Fashion gets a workout

Perhaps the most notable mention in this trend is bebe’s new PH8 line. The clothing chain, best known for its club-ready clothing and sky-high hems, originally called its fitness line bebe sport. The standalone bebe sport stores offered a mundane inventory of yoga pants, running shorts and hoodies, peddled by petite, but not necessarily athletic celebrities like Eva Longoria Parker.

But gone are the days of the mundane. By rolling out PH8, bebe reached out to a whole new customer. With the tagline “life in balance,” PH8 fuses function and fashion with its effortless, accidentally sexy pieces. For many who shop there, it’s the answer to their active lifestyle prayers.

“I’m a mom of two little girls, I try to work out every day and I am always running one errand or another,” says Catherine Swink, who discovered the store only last month. “Finding clothes that I can wear while I’m running around with the girls, jogging with a stroller or on a trip to Publix was a lifesaver.”

With prices ranging from $20 to upward of $100, PH8 is competitively priced with workout brands such as Nike.

Swink says the dual-usage clothing is worth the price tag. “It’s almost like buying two wardrobes at once, so the prices seem reasonable to me. I’d pay just about anything to stay in the same outfit all day and still look cute when my husband gets home from work‚ even if I don’t have time to change.”

For customer Taylre Malkemes, the convenience factor is what originally sold her on these crossover clothes.

“It is hard enough trying to fit a workout in when you are out in the real world,” she says. “Sometimes I have errands to run after work and then I also want to hit the gym — and all of this before I get home. I need clothes that can work for more than one event or activity.”

The avid runner, tennis player and hip-hop dancer says balance is key. “Just because I am burning off pounds doesn’t mean I can’t wear clothes that are fun, cute and durable doing it,” Malkemes says.

In fact, the line has been so successful with both the fashionable and the fit that PH8 has launched a line of handbags (that double as gym bags, of course) that will expand further in the Spring 2010 collection.

Not to be outdone, they of the trendy clothes at economically friendly prices, Forever 21, has begun offering workout clothing based on pieces they sell as streetwear.

From mineral-washed sweatpants that look like jeans, to bodysuits that would work under a blazer when not worn to jazzercise, Forever 21 has hit on a number of trends embraced by the younger set.

But can these clothes really translate so seamlessly from the gym to the real world? Stacy Moldovan, general manager of BTB Fitness and CrossFit trainer, says they can. To an extent.

“I live and breathe in workout attire,” she says. “For me, my No. 1 priority is putting on an outfit in the wee morning hours and being comfortable enough to stay in it for the entire day, while still not being embarrassed to go to the store or mall.”

She says pieces like those from Forever 21 and PH8 give her hope — and expand her wardrobe. “Being a girl who lives in gym clothes, but also loves fashion is hard. So, I go out of my way a lot of times to make sure I still feel girly.”

However, she says, the mainstream stores’ options, while fashionable, aren’t always the best option for serious fitness enthusiasts.

Luckily for Moldovan, the workout clothing pendulum swings both ways.

“We are seeing more and more trendier clients come through,” Moldovan says. “Our gym is full of girls wearing lululemon. They make their clothes around a woman’s body, but [the pieces are] still cute enough to wear out to brunch.”

A brand that started roughly 10 years ago as functional, comfortable yoga clothing, lululemon has added several stylish pieces to its line.

And while these lines are certainly about perspiration, they’re also about inspiration. If wearing something trendy gets the not-so-fitness-savvy into the gym, they’ve succeeded in promoting healthier lifestyles. And for those gym rats who do spend much of their time working out, they’ve given them a way to show off their hard work outside of the gym.

It’s a win-win.

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