When starting a new type of sports or exercise regime, you, naturally, want to be properly prepared and buy the right clothes and gear for that particular sport.
When starting Pilates, there is some good news: You don’t have to buy any special Pilates workout clothes to get prepared. It’s best to keep it simple, to start with, until you have a better idea of what works best for you.
The most important thing is to wear something comfortable and nonrestrictive. As Pilates exercises involve a lot of stretching, bending and twisting, your clothing should be stretchy and flexible. Garments made of a blend of cotton, spandex and nylon are a good choice.
As a general rule, you should avoid wearing anything that inhibits your movements during your Pilates workout, such as belts, ties or long necklaces. Also, zippers, buckles and other types of metal trimmings can be very uncomfortable and cause injury. In addition, they can damage any Pilates equipment you may use. So it’s best to keep it simple and wear plain clothes without any metal or plastic adornment or trimmings.
The main types of clothing to focus on are tops, bottoms and underwear – and socks if you prefer not to have bare feet during your workout. Shoes are not worn in Pilates.
Pilates bottoms – stretchy and form-fitting
When you are ready to buy some Pilates workout clothes, you will want to choose some bottoms that fit your shape and that are stretchy and comfortable. For example, if your calves are on the stronger side, it’s better to go for a straight leg cut rather than a skinny style.
However, avoid baggy styles, if possible, and pick form-fitting ones, as these will make it easier for you to carry out movements with control and precision. Also, baggy trousers can get caught in Pilates equipment, should you use any.
Pilates bottoms can be of any length – e.g. shorts, three-quarter length, full length – as long as they are a snug fit and comfortable. Regardless of the length, it would be a good idea to choose bottoms with seams that follow the center and sidelines of your body as this might help with body alignment.
Although you can get Pilates bottoms in all sorts of colors, the most common color is black. One of the reasons is that, regardless of our shape and size, black tends to be most flattering. Rather than accentuating someone’s problem areas, it disguises them making the body look slimmer and smoother in shape.
So when choosing your Pilates bottoms, go for something that is comfy, fits your shape and size and that is flattering.
Pilates tops – snug but not tight
For Pilates tops, the same principles apply as for Pilates bottoms: they should be comfortable without being baggy, make you feel relaxed, and allow free movement so your arms are able to stretch.
Also, they should be fairly plain and not contain any metal clasps, buttons, drawstrings or tight elastics, as they could be quite painful during exercises making you feel very uncomfortable. You have to bear in mind that for a number of Pilates exercises, you need to lie on your back. So any embellishments on the back of your Pilates top can cause a lot of discomfort.
Although it is advisable to choose function over fashion, this does not mean you can’t pick a fashionable and flattering top. In fact, there is a variety of styles available and all suitable to wear during your Pilates workout, such as tank tops, halter tops, workout shirts or simple t-shirts, to name but a few. Just make sure they fit snugly so you can perform each movement precisely and with control.
Another aspect to consider is the fabric of the top. Again, tops come in a variety of fabrics and compositions. Here, the most important quality is breathability as you will get hot during your workout. My favorite type is organic cotton which holds moisture much better than some tech fabrics and feels great on your skin. I would recommend this fabric if you have sensitive skin that easily gets irritated. However, other fabrics may be considered as well, such as bamboo, viscose, nylon, polyester, and composite fabrics also used in performance clothing.
Again, there is a wide range of Pilates tops available that are all suitable for wearing during Pilates workouts as long as they are comfortable and fit your size and shape.
People often overlook the fact that the most comfortable top and comfy bottoms won’t make you feel relaxed if your underwear is causing you discomfort. Whilst underwear isn’t usually an issue for men, women have additional aspects to consider – bras.
Every woman has experienced this: you put on a great outfit, your perfect size, the material is soft and pleasant to wear, and yet you can’t fully enjoy wearing it because the bra really annoys you and causes discomfort. On the other hand, you can’t do without it as you need the support – the classic love-hate relationship.
However, when you are practicing Pilates, it’s of utmost importance that you feel comfortable. So what can you do? Actually, quite a lot. To start with, avoid wearing underwired bras. You need to remember that for quite a few Pilates exercises you are lying on the floor, either on your back or front. So you can imagine how uncomfortable and painful it might be when your bra has metal underwire or metal clasps.
Far more suitable and practical for Pilates workouts are sports bras. They usually provide great support without having any wire fitted inside. Also, there is a huge variety of sports bras or workout bras available nowadays. So whatever your size and shape and whatever degree of support you need, there is a style and a model for almost any woman.
As with all other items of clothing, make sure you go for the right size – if the bra is too large for you, it won’t offer enough support, and if it is too small, the bra will be uncomfortable and might cut into your skin. So choose something that is a good fit for you.
Pilates socks – non-slip, pro-grip
Pilates is one of those exercise regimes that don’t require any footwear. In fact, it’s best to always do Pilates without shoes. Some Pilates practitioners even recommend doing Pilates with bare feet and without any socks.
Although it’s nice to feel a bit of freedom and have bare feet, there are times and circumstances when wearing Pilates socks is more comfortable and appropriate.
One aspect to consider is, of course, the temperature of the environment in which you are exercising. You want to make sure that your feet are warm from the start of the workout to the end as cold feet distract from the exercises. In addition, it’s hard to perform controlled exercises when you are cold.
Another advantage of Pilates socks is that they absorb moisture whilst providing good grip. This is particularly important if your feet tend to get sweaty. Besides that, it’s a great hygienic way of doing Pilates if you suffer from skin problems, such as verrucas, warts or athletes foot.
Again, there are various styles available – traditional fully closed ones, open front socks, and 5 toe socks. Which style you choose completely depends on your personal preference. What matters here is: that they are the right size, that they feel comfortable, and that they feature anti-slip rubber grips so you can hold your Pilates positions without sliding off.
Feel fit and fab
Although you don’t need a particular outfit for doing Pilates – unlike in other sports, such as tennis, golf, water sports, skiing – I find it gets you into the right mood for your workout. Especially, when you are exercising at home, will it help you concentrate on your workout and thoroughly enjoy your exercise.
So well-chosen, nicely fitting and good-looking Pilates workout clothes can be a great motivator making you feel fabulous. It worked for me. As a result, I increased the duration of each workout – after all, you don’t want to get changed for just a couple of minutes – and I also increased the frequency as wearing the outfit made me feel fit and great. And that resulted into not only feeling fit, but being fit.