Guide to Athleta Apparel

After six months and two different locations, I finally quit Athleta. I love the product, the people and the energy but combined with my job at Penguin it was just too much.

Before my last day in the store (with an employee discount) I asked my sister if she wanted anything and she asked my advice. As I was drafting an email to her describing all the pants and tops that I most loved, I realized that there’s probably a lot of people who are confused by the huge array of different clothes there. I was, before I worked there, and I wish someone would make a guide for other brands for me, like lululemon or Lucy. So below, my guide to shopping at Athleta.


A lot of people come in looking for just a basic pair of black leggings that they can just wear around, similar to how people do with lululemon. With lulu, people go for the wunderunder pants. For something similar (and not see thru) I’d pick the Chaturanga tights. They’re plain, have no funky seams, a thick waistband and super comfy with no sagging crotch. They also come in a Capri and short length. They’re best for either just wearing around (to class, on the weekends etc.) and not fantastic for running, since they aren’t as structured and don’t have reflectors or a zip pocket. They also come in the most colors and coolest patterns.

I have a pair of patterned chats from last summer, but my preferred black leggings are the Revelation tights. They’re made from a slightly thicker, more structured legging fabric, called “Power Pilayo” and I feel much more snug and secure in them. They also have more seams down the side but I think they look good. These are also best suited for yoga or just general wearing and not so much for running. They also come in a Capri and a pant with flared leg.

The first pair of leggings I ever bought from athleta were the Relay tights and they are well loved. They’re designed for running, so they have a drawstring waistband, and it’s extra wide, so they WILL NOT SAG when you run. They also have a zipper pocket in the back where I keep my phone or keys and reflectors on the hips and ankles for when you’re running at night. They also have mesh panels behind the knees that breathe super well while you run. I have worn them as regular leggings, but the active features aren’t ideal for fashion. These also come in capris which are fantastic.

I own a pair of Be Free tights and if I were to recommend a pair of run tights, these would be them. I have the Triangular Be Free tights and they are the funkiest pants I own. They’re made from a recycled polyester, which kind of turned me off at first but once I put them on, they felt unbelievably soft. They also have the back zip pocket, reflectors and mesh vents, and I have run in these both inside and outside and they are flawless. These also come in a knicker length which I don’t prefer, but they’re equally soft.

My most recent pant purchase was the Sonar capris. They were new when I came in after Christmas and even though I was turned off by how shiny they looked, one of my coworkers spoke super highly of them. I bought them in black because I wanted a plain run capri for the gym and for when it gets nicer outside and these are amazing. They have the drawstring and back zip pocket but no vents and no reflectivity that I can tell. I wore them two days in a row and they were so comfortable for a run that it felt like I wasn’t wearing anything at all.

Moving away from performance pants, I bought a pair of Aspire Ankle pants when I was home for Christmas  and have fallen in love. The featherweight fabric feels like wearing a whisper and moves and stretches as well as dries extremely quick. I wore them in a monsoon once and they were soaked and then dried in less than ten minutes. I wore them to Athleta cuffed with sneakers, but I have also worn them to Penguin with flats and a sweater, like a kind of harem-gypsy pant. They fold up really small and don’t wrinkle so they’re perfect for traveling. They also make your butt look really good.

I’m less partial to tops, since I don’t value a good workout top as much as pants – I just can’t justify paying a ton for a top. But, the one I would recommend again and again is the Chi top. I have a tank and a long sleeve that are both so soft, and so great for working out in. The long sleeve has thumb holes which makes it great for running and it keeps you warm while wicking your sweat. I wore it to run outside under a midlayer half-zip and it kept me warm without overheating.

One last thing about most of Athleta’s performance apparel is the unsinkable technology. Something about the way the fabric is treated makes it okay to wear a few times in a row. I work out in pants two or three times between washes and they don’t stink at all. I wash my revelation tights once every two weeks, after four or five wears, since I’m not really sweating in them.

I might be biased, but Athleta’s performance pants are amazing and even when I’m no longer an employee I will continue to make the investment for such good quality workout apparel.