Sportswear that Isn’t Black and is Stylish, Mission Impossible?


SPORTSWEAR/ HIKING WEAR etc: how to assemble small capsules of technical clothing for sporting activities, when shapes and colours are often very limited. What are the few things to do to adapt such clothes to ones own personality and needs?

Long gone are the days when you wore a baggy old men’s (or promotional) tee with a pair of baggy tracksuit pants to exercise.  These days activewear is a full of technology (wicking fabrics and compression zones etc.) as well as just a tad more stylish.  Yet, it can be easy to tall into a trap of buying black on black and sticking to something really basic.

Activewear takes up a proportion of most wardrobes these days (and from what I’ve seen at the school gates over the years, for some, it’s all they wear).  Staying fit and healthy is important, and if you’re using it right, it requires washing after each use (and if you’re like me and do the washing once a week, then you may need multiples).

Starting Your Activewear Search

But what of the choices when so much is black (or grey), particularly when black isn’t a great colour?

Rather than get too precious about this kind or practical wear hoping to find the perfect colours, start with what you can find – such as tops in good colours, and keep wearing the black bottoms (though I’m seeing more and more in different colours become available as time goes on- check out places like Cotton On (Australia and USA)  who do a great range of more colourful options).

Items like leggings I tend to find are more flattering in a darker colour (every time I try on light ones I feel that all you can see is my cellulite, but that could just be my legs).  This is why even though light might be technically more flattering for my colouring, I’m sticking with darker colours until I find a pair that is thick enough to look good.

Creating an activewear capsule that works for you and your colouring

I found these navy leggings at TK Maxx and the blue marle top at Kmart.  I won’t pay a lot for gym clothing that gets worn and washed frequently so I keep my eyes open for good colours when I’m out and about.  The little mesh panels in the calf add a small creative detail that keeps them from being boring.

A rain jacket or windbreaker that is practical, like this one below in a good colour, is more of an investment to find as it’s something that you will have for years.

Finding activewear and hiking clothes that are fashionable and comfortable

I also found this Mondetta jacket at TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in other parts of the world) and snapped it up, as finding a good coat that is practical and not black or grey (or totally boring either) at a bargain price was something I couldn’t go past.

Finding practical and stylish active and hiking wear


I love that it is a raincoat and has a hood, and is stylish enough to happily wear with a pair of jeans, but also has the practicality to work if I’m actually going for a hike in the bush too.

Colours for Your Activewear

Look for colours that flatter – signature colours are always the best if you can find them.

Match the colours in your eyes – particularly in tops and jackets

Wear a skin enhancer  – these colours also make great tops and jackets (like my red-violet one above)

Hair enhancers are another option to choose that will work easily as a base for you

If you choose colours from your colour palette, you’ll find that as you add more pieces to your capsule, they should easily mix and match as they are already related in colour properties.

No idea of your best colours (or signature colours)?  You can get a colour analysis as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (along with a whole lot more great information on defining your body shape and personality, wardrobing and shopping, that will really help you become more stylish.)

Injecting Your Personality

I think this can be the hardest element when finding active and sportswear that suits.  Most of it is pretty generic and casual (or ultracasual) and if your style is naturally more creative or dramatic activewear can feel so unnatural to wear – like it’s totally the opposite of your personal style – what are your choices?

Look for details that add interest in a way that floats your boat.

Apart from the colour of my jacket, I also like that it has a slightly asymmetric zip closure – this gives it a slightly more creative feel.

These leggings have stars up the side – yes they are black, but the star detail makes me happy.

Finding activewear that represents your personality and style


So when you’re looking even for a functional piece, instead of settling for plain and boring – if that’s not your thing – look for some inbuilt personality.

Choosing the Cut of Your Sportswear

So, on the whole, there isn’t a lot of variety in the cut of activewear – but you can certainly find skinny leggings, and looser fit jogger pants, depending which is more flattering for your figure.

You may want a longer top or a shorter one – both are around – and if you spend some time trying on different lengths and styles you’ll find some are more flattering on you than others.

Finding some hiking shorts?  Choose a similar shape and style to the most flattering dressier shorts you own.

I look for tops that have a curved hem, which hides more tummy and doesn’t draw a really unflattering line across the widest point of my hips.

When choosing shapes and styles, think about what cuts and styles of tops and bottoms in regular clothes are most flattering, then look for similar ones in active and sportswear ranges.

Shopping for Your Activewear

Don’t expect to create a capsule all at once!  Like any sort of wardrobe capsule, you’ll likely find pieces over time, slowly (yes it’s frustrating, but it is a reality of life).

There are so many places you can find activewear  – discount department stores like Target, Kmart and Big W,  to speciality sportswear retailers like Lorna Jane (and now in the USA too), Lululemon, Icebreaker (they have some great colours) and Cotton On, plus keep your eyes out for sales on sites like Catch of the Day who regularly have sales on activewear from great brands like Asics, Nike, North Face and Adidas.

And if you’ve found great sources to find your activewear – please share!


7 steps to colour and style


More Tips on Activewear

What to Wear to the Gym or to Exercise

How to Smarten up Your Gym Wear

Is it Time to Update Your Activewear?



I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

More from Imogen Lamport

Not Going Grey Gracefully Part 2

Today I spent the day atthe hairdressers, moving my now warm orange/brown/blonde...
Read More


  • Great article! I have black runners (prescribed by my podiatrist) that fortunately have some green trim. I never know if my ankle socks should be black or white! I can’t wear those ultra short socks that don’t show as they slide down off my foot. I have a huge collection of Dharma Bums tights for yoga which are in great colours and bring me joy! They come in many colours and styles.

      • Great article, Imogene! It’s time for me to get rid of some of my exercise clothes. I have a question about yoga pants, leggings, exercise pants, etc. They show panty lines so much, since they are snug. What kind of affordable underwear is available that is comfortable enough to wear for exercise, yet doesn’t show lines? Or am I being too picky because it is just for exercise? I’m thinking about the times when I run a quick errand whole still on my exercise pants.

  • Thanks for the article. I wasted a lot of money on a stylist consultation years ago. Among other things, she refused to acknowledge or help with active wear, even though I particularly asked.

    I’ve put together a great capsule of holiday/hike/active wear in navy and lighter blues. Very handy for holidays 🙂 Found amazing Zumba cargos (no, I don’t do Zumba), that roll up to 3/4, in a light weight fabric. You can wade through rivers in them, and they dry straight away. Very handy for washing too. They’re a holiday staple.

    • Leigh

      I don’t do active wear, at home or away, but I but I know how fundamental it is to many. Did you ask her why she wouldn’t help you? If so I am curious as to what her response was.

      • Hi Jo-Anne, at the time I was doing a lot of gym & Pilates, and there wasn’t so much trendy “active wear” around. Although I’d paid (a lot of money), for a wardrobe edit and shopping trip, she wasn’t interested in what fitted into my life. The active wear was just one component. She didn’t refuse to help, just ignored that part as it didn’t interest her, only wanted to get glamorous stuff. Got quite sulky when I wouldn’t buy a dress that looked great on, but simply didn’t fit into any part of my life, and I knew I wouldn’t wear.

  • This topic is dear to my heart because I have been struggling with it as well. Some ideas:
    I hate the feeling of these ‘performance fabrics’ on my skin, especially on the top. (Bottoms are kind of okay.) So I just wear my normal tees and tops when exercising. Generally I only buy breathable natural fibres (cotton, merino wool and viscose, which is kind of natural). Personally I don’t mind that these tops aren’t wicking, and I feel faboulous because they’re flattering style- and colourwise.
    When it comes to bottoms, I’ve become creative. Somehow the shops in my area seem to think that women only exercise in leggings and love ‘feminine colours’ like pink and baby blue. Not my case.
    So for gymnastics and pilates I often wear black cotton trousers with a wide straight leg and an elastic waist or harem pants. I wear both in my day to day life, too.
    For hiking I also have a collection of cargo-like trousers in dark colours like brown, green and gray that I bought in the men’s section. I had to take them in at the waist because I’ve got an X figure, but now they look and feel great and are super-practical.
    For jogging I use wide shorts that I bought in the boys’ section. They are actually basketball-shorts for fourteen year-olds.
    So my recommendation would be to think outside the box.

  • Icebreaker is my go-to store. They are amazing, natural materials and long-lasting quality so it makes sense to pay more for their merino clothes.
    Patagonia is also amazing! Eco oriented, feminine designs and resonable prices. They have great rain coats and winter coats. It’s an investment but I feel happy every time it rains and I put my Patagonia coat on – because they offer colours that suit me plus their clothes are made for movement.

  • I love REI (US store). A third of my wardrobe is from them. They carry lots of different brands including their own. They are on the expensive side, but it’s high quality and many brands are eco friendly. If your lifestyle is active/outdoors, it’s worth the investment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *