Tried & tested: Our guide to the best plus size activewear which look and feel good
When a plus size female mannequin arrived in the Nike flagship store in London this past June, it caused an uproar.
Stationed next to straight-size mannequins in the activewear section, the backlash came swift and scalding with one commentator at The Telegraph describing the mannequin as ‘immense, gargantuan, vast and heaving with fat’.
The plus size community hit back, the initial jubilation in seeing the mannequin turned quickly into having to defending their right to exercise without fat-phobic criticism.
As a plus size woman myself, I saw the mannequin as a welcome leap forward for size inclusivity – because, despite what society thinks, fat women (and men) work out too! Which means we need clothes that fit our bodies and feel comfortable throughout a workout – something not always possible.
Until recently, baggy t-shirts and ill-fitting tights were the only options available for exercise. But, with women in the UK averaging a dress size of 16, companies have started to cotton on, making size-inclusive activewear for those size 18 and above – a sweet relief.
When is comes to inclusivity, though, not all gym gear is created equal. So we’ve rounded up the plus size active wear brands to know below.
Wearing Women’s Swoosh Medium-Support Sports Bra (£26.95) paired with the Nike One tights (£34.95) (Laura Hampson)
When Nike launched plus size activewear in 2017, there was a collective cheer from the plus size community around the world. Finally, we thought, a well-known sports brand taking size inclusivity seriously. Since then, Nike’s plus size range has gone from strength to strength now offering over 51 styles – from sports bras to running jackets – and updating the collection seasonally.
I trialled the Women’s Swoosh Medium-Support Sports Bra (£26.95) paired with the Nike One tights (£34.95). The gear felt comfy and supportive during a workout, and while the tights weren’t as structural as I like, they were light, breathable and stayed firmly in place. The gear is clearly made to work with the plus size figure.
Sizes: 1X to 3X.
Verdict: the one-stop shop for any plus size gal looking for stylish activewear.
Wearing ASOS 4505 Curve knot front cropped vest top (£14) and ASOS 4505 Curve legging with sculpt mesh inserts (£25) (Laura Hampson)
When ASOS Curve launched in 2010, it changed the game for many plus size women, offering on-trend styles at reasonable prices and, while fast fashion has been getting some heat lately, the plus size community has long loved ASOS for being frontrunners in size inclusivity.
The Curve activewear section contains exclusively Nike products alongside ASOS’ own-brand ASOS 4505, with the own-brand sizes ranging from 18 to 30. I trialled the ASOS 4505 Curve knot front cropped vest top (£14) and ASOS 4505 Curve legging with sculpt mesh inserts (£25). The leggings were on-trend with a comfortable high waist and mesh inserts – although they were a bit long for my short legs (a common problem with plus size clothes). The cropped vest top was lightweight, breathable and comfortable and, just as importantly, looked as good as it felt.
Sizes: 18 to 30.
Verdict: ASOS 4505 currently has 28 styles to choose from on the site, while not extensive the brand updates the list each season with on-trend activewear. The result is affordable, stylish and well-fitting workout gear that is well-fitted to a plus size body.
Wearing Monet V-Back Tie Tank (£13.63), with Connar Seamless Sports Bra III (£11.82) and High-Waisted Solid PowerHold® Crop tights (£12) (Laura Hampson)
The brand synonymous with actress Kate Hudson, Fabletics was co-founded by Hudson along with JustFab Inc. CEOs Don Ressler and Adam Goldenberg in 2013. After seeing a gap in the market, the trio decided to launch a luxury activewear range that offered stylish, high-quality gear at an accessible prince point.
I tried a few items from the range – like the Rise 2-Piece Outfit (£23.63) and the Monet V-Back Tie Tank (£13.63) – and can’t stop recommending it to all of my friends. Fabletics also use women with plus size bodies to model its plus size range – something not often seen with other brands and is certainly a welcome sight.
Sizes: 6 to 30.
Verdict: hands down my new favourite activewear brand. Not only are the clothes well made, they are comfy, look incredibly stylish and are designed to complement a plus size body.
Wearing Heathered Forest Barely There Bra (£60) and matching The Dual Life 7/8 Leggings (£110) (Laura Hampson)
Co-founded by Khloe Kardashian, Good American describes itself as a label by women, for women. These items are designed to compress, holding you in place in all the right places using high-quality material. Imported in from the states, UK shoppers can get their Kardashian fix from Fashercise, which stocks other activewear brands like DAY/WON and Wolf & Whistle which also come in inclusive sizes.
Good American is tailored for a Kardashian body, with high-waisted tights and deep cut sports bras which, paired together, are designed to accentuate the waist. I tried the Heathered Forest Barely There Bra (£60) and matching The Dual Life 7/8 Leggings (£110) and found, even though my body is far from Kardashian, it gave me the confidence of one.
Sizes: XS to 3X.
Verdict: While I would wear the tights with a longer top, the bra is more showy than supportive and I won’t be wearing it on its own to the gym any time soon.
Wearing Marina Rinaldi Jersey top (£190) and Jersey leggings (£208)(Laura Hampson)
This year, luxury Italian plus size brand Marina Rinaldi made its debut on the activewear circuit by introducing high-performance clothes to its range. The new range includes windproof jackets, sweatshirts, tops and leggings offered in sizes XS (UK 10) to XXL (UK 28).
While the material is luxe and the clothes – including the Jersey top (£190) and Jersey leggings (£208) – look chic, I wasn’t a big fan of the style of the leggings. However, it is a definite leap forward for size inclusivity in luxury brands.
Sizes: XS to XXL.
Verdict: on the expensive side, but it’s great to see luxe plus size brands like Marina Rinaldi expand into activewear and introducing inclusive sizes.
Wearing Nike ’W NSW Gym Vintage Pant Extreme 2’ Jogging Pants (£40) and adidas Performance ’D2M 3S’ Functional Top in light pink (£25) (Laura Hampson)
One of the biggest online plus size outlets in the UK, Curvissa caters to sizes 14 to 32 and hosts a large mixture of brands on its site. Curvissa’s sportswear range is extensive, with over 200 items including brands like Nike and Bonprix. One of the great things about Curvissa is it caters for people who aren’t just looking to wear yoga tights and crop tops – two things they still stock – but also include oversize t-shirts, exercise trousers and lounge pants for when you want to wear something less form-fitting.
The two items from Curvissa I trialled were the Nike ’W NSW Gym Vintage Pant Extreme 2’ Jogging Pants (£40) and adidas Performance ’D2M 3S’ Functional Top in light pink (£25). The jogging pants follow Nike’s plus size range of 1X to 3X and the adidas shirt goes up to size XXL (24 to 26). The top fit well and the fabric felt breathable, while the Nike jogging pants were the perfect pair to throw on for light yoga or for an evening walk. The fit of the pants was also perfect, they hugged all the right places and weren’t too long.
Sizes: 14 to 32.
Verdict: with an extensive range of size-inclusive styles to suit every budget, Curvissa is a must-visit for any woman looking for plus size gear.
Wearing Figleaves Curve Double Layer Top (£28) and Figleaves Curve Colour Block Legging (£28) (Laura Hampson)
With brands like Adidas, Figleaves, Reebok and own-brand stock on the site, one thing Simply be is not lacking is variety. With nearly 900 items listed under its ‘activewear’ section, Simply Be has long been a go-to site for the plus size gal on a budget.
To see how it stacked up, I tried Figleaves Curve Double Layer Top (£28) and Figleaves Curve Colour Block Legging (£28). Sadly, there was too much lycra, too little structure, and the gear clung to me in all the wrong places.
Sizes: 12 to 32.
Verdict: while I personally didn’t find my get-up flattering, other Simply Be activewear I’ve tried before has been great and durable, and with such a variety it continues to lead the charge of size inclusivity on the high street.
Check out some more of our favourite plus size activewear brands in the gallery above.
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