasingly more in-person. After working virtually for so long, you may be reluctant to give up your wonderfully comfy lifestyle. The compromise, it seems, is the advent of athleisure wear for work. 

Up until now, you may have always thought you were limited to wearing clothes into the office that came directly from the professional wear section of a department store. Breaking news: in 2022, this isn’t the case. You may be wondering what athleisure wear for work is and how to style it for the office. This article will answer all of those questions as we hit on some key points:

  • What is athleisure wear for work
  • The rules for pulling off athleisure wear for work
  • The best athleisure wear for work items to shop

This is a great example of utilizing accessories to upgrade a piece of athletic wear - the Dona Jo Polka Dot skirted legging - to streetwear and workwear. Image courtesy of thelenparentstyle’s Instagram

What Athleisure Wear for Work is

So, you’re not a pantsuit girl. In 2022, that’s no problem. While every workplace dress code is unique, there are certain brands and pieces that work as dual purpose items to be work-appropriate while maintaining some of that sweat wicking, movement-friendly comfort that you’ve come to deeply appreciate about your home clothes. These are athleisure wear that can work, for your work – a hybrid of leisure wear and work-appropriate styles as the name suggests. Think relaxed cashmere blazers, collared tunics, and ribbed cotton stretch pants in place of tailored suiting and form fitting trousers. 

Tricks and Tips to Putting Together an Athleisure Work Outfit

Wearing athletic and leisure clothing items to work seems simple enough. Yet, how do you get started putting together athleisure work outfits that achieve the perfect balance between leisure, athletic, and professional? After all, you can’t just throw on a matching sweatshirt/sweatpant duo and put on some heels and call it a day. 

There are definitely some tricks and rules to straying away from either extreme - too athleisure or too professional - and finding the happy spot where you achieve both effortlessly. But don’t fret, once you put together a few outfits you’ll be a pro in no time! 

  • Neutrals and dark hues are your friend. We know you spent countless days lounging out in your lime sweats this past year, and we can imagine those sweats served you well in your free time. But, work is not the place to wear them. Turn towards black, navy, chocolate brown, or even olive green for your athleisure wear for work. These colors will look more polished and sleek than neons, tie-dyes, or even college grays. 
  • The Goldilocks rule of size. What we mean by this is that your athleisure wear for work shouldn’t be too tight nor should it be too loose. You want it to be just right. As you can imagine, tight clothes that emphasize every bit of loose skin, cellulite, fold, or crevice isn’t what you want to portray at the office. 

On the other hand, clothes that are baggy look unprofessional as well. Find pieces that hit that happy medium of lighting sculpting your silhouette and you’ll be happy you did. The only exception to this rule is a pair of quality leggings which aren’t see through and which are worn with something a bit looser and longer. Sport a pair of see-through leggings with a cropped tank in the office and you’re sure to draw attention – and not in a good way. 

  • Shorts stay at home. A hard fast rule that has no exception whatsoever is that shorts are not worn in a professional office setting. Yes, even your biker shorts. And yes, even if your work has a lenient dress code. Save those for workout classes and running errands and stick with pants or skirts that hit below the knee. However, on the off chance that your employer does not enforce a dress code at all and encourages you to wear whatever you would like, we have some tricks up our sleeve of how to pull off wearing biker shorts into the office
  • Elevate your look with accessories. If after a long time looking in the mirror, you worry that your athleisure outfit may err on the side of ‘too casual,’ then do not fear. Accessorize! Adding pearl earrings to a black sweatshirt, a belt to a frumpy sweater dress, a sleek headband to a crewneck is sure to take your outfit from underdressed to sleek and polished.Other items that can help boost your athleisure wear for work are a shiny leather tote, snakeskin slide on mules, dainty gold jewelry, or leather loafers. 

This fashion blogger is an analyst by day but that doesn’t stop her from wearing Dona Jo Power Leggings to her Monday meetings. Image courtesy of browngirlstyles’ Instagram

Still unsure of how to take your clothing from the studio to the office? Check out some of our articles for further explanation of how to dress up your athleisure wear. It can help by starting with transitioning your workout wear to streetwear before taking it to the workplace. 

Athleisure Wear for Work Items to Shop

Now onto the best part: shopping! Where to begin? That’s where we come in. Instead of going through the costly process of trial and error or endless research, just take our advice. We will point you to pieces of attire that will help you transition from life behind the screen (in sweats) to in-person office meetings (in athleisure). A return to office wear doesn’t mean turning your back on comfort and confidence. Just follow our lead. 

Lululemon beyond the studio crop
Pictured here in black, these cute cropped pants also come in gray sage, blue linen, and true navy. Image courtesy of Lululemon

1. Lululemon Beyond the Studio Crop

The Best Cropped pants

You might have a pair of capris or cropped work pants sitting in your closet picking up dust. We prefer these. They aren’t too tight that they expose everything, but are just baggy and flowy enough to mirror your silhouette. The nylon and recycled polyester that these are made of provide a sleek and high-quality finish and breathability in comparison to the twill or cotton duck material that most professional cropped pants are made from. 

These pants naturally have a slight crease so you won’t have to be concerned about ironing them everyday or creating wrinkles during an extra long day. Quite possibly the best part about these pants is that the waistband is designed so it won’t dig into the flab we all naturally get from crunching over a desk. That feeling of not being able to get out of your work clothes soon enough when you walk through the door of your home--Don’t get used to it. 

Price: $59 USD (Sale)

Available in sizes 0 to 20

Athleta sojourn tank
This top, with its flirty swinging pleats, can be dressed up or dressed down. Image courtesy of Athleta

2. Athleta Sojourn Tank 

The Best Tank Top

Go ahead. Stare at this picture for a while. It’s an athletic top. Did it fool you? It fooled us. The style is deceiving but this top is made of polyester and is definitely athleisure. The top is white and breathable letting in airflow which is great when the temperature is high. This top was built for performance, commuting, work, and travel. Our favorite thing about it is the pleating on the back! It’s adorable!

Price: $69 USD

Available in sizes XXS to 3X

Zella amazing cozy wrap jacket
This jacket - or should we say blazer jacket - comes in black, gray, and white and we can’t decide which is our favorite! Image courtesy of Nordstrom

3. Zella Amazing Cozy Wrap Jacket

The Best Jacket

Making jackets look office appropriate can be tricky. It’s easy to put on a slouchy jacket and automatically look like a couch potato. Try to avoid jackets that are oversized, that are bright colors, and which have graphics on them. The drape front and funnel neck on the jacket above is a unique feature that boosts this jacket to a higher level of sophistication. This jacket, despite being an athletic jacket, looks similar to a blazer. Find a jacket like this to feel cozy while looking smooth around the edges for chillier days. 

Price: $89 USD

Available in sizes XXS to XXL

Dona Jo Glow Legging
There are leggings for working out and leggings for going out, but these do both. Image courtesy of Dona Jo Brand.

4. Dona Jo Glow Legging

The Best Legging

You can wear leggings in the office, but not just any leggings. Cotton leggings are a no go. Save those for when you’re lounging around the house because the material tends to look cheap and they tend to be see-through. You do not want to be bending down to pick up your pencil in a pair of thin cotton leggings or you’ll be giving the whole office an unsolicited show. 

Now that you’ve got quality on your checklist, you’ll also want to look for elements of your leggings that transform them into less of a workout pair and more of a workplace wear. The leggings shown above have a sleek black leather band around the top and texture that instantly makes them appear more lavish, despite being extremely comfortable leggings that could be worn anywhere. If you’re working overtime and having a stressful day, these could be your go to because they have large pockets and are even anti-odor. Not a lot of leggings meet such high standards.

Price: $69.50 USD (Sale)

Available in Sizes 1-3

Express color block asymmetrical off the shoulder midi sweater dress

Wearing this dress, people will think you’ve put a lot of effort into your appearance, when in reality all you did was throw it on! Image courtesy of Express

5. Express Color Block Asymmetrical Off the Shoulder Midi Sweater Dress

Best Sweater Dress

Sweater dresses are extremely versatile. Some you can wear to class, some can accompany you to a winter party, and yet others fit in nicely at the workplace. This is one of those. The black and white color block on this dress is crisp and modern. The dress isn’t too far off the shoulder that you expose too much, yet not so suffocating as a turtleneck can be. 

The dress hits at around the knee, the sweet spot for office attire, and a personal favorite for short girls all around. The thin rayon fibers that the dress is constructed from provide breathability and a drapey/flowy feel and fit – instead of rigidity. This dress outlines your figure but does so discreetly. Whether it’s that time of the month or your feeling weighed down from a heavy lunch, the flowy top half of this dress will give nothing away. 

Price: $52.80 USD (Sale)

Available in Sizes XS to XL, regular and petite.

Woven sleeveless tie-waist jumpsuit with wide leg
Who knew you could look so put together with just one clothing piece? Image courtesy of Target.

6. Hope & Henry Woven Sleeveless Tie-Waist Jumpsuit with Wide Leg

Best Jumpsuit

We love a good one-piece outfit option for mornings when we are extra tired and can’t be bothered to mix and match two separate pieces. This taupe striped jumpsuit is a great Spring and Summer number. It’s flowy, but slightly fitted because of the playful waist tie. The material is linen and organic cotton instead of cotton alone which has a cheaper look to it and takes a beating in the dryer. It doesn’t take much for you to look put together and presentable for a successful work day ahead – just throw this on and go! 

Price: $49.95 USD

Available in Sizes 2 to 14 

H&M rib knit tunic and pants
This set is very forgiving, but for a more fitted look, pair with a belt.  Image courtesy of H&M

7. H&M Rib Knit Tunic and Pants

Best Elevated Knit Set

Similar to a jumper, this set is an easy answer to your outfit problems. The top and pants are a match made in heaven so once you pick out one, you know you’ll wear the other. No more making your room a mess looking for a top to match your pants. However, when wearing a set like this there is a fine line between looking sophisticated and looking like a paper bag. The key to pulling off a knit set is to choose fabrics that have heft and texture and accessorizing. Think of leather loafers, pearl earrings, simple jewelry, and a sleek handbag. 

Price: $40 USD

Available in Sizes XS to XL

Ok, so at work you’re supposed to present yourself in a particular way. But, that doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice your comfort. Realistically, you will have work days where you’re moving, sweating, sitting, or bloated more than other days. No matter what life throws at you or what work has in store for you, you shouldn’t be wearing clothes that make you feel worse. 

The materials on your body shouldn’t be cutting into your skin as soon as you sit or cross your legs. If an outfit is only good for sitting on a hanger, then it’s time to move on!  In this article, we presented a lot of great choices for athleisure for work and we barely broke the surface. The options are endless! 

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