The 6 Activewear Trends You'll See Everywhere for Fall 2023
From exercise dresses to sustainable fabrics, the activewear of 2023 is going to be your new closet staple.
Activewear has been on an upward trajectory since the introduction of athleisure in the 2010s. Almost overnight, slept-in band tees and cotton short-shorts with elastic waistbands were out, and things like yoga pants, body-hugging tank tops, and functional-yet-fashionable sports bras were in. Exercising wasn't just physical activity anymore; it was an event to get dressed up for, and the clothes were stylish enough to wear outside the gym, too. But like any fashion trend, athleisure would, inevitably, evolve.
If we break down the term, "athletic" means "active," and "leisure" means "free time to relax." The athleisure category attempted to bridge the gap between the two (As an aside, couldn't we all use some more 'active free time to relax'?). It was sportswear, but it was ready-to-wear; it supported your athleticism and simplified dressing for social events like bottomless brunch and grabbing coffee with friends.
Then the global pandemic hit; working from home became the new normal, and athleisure became synonymous with "loungewear." The clothes were comfortable and, more importantly, comforting in a time of great distress. They served their purpose, but activewear shoppers are craving something different now; something less leisurely and more proactive, which is why activewear for fall 2023 is expected to mimic our everyday staples.
There's a reason activewear is typically organized separately or stored in a different drawer altogether than your everyday clothing: because it generally isn't your everyday clothing. The athleticwear trends of fall 2023 will change that by way of design.
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According to personal stylist Christia Stein, activewear for the upcoming season meets the criteria of a capsule wardrobe or collection of quality basics that, season after season, remain in style. "The trending concept of stealth wealth is that we invest in items that can easily coincide with what we already own, so we can wear and re-wear without sacrificing anything," explains Stein. To do that, Stein continues, designers are honing in on details like earthy monochromatic palettes, black and white, and retro (re: classic) cuts that come back over and over again, proving the longevity and versatility of the piece.
During and post-pandemic, athleisure embraced the dopamine dressing trend, with mismatched sweats, tie-dye, and neon spanning the category. "The louder and more expressive the better," Stein says of the time. Consumers are still craving color, but in moderation, in pops. There is a place for vibrant colors and statement prints, but neutrals are neutral for a reason — they stand the test of time and are seasonless. Investing in pieces that meet these parameters will translate to "less fashion waste" and "more wear from our wardrobes," says Stein. "With neutral colors and classic cuts, we are able to play with the juxtaposition of a unitard and blazer with our favorite heels for work and ease that same look into the weekend with a sleek pair of sneakers."
Convenience also plays a role in how activewear is changing. We want more bang for our buck and less in our wardrobe, and according to world-renowned fitness artist, coach, and dancer, Nicole Winhoffer, activewear for fall 2023 reflects these demands. "Women are drawn to these pieces because we don't have time to take showers, baths, blow dry our hair, put on make-up, cool down, and get ready again after we workout," explains Winhoffer. "These clothes save us time. It benefits our workouts cause fewer choices equals more time."
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With tennis and other court sports like pickleball having risen in popularity over the last few years, the demand for active dresses and skirts has also skyrocketed. The mini skirts and skorts of the early 2000s are also seeing a resurgence, thanks to designers like Miu Miu, Fendi, and Versace, so it's no surprise that an overlap of these traditional garments and their active counterparts is expected for fall.
Granted, active skirts and dresses have been popping in and out of fashion for decades. They were popular in the '80s through the very early aughts, but in 2018, athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices introduced its exercise dress to the market and was the first to go viral, trailblazing the category. There are, and will continue to be, many iterations of the dress, but brand design director, Zehra Naqvi, says layering will make active dresses and skirts so versatile off the court in the upcoming season.
"Throw on a blazer and wear it to work; layer a more supportive bra underneath and take it on a run; put on some boots and go on a hike. The possibilities of styling are endless," says Naqvi. "The dress itself is an all-in-one, so curating your layers for specific activities and events is key."
As for what to look for in an activewear dress to ensure it seamlessly fits into your active and everyday wardrobe, Naqvi says short liners and built-in bras are her top two features but notes a classic silhouette will also guarantee a longer shelf life (literally).
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There will always be a place for traditional leggings and yoga pants in our activewear collection, but fitness bottoms have been reimagined to take the consumer from the studio to the street. Comfort is still key, but Andrea Jagaric, chief design officer for Aerie, OFFLINE, and Unsubscribed says activewear is being designed so you can live in it "wherever the day takes you." To achieve this, design details, comfortable fabrics, and fit are a designer's three pillars.
"For each fabric, we seek out the perfect stretch, softness, opacity, and technical properties like wicking based on our vision for the style," says Jagaric. She adds that in terms of fit, the goal is to find that sweet spot between not too tight or too loose so the consumer can move around. Attention to detail, like the waistband, zippers, texture (i.e. ribbed fabric vs a smooth, buttery finish), and style, contribute to the final product.
Activewear is being designed so you can live in it 'wherever the day takes you.'
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Balletcore has been trending on and off since 2022, but it's back in full force as an activewear trend for fall 2023, with unitards fronting the movement. Though most commonly associated with dance, unitards are versatile and can support a range of athletes, from high-intensity trainers to mindful movers. The sleek one-piece is also an elegant base ideal for layering. COO of Girlfriend Collective, May Saelee, says fans of the brand style their unitards with button-down shirts or sweaters and sweatshirts worn over or tied around the waist.
Stylistically speaking, Saelee expects more designers will switch from thicker to thinner straps, as the latter feel less athletic and better fits the everyday aesthetic. Saelee is also forecasting options with "more ballet-inspired details like the boatneck, shirring, or dancer-inspired wrap tops" come fall so that the garment looks complete on its own. Rest assured, the comfort factor they're best known for will also prevail. The key, Saelee says, is to invest in soft, stretchy fabrics that aren't overly constricting, with features like 4-way stretch and moisture-wick, to ensure the piece is "something you always want to reach for when getting dressed."
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All facets of fashion are cyclical, even activewear. For fall 2023, active designers are drawing inspiration from a few eras, notably the minimalism of the '90s (think clean cuts and earth tones). However, co-founder of athletic apparel brand Lorna Jane, Lorna Jane Clarkson, says '70s retro is also back and "heavily" influencing the athleisure category with "polo shirts, tennis skirts, and dresses (think heritage sport styling)." But arguably, the biggest influence the decade is having on activewear in 2023 is the return of flare bottoms.
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"Boot-leg flares are a trend that is here to stay and is the perfect update to her leggings this season," says Clarkson. "We're seeing our customers wearing them to Pilates and yoga paired with their favorite sports bra and cropped tank. On the weekend she's wearing them to brunch and coffee catch-ups with a cropped tee or tucked shirt - the perfect piece to wear from workout to every day."
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Quiet luxury isn't a new concept but is back in style, thanks to celebs like Sophia Richie Grainge, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Jennifer Aniston. In essence, quiet luxury is the opposite of dopamine dressing. It's earth tones and tailored pieces in lieu of loud prints and logos. It's elegant and elevated, translating to activewear for fall 2023. But how?
Julie DeAnda, head designer of TAVI Active and ToeSox, emphasizes that quiet luxury is not only defined by a specific color palette. Stylistic details like subtle prints, textures, and flattering cuts also play a role. That said, DeAnda predicts shades like mesa, Sahara, quartz, sky, and denim — "all beautiful earth tones that exude quiet luxury" — will be prominent in active collections this season, including that of TAVI. "When you put on a color that is of a rich tone, it allows you to feel chic and luxurious," says DeAnda. "[For autumn 2023, we'll see] more bold neutrals than 'bright colors.'"
Sustainability will continue to be a priority across the fashion industry for fall 2023, especially in activewear. That doesn't mean brands are sacrificing style for eco-friendly ethics, though. On the contrary, co-founders of luxury swim and activewear brand 437, Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio, say the two go hand in hand. "[Sustainable fabrics] are becoming more of a consumer expectation rather than a prerequisite for product credentials given the accessibility of recycled materials," explains Nayeri. This is especially true given that the raw material shortages the industry experienced during the pandemic are leveling off, continues Nayeri. They're available, so customers expect brands to use them.
As for which kind of sustainable fabrics are used, the short answer is, it depends on the company. 437's cloud fabric, for example, is made from recycled polyester. "We found a manufacturer that allows us to still achieve that buttery finish even from recycling the mill's post-industrial fabric waste and using a lower carbon emission during the dyeing process," explains Bettio. Performancewear brand Definite Articles also uses polyester and nylon in their pieces but leverages an innovative technology, CiCLO, that takes these synthetic fibers and makes them biodegrade like natural fibers.
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"Think about the 4 quadrillion microplastics that leak into our oceans every year because of household laundry alone. Or the 24 billion tons of polyester that end up in landfills. These textiles can take hundreds of years to biodegrade," says Aaron Sanandres, the founder of Definite Articles. "[CiCLO] is a game-changer for the performance apparel industry, which relies heavily on synthetic yarns and, as a result, is a major contributor to the planet's plastic problem."
There are no rules in fashion, and that goes for the activewear sector, too. These are the forecasted activewear trends for fall 2023, but if what gets you motivated to work out isn't on this list, that's okay. The most important thing is to invest in pieces that make you feel good and inspire you to move your body.
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