Athleisure wear perfectly suits my lifestyle and my preference for comfort, says cycling blogger Adele Mitchell.  I work from home. I do yoga. I ride bikes a lot. Why would I wear anything but a wardrobe of super-stretch sportswear, in a colour that I like? And yet according to Vogue’s ‘rules’ on workout wear’, at my age (53) it is sartorially risky to put myself ‘out there’ in ‘something vibrant that makes a statement’ (is that just another way of saying ‘please remain invisible’?).

Vogue doesn’t actually state the consequences of recklessly ignoring the rules (frightening the locals? Looking a bit fat on Instagram? Drawing attention to myself mid Sun Salutation?), but I’m guessing they are nowhere near as dangerous as flinging myself down a root-strewn trail on a mountain bike. So, bravely, I’m prepared to run the risk of wearing a brightly coloured vest.

Sadly Vogue is not unique in its attitude to older women and athleisure. Take a look at the advertising campaigns and social media feeds of most fitness brands, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s only women under the age of 30 who work out.

So while we’re on the subject of making statements, here’s mine:

 It’s time to get real about older, active women: we’re not the personification of ‘neutrals’ – we’re vibrant, varied and vivacious.

There are so many of us over the age of 40 who take part in sport, or work out (as I pointed in a recent post about the This Girl Can campaign). I think of the group of women I have ridden mountain bikes with for the last 12 years (average age 49), the grandmothers in my yoga group that do the Downward Dog, the road cycling champion I know who is in her 50s and quicker than most of the much younger men she cycles with, the runner (and I mean running, and not shuffling along) we pass in the woods each week who must be 70 if she is a day.

Let’s acknowledge the fitness, friendships, sense of achievement, and joy of working out. Inspire younger women to see fitness as a life long activity and not just a quick fix to drop a dress size, and encourage older women to believe that ‘active’ is still for them.  This year I was invited to be a brand ambassador for mountain bike brand Cotic (stick that in your ‘out there’ pipe and smoke it, Vogue) and Vulpine invited me to review their new range of fitness leggings and vests  – so there are some brands who value experience and social media presence as more relevant than my age. It’s time to reflect the fact that working out – at any age – is awesome. We’ve all earned the right to wear that colourful vest.

@adelemitchell

49 thoughts on “Age, athleisure and defying expectations

  1. Exactly!! I’m 60 and have always been active and now doing yoga, cycling, fell walking and don’t want to wear black or grey safe, invisible sportswear.

  2. ….and while the brands are contemplating this, maybe they could make decent, pretty sports bras for people over a D cup? X

  3. Good post – it’s not just in athleisure that this nonsense that women over 50 should slip silently into a sea of beige is constantly promoted. Colour is good for the soul, although I will never be parted from the balance of my black jeans or tights – I live in Glasgow, the bare leg will never make it up here. Actually, I don’t think Vogue has made it up here – Glasgow is full of women of all ages in peacock brights from their hair to their toes. Perhaps because people compliment each other on their clothes in the street (honestly, when I moved from London I couldn’t believe it), perhaps it helps us cope with the grey skies!

  4. Well said Adele!
    Although I’m not into athleisure wear (struggle to even spell this new word) I am into being visible & not overlooked by all these brands. Also I do love dressing for comfort & style, the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

  5. Yay, Gillian! I can’t run due to an old injury, but I walk 5 miles a day and work out at the gym every other day. Because I an artist I am drawn to wearing bright everything! Oh, and I am 71 years old!

  6. Excellent piece, totally agree that fitness magazine give the impression that only the under 30’s work out!

  7. The Athleta brand (Gap group) has many models older than 40. I think that’s why I identify myself with that brand. Also, their swimwear gives us options for any body shape and size.

  8. How are we going to help society understand that we are all still here and still viable/interesting/important/capable/influential/loving ourselves/modelling positive outcomes for younger women
    if they can’t​ see us? ‘Older’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean) women wearing colour are doing the world a huge favour.

  9. I an 71 too Jeanne. And I climbed Snowden last weekend and got to the top!! We oldies are still to be reckoned with!

  10. Great interview ! Enjoyed this read and featuring women that are my age or older with active lifestyles, grey hair, and wonderful individual style. Reading about women who are shining stars within, is what keeps me motivated and my outlook hopeful. I’ve had to reform my activity, due to injury, but enjoy a practice of walking and wearing walking clothes that look good (I always wear a walking skirt over my leggings or skorts when the weather warms up…when you look good you feel good abf are comfortable the power within can and will flourish. Thank you, for changing mindsets !

  11. I am completely against any magazine, media, etc., suggesting what I should or should not wear based on age. Please do not show me
    any magazine cover with “Age Issue” on it.

  12. I am 62, and I wonder what Vogue editors expect me to wear to the gym and to the yoga and exercises classes I attend several times a week. And should I wear a frumpy housedress and orthopedic shoes while riding my bike every day? I resent the people who sit at a desk in NYC and write these ridiculous “rules” to keep us in line.

    You nailed it when you said, “is that just another way of saying ‘please remain invisible’?” I spend a lot of money on clothes and accessories — for work, play, social events — and I love getting dressed. But I stopped reading Vogue several years ago. They lost me, but they didn’t totally kill my interest in fashion. I follow my own rules, and read fashion blogs like yours. Thank you.

  13. Wow—how timely to bring this up now…I just had a reader request athletic shoe outfits, so that’s what we’ll be styling next week.
    But I have to admit that I have trouble going out in public in most of the athletic wear. Maybe because Stacey & Clinton always hounded women that gym wear is for the gym only?? Or is it our upbringing???
    Part of me is a rebel that doesn’t want to be told what I can & can’t wear….but the other part of me thinks society is almost too casual anyways! It’s such a conundrum!
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

  14. I’m turning 70 next month. Not really an athlete like you, but active and want to be comfortable in the garden, on the playground with my grandchildren, etc. I just discovered “athleisure” and think it must be the greatest thing on earth. Unless you have to go into an office, why wear anything else? Can you feature some sources, brands for me to look into?

  15. Just had to cancel my subscription to Instyle Magazine because my age group wasn’t being catered for. I am 54. Am using Pinterest for inspiration now. It’s a shame, because I have the money, time and inclination to shop for really nice pieces. Oh well, their loss.

    1. Claire, I agree that InStyle mag has changed with the new editor in the last few months. They have now excluded our huge demographic of stylish middle aged and older women who still care about fashion. Shame on them and Vogue.
      I now have to search for a new magazine to try.

    2. I agree, I no longer read InStyle either for the same reasons (and also the fact that they print their text so small I have to squint to read it, even with my specs on!!!)

  16. Vogue’s reckless ageism had made it irrelevant – at least to me for the past two decades. I completely agree with this wonderful column. In addition to bright colors feeding the soul, they also help prevent injuries when cycling and walking outdoors on gray days. They improve visibility!

  17. Great reading! If you feel good, you’ll do good at whatever you choose to do and keeping active and self health aware surely has to be the focus for us especially in times of pressure for the NHS. I aspire to be the 80 year old in my Early Bird Yoga class – she’s amazing. Her Pigeon puts me to shame. If you enjoy it – do it; if you don’t, find something you do like, wear it and own it! Be proud you’re taking care of you!

  18. This spring`s new outfit: Bright orange jeans from Basler and a bomber cardigan in navy with white and orange stripes from Karen Millen. Feel a million dollars a 69!

  19. I read the article differently. I think the designer was saying that some women might not be comfortable wearing color because she goes on to talk about working up to bright colors. Still, I agree with the theme — women of any age should wear what suits them.

  20. Well said, I am 54 and I do yoga, Pilates, use my local gym and hillwalk, love active wear the brighter the better

  21. Hear Hear. 49 and very happy in my leopard print running tights – although they are black, white and grey. Must rectify that. Meanwhile are they suggesting women of a certain age shouldn’t wear high-vis for safety? Thought not.

  22. Yes, yes, yes. I actually think that many women 50+ are more active than younger women because we have the time. And there is so much great ‘atheleisure’ out there it would be crazy to ignore it. I don’t like the term though… I do like the author’s notion that keeping us out of athleisure is another way of keeping us invisible.

    http://www.lookforthewoman.com

  23. I prefer to feel I’m “setting the bar” for the younger, trendsetting, “under 50s” set, as I’ve delighted in working out and “kill it” at the gym, many times with better results than the hordes! Kudos to you for being one of the emerging voices for those of us who LOVE this stage of life and delight IN life…without all the drama and competition!

  24. Great article, us birds need to be seen. Here’s a good one for us too use wyldsson tubes when on the go. On line from wyldsson.com.

  25. As a 52 year old who has just completed a 31 mile training walk ahead of the 43 mile main event and is planning some gentle ‘downward dog’ as lovely, stretchy recovery – I hear you!! Shame on you Vogue.

  26. An interesting topic that has prompted many comments. I’m in my mid-60s and am active and still a reader of Vogue and other fashion magazines. I’m not too bothered about pictures of the slender 20-somethings in their gym clothes. It doesn’t stop me going to yoga and other gym classes regularly week in week out as well as swimming. I have leggings from Sweaty Betty and other brands, t-shirts from Uniqlo, cotton with Lycra and bathing suits made by Speedo. I do wear these with trainers walking to and from gym carrying a gym bag. I only draw the line by wearing a jacket which covers the tops of my thighs. Doing these activities creates body confidence, better health and is enjoyable at once. Nobody is looking at me dressed purposefully like this and thinking it inappropriate for “a woman of my age ” I’m sure.

  27. Gosh. I do hate pronouncements as to what we should wear at whatever age. I’m 51, do lots of sport and yoga and I think its totally appropriate for me to wear good gymn kit whether im at the gymn or whenever I think I want to – and I think me and my pals look pretty good in it too. There are also plenty of occasions when I don’t want to wear athleisure – it about being appropriate rather than being a particular age and age has taught me what to wear when. Magazines which makes daft pronouncements really should listen and learn from us grown ups.

  28. I stopped reading Vogue some time ago because they seemed to be out of touch with real life concerns. I know many older active women as well, and I personally will wear any color I please!

  29. *applauds madly* –I work from home and live in my athleisure wear — I like to go direct to yoga/pilates/walking the dog to my desk. It’s how modern people live, no matter the age because age doesn’t matter.

  30. I agree with all these comments. Age-shaming women with boring fashion edicts is all too common. Must we wear long sleeves in hot weather just because arms over fifty don’t look twenty any more?
    If there is a sensible fashion editor out there somewhere who can see that age is no longer the number one factor when deciding what to wear, but I have not yet discovered which magazine she works for.

  31. Now I don’t feel bad letting my Vogue subscription run out. I find I don’t have time to read it, too busy running, taking hot yoga classes and walking my dog!!! In New Balance clothes and shoes, my personal favorite.

  32. I’m 52, do hot yoga (Bikram) and hot pilates and a long walk with the dog every day. I am in better shape than ever in my life. I live on the Upper East Side in NYC and believe me we ladies live in athleisurewear here. Colour, mesh, cut-outs you name it and NO-ONE gives a damn about age. My best friend at the studio is well into her 70s and looking fabulous too. Catch up with reality Vogue (personally I’ve cancelled my subscription and have never looked back BTW).

  33. Great post, Alyson and Adele!

    Here’s another 71-year-old piping up to say she’s headed into town for yoga class early this morning. Thereafter I’ll hit the sidewalks for a nice long walk. Then it’s off to the grocery store and back out to the country where hubby and I will mow nine acres.

    Dear Vogue — the whole time I’ll be wearing a bright purple jersey over a polka dot VS sports bra and ass-gripping yoga pants. And seriously, dude, take the Kardashian kid off the cover.

  34. Stopped reading women’s mags years ago. The issues they focus on, very many of them age-related, seem like a total irrelevance. Much prefer blogs like this one! On the age thing – my husband and I started an environmental conservation company two years ago, we are about to go for crowdfunding to take it global. In our 50s and 60s life is more full and exciting than ever. And working out is part of that – yoga, Pilates, running –
    I ran my first 10k last year aged 60, only 10 mins behind my 23 year old son! Age is just a number, colour is wonderful.

  35. Love it! I’m just shy of 60 and have traveled from Canada to New Zealand presentlyto play soccer with my girlfriends in the World Masters Games. We are all over 50 and have fun both on and off the field. We live in workout wear most days. If it looks good and feels good we’ll buy it. Marketing needs to catch up to us!

  36. There is no intelligent magazine out there for women d’un certain age. I generally purchase The Gentlewoman Magazine and rely on blogs (mainly THIS one, no… just this one actually) to keep me well and truly in the loop. That is is joy of TNMA – fashion, culture, events etc. Perhaps we should all pay Alyson our magazine subscriptions!!!!

  37. At 49, I don´t follow any more rules, just the traffic ones, least of all if they are written in women´s magazines, which show a distortioned image of women in general, using 14 year old models and photoshoped pictures. As to the gym issue, I practice spinning and pilates three times a week; I go to work with a heavy rucksack with my gym clothes and after my class I go to pick my children up at school, and take the younger one to his therapies twice a week (he has Asperger’s syndrome) dressed in colourful tights, tops and fluorescent snickers, I really couldn´t care less about how I look!

  38. Bright some days, neutral others. Lots of walking/exercise some days, lolling round the house others. No rules, do what I like when I like, how I like…Don’t over analyse, works for me!

  39. I’m 58 and the brighter the better, I say! I refuse to be pigeonholed into the stereotype of what the media think I should look like!

  40. I love this. At 52 I run 5-6 days a week and do barre and practice yoga for strength training. I love this site and all of the comments from such “fierce” women.

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