Goodbye Jeans, Hello Spandex

Goodbye Jeans, Hello Spandex

"Athleisure" wear is on the rise across the country, and it fits right in with the hustle of Bethesda life

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“Prints are distracting, which can be flattering,” says Ferrall Dietrich, owner of Core72, an activewear boutique in Chevy Chase, D.C. Photo by Sean Scheidt

IT SNUCK UP ON US at first. Moms wearing Lululemon Athletica leggings in the carpool line; 20-somethings meeting for brunch in Nike half-zips and Day-Glo sneakers. But now, as more boutique fitness studios open across Montgomery County, denim and other traditional casual wear may be phasing out in favor of something else: spandex.

“Athleisure” wear (the trending term for athletic clothes that can be worn outside the gym) is on the rise across the country, and it fits right in with the hustle of Bethesda life.

We asked Ferrall Dietrich, owner of Core72, an activewear boutique in Chevy Chase, D.C., and personal trainer Ingrid Nelson, who teaches group fitness classes at Equinox and spin classes at PureRyde, both in downtown Bethesda, how to master the look in and outside of the gym.

KNOW WHAT FITS: Clothing should be snug, but it shouldn’t restrict movement. Dietrich recommends that clients stretch in clothes while they are shopping.

It’s also important to think about how you plan to use the clothes. Leggings without zippers that fit higher on the waist are ideal for yoga, as are fitted shirts that run long (Dietrich likes the brand Oiselle). Flowy tanks breathe easier and work well for cardio workouts such as spinning, but you’ll want to pair them with a high-cut bra to cover up cleavage when bending over on the bike.

BE STRATEGIC ABOUT COLOR AND PATTERN: “Prints are distracting, which can be flattering,” says Dietrich, who directs first-time clients toward patterned pants and solid-colored tops. If a style feels too loud to wear out and about, Dietrich suggests a legging that transitions from a darker shade to a lighter pattern below the knee. Nelson relies on a wardrobe of black basics mixed with neon accents. Her go-to bottom is a pair of Nike Sculpt Training Tights.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR HARD WORK: “If your calves are awesome, go with cropped leggings,” says Nelson. “If you love your abs, show them off with a crop top.”

LAYER YOUR LOOK: Work up a sweat in a blousy tank, then cover up for errands with a cropped sweatshirt or long sweater. “After class, I add wedge sneakers and a long sweater,” Nelson says. “Or, if it’s cold, leg warmers and Hunter boots. You’d never know they’re sportswear.” Another layering look both Nelson and Dietrich love? Bright bras peeking out from underneath a darker tank.

ACCESSORIZE INTELLIGENTLY: Nelson opts for simple rings and earrings instead of necklaces. “I go for easy jewelry that won’t interfere with my workout.”


For many local women, Lululemon is the spot for quality, stylish athleisure wear. Here are six more stores to add to your shopping list.


This boutique’s constantly rotating mix of indoor, outdoor and leisure wear has a stylish West Coast slant—MPG, Oiselle and Sundry are three popular brands.
5502 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-686-4258,


Stellar customer service and a variety of familiar and niche brands make this our favorite department store to shop for workout gear. Bonus: sleek house brand Zella feels similar to Lululemon, and also comes in kid and plus sizes.
7111 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-365-4111,


Safari in Africa? Fly-fishing in British Columbia? This appointment-only boutique will help you take an outdoor adventure in style.
5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-524-4488,


If you like the performance quality of Lululemon but aren’t sold on some of the skimpier cuts, give lucy a try. Tops provide more coverage and patterns are less prominent overall, but everything is just as smartly tailored.
7112 Bethesda Lane, Bethesda, 301-656-3106; 1613 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-816-3115,


Icebreaker’s all-natural merino performance wear is ideal for hiking, snow sports and other outdoor activities. The New Zealand company’s versatile skirts, dresses and zip-ups are also great for travel.
4821 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, 301-913-0379,


Lululemon Athletica offshoot Ivivva offers colorful, age-appropriate athletic clothes for girls ages 6 to 15. The small Chevy Chase Arcade showroom has limited hours, but makes up for it by hosting mother-daughter fitness events throughout the community.  
5520 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-966-0950,

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