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Style Advice

How to build the perfect capsule workout wardrobe

How to build the perfect capsule workout wardrobe

If you've been stepping up your exercise game as of late, then it's probably time to step up your workout wardrobe too. Picking the best workout clothing isn’t as trend-led as other areas of dressing, as you tend to prioritise performance-focused clothing designed for comfort, movement, and support. But just because exercise gear favours function over fashion, doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel great while wearing it.

We’ve seen athleisure and sportswear make their way into mainstream wardrobes for good, so your track pants, trainers, and even sports jackets are likely to be worn as much for bench presses as they are for Sunday brunches. Developing a capsule workout wardrobe of the very best performance clothing is a helpful way to strike the right balance between sporty and stylish – that doesn’t mean skipping the non-essentials, but building an interchangeable collection of pieces that all work together.

Not sure where to start? Thread stylist and exercise enthusiast Freddie Kemp has designed a capsule wardrobe that works as hard as you do mid-workout.

Photographed: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX ($189)

1. Running trainers

“This is perhaps the most important element of your workout wardrobe,” Freddie says, “as without the right shoes, you’re not really ready to hit the gym.” You might think lifting some weights doesn’t require specialist footwear, but the sole and ankle support provided by proper running shoes will see you go further in all areas of exercise.

Freddie's top 3 running trainers includes the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4. “This is a great all-round shoe that can tackle any trail as well as comfortably get you round anything from a 5K to half marathon on the road. And they will keep your feet protected and comfortable doing so, but the added comfort means a little less stability and more weight.”

2. Workout tops

Exercisewear is a good excuse to go bold as bright colours don’t tend to look out of place at the gym, but if you want your sports tops to transition into your everyday wardrobe, sticking to more muted tones is an easier option. However, the breathable, sweat-wicking fabrics that are great for intense workouts also make for great versatile pieces that can be worn with casual outfits, like this long-sleeved running t-shirt.

“A classic jersey cotton will get the job done, but I recommend investing in some of the more technical fabrics available,” Freddie says. “This Tech Pack t-shirt by Nike Running is lightweight and shaped for movement, with the added bonus of secure pockets to avoid uncomfortable arm bands or having to carry your phone and keys.”

3. Training shorts

I’m a big fan of a dedicated phone pocket on workout shorts,” Freddie says. “Having it sitting at the bottom of your back, like on this pair by Under Armour, means it never gets in the way.” Picking a pair of shorts that aren’t too short or tight, but aren’t so long as to restrict your movement will make it easier to fit them into your warm-weather outfits as well. “It’s also a good idea to have at least one reflective piece in your workout wardrobe in case you need to be up early or out late for your workout,” Freddie says.

4. Track pants

If you prefer working out in trousers over shorts, track pants are the way to go. They’re an ideal capsule wardrobe piece as the rising athleisure trend means you can wear them for workouts, lounging at home, or even out to brunch as part of a sportswear-inspired outfit. Pick a timeless style, like the Adidas Firebird Track Pant, and they could be the most versatile piece in your wardrobe.

Photographed: Patagonia Houdini Jacket ($70)

5. Outer layers

A workout wardrobe wouldn’t be complete without a water-resistant jacket that’s easy to carry if you get too warm, and versatile enough to wear with other casual outfits. If you’re a super-casual dresser you might lean towards hoodies for workout outerwear, but jersey fabrics tend to soak up sweat more than performance-engineered exercise gear.

“A super lightweight and packable jacket won’t take up much room in your gym bag, and you’ll hardly notice it when you wear it out running,” Freddie says. It’s a great piece for working out outdoors when it’s a bit wet, but it’s also an easy-to-wear outer layer for rainy rest days.

6. Sport socks

“I always find running socks to be the best option, even if you’re just wanting some socks for the gym,” Freddie says. “They’re designed to spend a lot of time inside your running trainers, so they’re often the most breathable and comfortable, and the best for avoiding bad smelling gym shoes.”

7. Gym bag

Tired of looking at your old gym bag that’s not been getting much use since lockdown? It might seem like a mere accessory, but a versatile, easy-to-carry  gym bag that hits the mark size-wise is a workout essential. Gone are the days when a gym bag meant a huge shoulder bag filled with festering towels and odd socks. Pick the right style and you can consider it your day-to-day holdall – one fits your laptop and lunch box alongside your workout gear. 

“If you’re training most days, invest in a bag that will comfortably carry all your kit instead of an overstuffed backpack that you picked up as an after-thought,” Freddie says. This ultra-light duffel by Patagonia has lots of room and practical features, and its long-lasting construction means you won’t have to be too precious about it leaving it in lockers or carrying it on your cramped commute.


Words: Ella White
Styling: Freddie Kemp