Who Are we Dressing to Impress?


This past weekend I received an email from a reputable gym clothes company offering 20% off their stuff. I was thrown a little by the fact they also offered a free styling session (really?) but really chucked round the bend when I saw the tagline at the bottom of their email:

Dress to impress

Now I’m no stranger to a little power dressing or a bit of make up to make yourself more confident. One of my favourite tricks is to wear heels as I’m so tall normally I can be very intimidating in heels. But I still don’t feel it’s necessary to dress to impress for working out.

Who are we trying to impress? Are we supposed to be looking sexy while working out so we’re impressing all the buff men in the gym? Who, let’s be honest here, are really more interested at looking at themselves in the mirror than us and I have never felt the need to impress even a little bit. Are we trying to impress our personal trainers? The receptionist? Our friends? When did exercise become about fashion?

I have noticed it more and more over the last few years – going to the gym has become as much of a fashion parade as anything else. And it bothers me, particularly as that often results in only the slim, toned, and disproportionally booby women feeling they are welcome at a place that, let’s face it, really should be about getting red in the face and looking like shit.

So why are people buying into this? I know they must be as the email newsletter I received is from one of the top brands in this field, and is a brand I’ve started recognising on fellow gym goers as the it clothes to have (haha, I say that like I actually go to the gym, I don’t just see other people exercising on my way to work).

It seems to be just another ploy to make women feel bad about themselves and solve a problem that doesn’t really exist by selling people products they don’t really need. And that’s why it really bothers me.

This whole industry isn’t actually focussed on getting you fit, or making you healthy, or actually encouraging you to live an active life. It’s about looking hot with just the right amount of skin showing and just the right amount of boob lifting to not attract a mate, as you would expect, but to make other women feel bad. That’s what it really boils down to, ladies, doesn’t it? We’re not doing this to impress the men, we’re doing it to impress other women. And not impress, either, but cover our flaws and make them feel bad about theirs.

That’s why it really bothers me.

Because it’s no longer about feeling good, it’s about others feeling bad.

So, dressing to impress at the gym? I think I’ll stick with my oversized apple shirt with the peeling label, thanks.

Do you think it’s important to dress to impress when exercising? 

  • 26 Years & Counting

    My gym shirt is an oversided tshirt of road runner & coyote with the words “fast food” on it…so that probably tells you what you need to know of my opinion of gym clothes.

  • http://www.ispyplumpie.com/ Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie

    I definitely don’t get dressed up for the gym, but I do wear compression tights and a proper sports top because I find I feel more comfortable in them, and I’m more likely to work out properly if I’m dressed appropriately. Nothing fancy about it though, and I definitely wouldn’t stay in them all day, my red face and sweaty hair would not be pleasant for those around me!

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      I’m all for clothing that actually enhances performance!

  • http://cookingwithtoomuchsalt.wordpress.com/ An Idle Dad

    Liz has an interesting point. I wonder if any of the clothes mentioned by Tamsin are actually performance appropriate but marketed as image enhancement.

    Even Volvo eventually tried to be “sexy”, right?

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      I didn’t mention any clothes, just the marketing.

      • http://cookingwithtoomuchsalt.wordpress.com/ An Idle Dad

        You state they products people don’t really need – so I assume they are not functional.

        I look forward to the marketing message “Going to the gym is about getting red in the face and looking like shit. Our clothes help you achieve that!”.

        • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

          The “selling people products they don’t really need” was a general statement about marketin – the whole point of marketing being to convince people to buy things they don’t need. I am certainly not qualified to make any kind of statement on what clothing enhances or affects performance.

          If a gym clothing company sold their products with that statement, I’d probably be more likely to buy them!

        • http://www.ispyplumpie.com/ Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie

          I think they are functional, but the problem with the marketing is not only about image enhancement but also trying to convince people they need to buy the latest seasons workout gear, as if it was part of a fashion trend. You shouldn’t need gym tops in trendy colours/patterns! Obviously they need you to think that in order to remain a profitable business though!

  • Maryann

    I guess this type of marketing campaign is all about selling perfection (whatever that means) and the lifestyle that is meant to go with it. Of course it is just an expensive illusion. It alienates some while others chase the ‘dream’ relentless. I dress for my own satisafction & comfort at all times.

  • Jessica Chapman

    I like my exercise gear to match but I exercise in my own home so there isn’t anyone to impress, except for maybe my dog, but she’d only be impressed if I gave her something to eat. I for one am just really tired of being told I need to dress for other people.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Your dog might be impressed!

      I am too.

  • Mazi Grey

    This is why “Ordinary Joes” in the film DODGEBALL exists! If it gets too bad at my Gym I can always go back to the PCYC.

  • Kris

    I don’t like the place I think you’re talking about – expensive clothes for what they are! I really like the Michelle Bridges gear that is literally a third of the price of ^^, and great quality. I like having exercise gear to work out in, because the tops have bras in them which I need to double up, and it gives me a uniform to wear at they gym.
    I also don’t appreciate that a 14 is considered too big for the majority of their clothes!

    I wear what I wear to have a uniform for the gym, and as I only wear a few different things, it gives me a gauge to measure how I’m going with weight loss etc too. The prices and marketing around gym gear are ridiculous though!

  • Leah_loves

    Well considering I accidentally went jogging the other day in my pyjama top, realised after a few minutes, but just kept on jogging, I’m not really one to comment on dressing for exercise! What I will say is all that fancy gym gear is such a giant waste of money, hence why they have to go so hard on the marketing. THEY know you don’t need it, they just don’t want you to realise!

  • Pelican Pie

    Stained t-shirt that was destined for the bin, and stretched-out old leggings is it for me.

  • Maree Talidu

    I dress to impress……………. myself. Even on the odd occasion where I exercise. I don’t care what others think of my ‘style’ if you will.