I worked out in Athleta's plus-size clothing for a week—and I'm sold
The sports bra is my new favorite.
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As a teenager, shopping was never an enjoyable experience for me. Stores rarely carried my size and, because I didn't fall in the XS to XL range, I often felt left out while my friends tried on their armfuls of cute clothes. While there were—and still are—stores that carry solely plus sizes, it's not the same as shopping in the "regular" stores with my peers.
Fortunately, over the past few years, many brands began making an effort to be more size-inclusive, especially in the fitness space. Popular retailers like Lululemon and Athleta now offer plus sizes to fit customers of all different body types, shapes, and sizes—myself included.
Athleta introduced extended sizing from XXS to 3X for hundreds of its styles both in-store and online in 2017. As of March 2021, the retailer says it now has over 500 styles—the equivalent of 70% of the brand’s spring collection—available in plus sizes. While I had already tried (and loved) Lululemon's plus-sized workout gear, I was curious whether Athleta's would live up to the hype.
I tested out a few plus-size pieces from Athleta to see how well they held up during all my activities, from exercising to running errands. After wearing the Advance Bra ($69) and the Elation 7/8 Tight ($89), I may have found myself some new go-tos. Here's what I Iike—and don't like—about Athleta's newest plus-size offerings.
What I like about Athleta’s plus-size workout clothes
For starters, Athleta sells a huge variety of pieces available in "extended sizing." Speaking from my own experience, plus-sized shoppers rarely have that large of a selection, so I was very excited to have so many options. I tried Athleta’s best-selling Advance Bra in a light baby pink color. When I put it on, I was thrilled with how comfortable it feels and the amount of support it provides. With most sports bras, I experience spillage no matter what size I get, but this bra—which I got in my usual size, 40D—offers ample coverage for the girls. Whether I'm doing cardio or lifting weights, the Advance Bra holds everything securely in place without too much bouncing. Best of all, the straps don't dig into my shoulders or chafe against my back.
As for the Elation 7/8 Tights, which have nearly 4,000 reviews on Athleta's site, I was very skeptical when they first arrived. At first glance, I didn’t think they were going to fit. I ordered the leggings in a size 2X, which is what I usually wear, but they looked very small and like they didn’t have much "give" to them.
However, when I tried them on, the sleek black leggings won me over. Above all, I love the powerful compression, specifically on my backside, which I'm self-conscious of because it tends to move around a lot when I'm exercising. When wearing these leggings, I don't experience any uncomfortable jiggling while using the elliptical or running on the treadmill. The material is completely opaque so I can squat, deadlift, and lunge without worrying about any see-through wardrobe malfunctions.
Athleta really nailed the waistband on these leggings—it's what sold me on them. During my 30-minute cardio session, the Elation 7/8 Tights didn't slip down at all, not even once. I couldn't believe it!
What I don’t like about Athleta’s plus-size workout clothes
While I really like how comfortable both the Advance Bra and Elation 7/8 Tight are, I was pretty disappointed in how long they took to dry. Both pieces are made of a nylon and lycra blend that claims to be both sweat-wicking and quick-drying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for my clothes to be totally moisture-free after a workout—I do sweat—but the Athleta pieces were abnormally damp up to an hour after I finished. I found the leggings were quicker to dry than the bra, but not by much.
Are Athleta’s plus-size clothes worth buying?
Would I buy more pieces from Athleta? Absolutely. I have always struggled to find a sports bra that is as supportive as the Advance Bra. No matter what activity I was doing, my chest didn't bounce around and I felt comfortable and fully covered. The fabric of both pieces—while not quick-drying—provides just the right amount of compression and feels soft and smooth against your skin. Athleta also offers its plus sizes in a wide variety of styles and colors, from neutrals to bright hues, so you're likely to find something that fits your needs or wants.
At $69 for the bra and $89 for the leggings, the workout gear is more expensive than what you would find at T.J.Maxx but it's on par with other higher-end activewear brands, like Lululemon (where the popular Align leggings start at $98 per pair). For the quality of the pieces, spending a little more is worth it for clothes that make you actually look forward to exercising. However, despite my love of the thick waistband on Athleta's leggings, I prefer my Lululemon Wunder Under leggings because they're more breathable, flexible, and stretchy.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.