this thing's incredible

These Minimalist Workout Clothes Are the New Outdoor Voices

Girlfriend Collective's soft, minimal workout apparel — the Strategist reviews Girlfriend Collective.
Girlfriend Collective makes soft, minimal workout apparel. Photo: Courtesy of the Retailers

The gym is weird — all those people in a row, running toward nothing, biking to nowhere — but necessary. Being a gym member means following the dress code that goes with it. Gymwear, in my opinion, fulfills a related but different set of criteria than other workout apparel. It doesn’t have to resist any kind of weather, but it should stay securely in place and relatively dry while you sweat for a straight hour. Because you’re in a self-contained fitness biosphere lined with mirrors, gymwear should make you look good. And if you’re me, you have one final requirement: a high waistline.

For all these reasons, it perplexes me to not see more women wearing Girlfriend Collective’s workout clothes. The brand is still fairly new — it launched in 2016 with a free-leggings publicity campaign that generated some buzz online — but it’s since gotten shout-outs from Vogue, has a trendy former fashion editor working as its “editorial director,” and shares a Rolodex of models with Glossier. Also, it’s great gear. The bra-tops and leggings (I own two of each) feel silky and soft, and the pants compress your butt and thighs just the right amount — enough to make you feel pert, but not nearly as much as Outdoor Voices’, which can feel suffocating in humid weather.

People shop according to different principles, and in this regard, Girlfriend Collective has admirably covered its bases. If you shop according to sustainability, Girlfriend Collective recycles No. 1 plastic bottles in Taiwan and knits them into fabric. For the Everlane fan who prefers to know where her chickens come from, Girlfriend’s About Us page has a 4,582-word bulleted explainer on its factories, dye processes, labor protocols, and so on. If you shop according to exacting fit, Girlfriend’s leggings sizes run from XXS to XXXL, and it doesn’t look like they airbrush the models. If you shop for style (and this is where my first purchase comes in), the apparel comes in minimal, solid colors like “smoke,” “indigo,” and “apricot.” No crazy neon or color-blocking or cutouts.

And if, like most people, you simply shop by price, Girlfriend’s stuff is cheaper than Outdoor Voices, Nike, Lululemon, Athleta, or most other premier brands. I own and enjoy items from all of those brands, but recently, when — in an idiotic post-cycling, not-yet-caffeinated daze — I left a pair of leggings in the locker room, it was kind of nice to not feel the sting of losing $110 worth of sweaty fabric. Not that I was truly at peace with it: I had just lost my new favorite workout pants, after all.

High-Rise Legging
$48

My favorite item from the line, these leggings are soft, easy to move in, and have a high waist that sits snug near my belly button. In the past I’ve gone as far as getting workout pants tailored and darted, to stay fitted around my waist, and these need no such extra work.

If you like a little ankle crop (I know I do), these three-quarters-length pants are the same as the above, but with a higher hem.

And if you like even more crop, these Capris come in mid-rise (seen here) and high-rise.

I rave about the brand’s leggings, but this zippered Monroe bra-top was my gateway item. It came up in a promotional email, and I thought it looked cool — a nice thing to wear when staring at yourself in the mirror during an hour of yoga. I’ve also learned that Girlfriend Collective might be discontinuing the Monroe, so get it while you can.