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Top Stylist Melissa Murrell on the rise of ‘Athleisure’ clothing

Thanks to the likes of Joe Wicks, exercise during lockdown became the fashionable and healthy way to relieve boredom and boost mental health. As a result, sales in gym wear went through the roof…

Stylist, Melissa Murrell keeps us up-to-date on the ‘in’ brands and the ones that can take you from the gym to the supermarket – the so called athleisure trend!

I’m no gym junkie but lockdown has afforded me more time to exercise than normal and to increase my motivation even further, I knew if I looked half decent in my workout gear then my investment in fitness would also increase – sad but true! But there’s also an upside to this; the huge rise of athleisure trend has seen the lines blurred between traditional gym gear and casual wear and as such a carefully procured selection of workout clothes can now see me through the entire day – be it a socially distanced engagement, a trip to the shops, a dog walk or even the reason they were purchased in the first place.

Luckily, there is an abundance of choice out there in just about every style possible and to suit all budgets but where do you start….

The “In” Brands

Varley Buckly Crop Top

Varley Bloomwood Jacket

If you really want to invest in a stylish workout range that also boasts performance enhancing properties then Varley is the brand to wear. Having the seal of approval by Gwyneth, its exotic animal prints are adored by some of the biggest fashion influencers out there. Granted their co-ordinated sets require a six pack that I no longer possess but they have plenty of tops to add to the look.  The Varley Buckly Crop Top in White is a favourite as it allows you to see the matching bra underneath without exposing any lumps and bumps.

The Varley Bloomwood Jacket in oat is a favourite and the ultimate workout to weekend piece.

The Varley ‘Century’ printed leggings are a particular favourite of mine as they’re dark enough to be flattering (and hide any sweat marks) but the pattern makes them interesting enough to subtly stand out. If you’re carrying any extra weight that you’re trying to hide then stay away from the lighter colours in the range.

If Varley isn’t for you try Australia’s P.E Nation and The Upside, both on Net-A-Porter.

How to wear it

Just beginning? Then no matter how amazing the active wear looks on the model unless you’re tall with a supermodel figure the most flattering of gym gear comes in the form of high waisted leggings with a wide waist band and ankle skimming (7/8th not ¾ length) leggings in a darker shade (a lighter shade is fine if you have slim legs). Create some interest with a coloured bra then continue to colour block with a darker top this will produce a far longer leaner looking frame.

Alternatively, brighten the look with a white top over a matching set then bring in some colour on the trainers. Despite what you may think, jogging pants and a baggy t-shirt will not only make you look bigger but they’ll actually make you stand out more – the opposite affect that many of my clients are looking for.

Like myself, most of my clients now expect their active wear to be ‘ready for anything’ but they all make the same mistake; their basic leggings and gym tops are often ok but then they ruin the look by not thinking about the outerwear to compliment the look. You need to start thinking of Jackets, hoodies and trainers as the building blocks to completing the gym-wear capsule wardrobe – where everything mixes and matches perfectly and is suitable for all your lifestyle needs. A quick glance in your wardrobe should reveal an existing colour pattern – buy your leggings and top to compliment this then you’ll always have something to wear with your workout wardrobe.

H&Ms Grey Sports Jumper

H&Ms Khaki Lightweight Parka


H&M’s sportwear section not only has the basics covered at reasonable prices but their fast drying functional fabrics and choice of outerwear will rival even some of the higher priced brands.


H&M’s Grey sports jumper (£17.99) or their khaki lightweight parka (£39.99) are great examples of completing the look and a personal favourite of mine are the H&M High waist sports tights in black with ribbed mesh (£19.99) and the Mole Leopard leggings (£19.99).


Try & Other Stories for their quality boxy hooded sweatshirts (£55) and Nike for great layering pieces such as their ‘Icon Clash’ Jacket £90 (other matching items also available). Next are also good for simple layering tools.

& Other Stories Boxy Hooded Sweatshirt

Nike Icon Clash Jacket



Mid-Priced Range

Cos Activewear

For more of a mid priced range, Cos have also just dropped an influencer-adored activewear range which includes seamless yoga leggings, seamless cycling shorts and sports bra that promises to contain the largest of busts! Personally I don’t find their waistbands to be as flattering as others mentioned but their comfort and functionality can’t be questioned.


For Yoga

Sweaty Betty Bum Sculpture Leggings

For yoga clothes it’s Sweaty Betty’s ‘bum sculpting high waisted leggings’ that continues to blend style and functionality perfectly and if you’re looking for trainers you can’t go wrong with a pair of black Nikes or if you’re wearing your work out gear to do your errands in, then team them with some Nike Zooms or even your trusted Veja’s.

A Final styling tip

Tie a knot in your vest top and it’ll make your waist look smaller – give it a go – you don’t need to show your waist or make it too tight but I promise it’ll make you look like those sessions have really worked, even on day one!

With over 15 years of experience of styling real women with real lives, Melissa Murrell has built a successful career in not only styling the everyday woman but also in teaching others how to become Personal Stylists. Creating maximum style with the minimum of effort for her busy clients drives every styling session she undertakes. Melissa has worked with hundreds of clients of all shapes and sizes to teach them how to dress for their body shape and how to create a mix and match capsule wardrobe that is relevant to their lifestyle needs and budget, making getting dressed in the mornings a stress free event! The result? Look great, feel confident and finally have something to wear!

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