2020 was an “interesting” year on so many levels, but it was also a Lord of the Flies-style experiment on what happens to your personal style when all normal societal expectations and restrictions are lifted. Meaning, what happens to your sartorial habits when no one is there to watch you? Do you get up and change into a pretty tailored shirt and respectably trim jeans, and even heeled shoes? Or do you live proudly in your pajamas and “dress up” to go to the supermarket by donning sweats?
I wasn’t even embarrassed to be the latter, because I tell anyone who listens that being comfortably dressed helps me think better. And I feel good about the few clothes I did buy in 2020 (all sustainably made—a few pairs of wide-legged jeans, a few dresses) already earned themselves out by the number of wears. It’s liberating to invest in clothes I actually will wear hundreds of times, instead of those for the office or for propriety’s sake. One thing that’s been on my radar for almost a year now: natural fiber activewear and dancewear, preferably eco-friendly and sustainable. Most of my workout clothes are several years old. I have one unitard I bought in college (12–13 years ago!) that I wear every week! While wearing existing items is the best practice, I can’t deny that having one or two pretty new things definitely would be uplifting, even if I’m the only one who sees me.
The biggest problem with activewear and dancewear for me is that they’re almost always made with synthetic fibers. It’s been several years since we first discussed the problem of microplastics here at Peaceful Dumpling, which are now not only found in the oceans, marine life, and wildlife in general, but even in placentas of fetuses. Plastics are also a byproduct of the oil industry, and this includes synthetic textiles. I myself have always preferred cotton-based workout clothes for their comfort anyway, so I wonder how we got to this point where finding natural fiber workout clothes is harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Good news is that there are brands that feel exactly the same way, and are putting out pretty and eco-friendly workout clothes. Without further ado, here are some eco workout clothes that will put a spring on your step.
Natural fiber activewear & dancewear brands
Inspired by the Roman goddess of the earth and harvest, Ceres harkens back to the days when workout clothes were just “gym clothes” made of mostly cotton (and a tiny bit of stretch). You can find soft tank tops, leggings, warm-up layers, in calming neutrals and vibrant solids. No crazy mesh inserts, lots of confusing straps, ombre wash on shiny leggings. You hear? The brand is designed and made in California working with local mills and factories, and the packaging is made from recycled materials. Disclosure: I think the brand might be on a hiatus (from the sold-out products on the website), but I hope they’re back in full force soon.
I’ve been salivating over this French brand for months. The brand primarily uses viscose, a plant-based fiber that is denser than cotton and absorbs sweat better. It reminds me of soft, natural cotton-based leotards I used to have growing up, before spandex and lycra took over and made everything feel like a swimsuit. (For some reason, there is no American dancewear brand that primarily uses viscose or cotton. I really tried!!) Temps Danse has its own website, but I suggest ordering from Mademoiselle Danse, a French dancewear online boutique with multiple brands, for ease of shipping. This pretty unitard is actually called “vegan,” which makes me really want to buy it. (A unitard named vegan is probably the most “me” a piece of clothing can get.) Well played, Temps Danse. Well played.🌱
Vegan Unitard, 59 €
I hesitated over including Reformation because their activewear isn’t made with natural fibers. In the end though, I think they deserve a mention over their recycled plastic-containing fabric. (I do wear Mara Hoffman swimsuits made from recycled plastic, since cotton obviously won’t work in the sea.) If you’re someone who prefers the sleek feeling of spandex, you might prefer this option instead of “heavy” natural fibers. Maybe I’m weird for wanting to feel cozy in my athletic clothes, but then I can’t even bear to brush my teeth in cold water. Whatever floats your boat!
Do you have a natural fiber activewear brand I must know about? Please, in the name of all that is good, let me know!!
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Photo: Respective brands