How to choose activewear for any size or shape

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, Health 83 Comments

Sponsored by Female For Life

I received this email from a SY reader late last year:

Hi Nikki,

First things first – I love your daily instagram of what you’re wearing, so inspiring! Has expanded my wardrobe no end, AND without spending a single $ – thank you!

Now to where I do need to spend money … gym gear

Where I work out most of the girls wear a (popular global brand). Alas the brand doesn’t fit so I’ve feeling like the poor relation wearing my department store gear … cotton sleeveless tops and below-knee leggings from discount department stores. 

What I need is some “curvy” girl gym gear please that is NOT pure plastic, as I do sweat and they need to fit,  particularly in the bum area. 

I’m a size 16FF boobs – menopause was NOT kind, however, I’ve found a couple of imported sports bras that work well for the girls.

I wear size 18 pants – most exercise gear manufacturers (in my experience) seem to stop making exercise gear after size 14. 

Any ideas on brands to look at please – either in person or online? You’re assistance in this area would be greatly appreciated.

I sent this reader in the direction of Female for Life and she replied a few days later:

Dear dear dear Nikki, 

The pants are BRILLIANT – voluptuous size is perfect, and the Fit Top – size Curvy – also FANTASTIC. 

In my new gear, I felt like a million dollars … highly motivating AND I’m told I look heaps thinner (sure felt it). It’s amazing what some quality, correctly sized gear will do for a girl.  

I’ve sent a wish list for more Female for Life gear to my Kris Kringle provider! Thanks heaps for the advice 

I’ve left out this reader’s name and brand names but this was a real email and a real solution.

Just because a woman might be sized 14 and over doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to look and feel the part while exercising.

I’ve been a fan and buyer at Female for Life for a couple of years now.

It was the fact that this store doesn’t stop its collection at size 14 (they offer sizing from 6-24 making them very much an inclusive activewear label) that drew me in but it was the quality and the fit of the products that have seen me “add to cart” since.

My details are saved so ordering is easy and the parcel usually arrives in two-three days.

Remember last year when I featured the yoga/pilates harem pant and top, shot on location at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat? These were sent to me to trial and I’ve more than trialled them, wearing them weekly up until summer kicked in.

I can’t wait to get them back on rotation this autumn and winter.

Female for Life yoga pants and top

Female for Life loungewear pants $115.99 |  Female for Life pilates style top$83.99

I felt the part that weekend and now I feel the part every time I step out the door for a walk or to head to yoga in my Female for Life activewear.

Female for Life activewear

Female for Life Leopard Sports top $83.99 | Lynx pants $91.99 | (underneath) Comfort bra $29.50 (on sale)

Female for Life yoga

My weekly exercise routine is not hard-core. It can’t be because of my health (I have a thyroid auto-immune condition called Hashimotos and learned the hard way that getting slammed in a personal training session was the worst thing for my immune system – you can read more of the back story here.).

So while I may not be a candidate to run marathons or compete in Iron Woman triathlons like a couple of my girlfriends, I am an everyday chick who feels good when she exercises at a pace that suits her body.

You are already accustomed to my superficial ways so it won’t surprise you to know that wearing activewear that looks good helps me to feel good.

The clothes I wear while exercising help motivate me to stick to the little routine I’ve developed for myself.

I’m not an early morning person. I’ve had to become one to fit exercise into my day. Part of that motivation to get up and get going is waking up and seeing my gear on the floor next to my bed.


Female for Life Lovely and Loose top $78.99 | (underneath) Femme top $54.59 (on sale) | (underneath) Comfort bra $29.50 (on sale) | Love My Bum pants $73.99

Female for Life walking activewear

There’s no stepping around it. I don’t think. I just get dressed and get out the door.

The other important factor is that it’s not just about looks. Yes, looks come into it for me but comfort has to weigh in massively as well.

There is nothing more frustrating that going for a walk and constantly having to de-wedge your pants, or pull them up. Or both. I don’t suffer from either when wearing my Female for Life pants.

Breathability is important too. I sweat. Especially when it’s super hot and humid where I live by 6am

The fabrications used by Female for Life move with you and they stand up to any punishment you dish out during your exercise routine. I’ve not experienced any pilling at all – and I’m far from having a thigh gap (a crazy new idea that has women believing they need to have a gap between the top of their thighs to be beautiful and fit) so that area is alway ripe for a bit of pilling.

My pieces include fabrications of Supplex (feels as comfortable as cotton yet doesn’t fade, pill, or lose it’s shape, even after numerous washes. Odour, stain and water resistant it is quick drying and keeps the bodies temperature stable) and Merrell (soft to the touch fabric that is lightweight, breathable and stretchy).

The collection is hand stitched in a family business in Brazil – adults working for a real wage for their trade.

It’s only available online but if you find out your body shape – and which pieces are more likely to suit you – as well as measuring yourself against the size chart, you can’t go wrong.

Sizing is labelled from Petite to Bella and equates easily to Australian and international sizing. I wear the Curvy size which is size 14-16.

Tips for choosing activewear:

  1. Choose activewear to suit the activity. Think about the main activities you do. This will help you to choose what you need most. For me, my yoga and walking gear crosses over a lot, which makes it easier.
  2. Have a collection of gear that most suits the climate where you live. If it’s cold, you’ll need to add long pants in to your mix. In Queensland, I mainly where pants that come to just below or above the knees.
  3. Ditch the big t-shirt and choose tops that are streamlined. They don’t have to be super tight but if they skim the body it is a much more flattering look. Less is more. Just like in swimwear.
  4. Layer. I tend to layer a couple of tank-style tops over a sports bra. A bit like layering a stretch cami underneath a tee, this seems to help with minimising any muffin-top goings on.
  5. Choose a sports bra that offers the support your girls need for the activities you do. I walk and do yoga so don’t need the same level of support I would if I were a runner.
  6. Like buying a pair of jeans, buy your pants on the firm side. They need to fit you securely (while still being comfortable) to avoid falling down.
  7. If your budget allows, have at least two sets (or more) of activewear that make you feel good. That way you always have a set ready to go … no excuses.


Styling You and Female for Life has an activewear outfit (your choice of a top and pants, excluding jackets) to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter, answer this question:

What’s your favourite activewear piece at Female for Life and how would it motivate you to keep active in 2014?

Entries open on Tuesday, February 11 at 5am (AEST) and close on Tuesday, February 18 at 5pm (AEST). Australian entries only, sorry. The winner will be judged on originality and creativity (photos can be included and uploaded with the comment). The winner will be emailed and their name will be published here. Entrants must include an email address when the filling in the commenting system below to be eligible to enter. Full terms and conditions here.

Special offer

Female for Life is offering a $15 discount for new customers. It applies to items not on sale and can’t be used inconjunction with any other offer. Enter myfirstorder at the checkout.

* The above featured garments are a combination of pieces gifted for this post and bought by myself just because I can’t get enough Female for Life in my life. The photos were taken before we moved from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.

Coordinated by The Remarkables Group

Comments 83

  1. Coyote long pants look very snazzy, so nice to see clothes for curvy ladies! These pants would motivate me to move more and be howling for more!

  2. You look fab Nikki and this range looks great on you.

    I agree that looking the goods helps with an exercise routine too.I’ve invested in a couple of quality basics which have co-ordinated back with less expensive items well.

    I would love the lynx pants with the matching leopard print top. I have aqua runners and I love a leopard/aqua combo.

  3. The Yoga Love pants would motivate me with their leg slimming style, I’d want my legs to look as slim out of them too

  4. The Gym tights really appeal to me. I feel much stronger and prepared for a great strong workout or entering any class when I can be confident my rear is being contained comfortably and without he fabric thinning as I squat or bend.

  5. The Love My Bum pants look awesome. My legs get too hot in long pants, but I want something not too short, but also fitted so they don’t slip down whilst I slog it out on the treadmill.

  6. loving the tripple sports pants !! In my mind i know i should be doing more, exercise, healthy food, fresh air etc …. i know it but the motivation is still lacking 🙁 After wearing the same tired old tighs now the past 4 years they are no longer an inspiration and do little to motivate or inspire, so a change into something fresh and well fitting may just be what i need to get me up and moving 🙂

  7. Well according to their body shape and type calculator I am “a bellisimo bella pear.” It is hard to find active wear in my size and I am often embarrassed to wear what does fit because it looks so awful!
    I love the Chameleon Leopard 3/4 pants. These would give me the power to feel all woman – you go girl!!

  8. Well according to their body shape and type calculator I am “a bellisimo bella pear.” It is hard to find active wear in my size and I am often embarrassed to wear what does fit because it looks so awful!
    I love the Chameleon Leopard 3/4 pants. These would give me the power to feel all woman – you go girl!!

  9. I love the Leopard Print Leggings! They would be awesome fun this winter – I would sing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘Roar’ to myself while walking to and from Yoga.

  10. I really need those Sports Pants! They look like they would be a great support for my jelly belly and lumpy legs while I’m out power walking and attempting to jog. It’s a little hard to manage at the moment when I’m trying to jog whilst tucking my muffin top back into my bike pants!! :/

  11. Lounge wear pants would be ideal for me . My daughter and i have just started gym together and we are loving the Pilates and yoga classes ! EXCEPT when i either have to pull up or pull out my dept store cheapo pants

  12. I really like the Leopard sports top and Lynx pants together. I think i would be really comfortable exercising in them and when i look feel confident about my appearance, i feel like i have more energy to exercise.

  13. “Plain is Perfect” would be perfect for me! Then I can mix it up with some great workout tops for the gym, walking and riding. Having lost 60kg’s over the last 3 years, I’m sure wearing them would motivate me to continue my lifestyle change to loose my last few KG’s!

  14. The Female for Life Leopard Sports top looks amazing and will help keep my bumps and lumps out of view until they are toned up

  15. Hi Nikki
    This is a great brand. Odour, stain and water resistant, doesn’t pill, fade or lose its shape after washing – what more could a girl want. So many great styles in this range but I think you can’t go wrong with the ‘Love My Bum’ pants (that’s a first!). Perfect for the Queensland weather, not too short, not too long – just right & breathable – yeah! Great teamed with a gray Femme top. Thanks for the scoop Nikki.

  16. My motto is “you can’t go wrong with leopard print” so I’d love the Leopard sports top to rock on my nightly walks!

  17. I am digging the Culottes for my pregnant belly, they are comfy and will grow with my ever expanding waist. Keeping fit is best for me and my bub, and i hope its a passion he or she will grow up to love.

  18. In the last three weeks, I have started daily exercise in a bid to rid 47 year old bod of the tummy that seems to have crept up over the years. While I don’t mind throwing on the old grey shorts if I’m exercising on the elliptical trainer at home, it is nice to leave the house looking a little more the part of the healthy fit woman that I intend to become. The Love my Bum pants would be perfect for bike rides and jogging and I’m sure I would feel motivated to put them through the paces.

  19. If you look the part (feel great) (with my Deep pink, lovely and loose top, Brazilian Funk Pants) it would motivate me to be active in 2014 by each time I put on my gym wear, I would get into the “zone” of exercising, bust some groovy moves, and have fun, while working hard to achieve my goals.

  20. Love the look of the Dotted Cover Top…so nice and breezy. Have just made a bit of a tree change and so looking forward to so nice walks amongst the rolling hills…some groovy and flattering excercise gear is just what I need to enhance my lifestyle change

  21. I adore the Disco Diva 3/4s in green.. paired with a Sexy shoulders Singlet. I would feel the confidence to walk with the Lorna loving crowd around my area!

  22. The Love My Bum pants would have to be my faves. It’s sooo hot here in Queensland, they would be perfect for helping me keep my cool while I’m working up a sweat. After being made redundant 12 months ago, and now working from home, I have been able to ditch the weekday commute and have made time in my schedule for exercise. This is the year for putting myself first – the silver lining to being made redundant!

  23. What would motivate me!! Haha! Nothing like running in your current butt crack showing, worn out, daggy looking pants with your husband cheering you on and laughing. Makes me want to give up! I use these old trustees because I too sweat and prefer cotton pants. Shopping for exercise clothes is as tedious as shopping for bathers I reckon. So the Love My Bum pants would be the perfect fabric and fit my bum nicely. It would also make me run faster as my husband would be admiring my bum instead if teasing!

  24. I would love the Charlies Angels top in black with the purple trim. It looks loose enough for easy mobility and wouldn’t show off the ‘fluff’ around the middle, which is a great confidence boost, they would look great with matching gym pants too.

  25. Loving the Tiger Sports Top & Tiger Jacket!
    With these, I think I’d be able to channel my inner Katy Perry and you’d hear me… Roar!

  26. Does anyone have suggestions for more affordable gym ware? This range is gorgeous but I really don’t have $300-$400 to buy new stuff! Anyone tried the Michelle Bridges range at Big W?

    1. Hi Tara, I totally get that everyone’s budgets are different, as I’ve just said below in previous comment. On my FB page for this post a couple of readers gave Michelle’s range a thumbs up – I haven’t tried them personally. For me, I think the quality of the pants and bra is most important – they need to wash and wear and keep their strength. Tops are something you can buy more inexpensively.

    1. I totally get that everyone’s budgets are different Rach – it’s been my experience with exercise gear that the initial outlay has been worth it because of the longevity I get out of them. They wash and wear as new and I’m washing after every use.

  27. This post is perfect timing for me Nikki. I’m on a mission to improve my health. Had a bit of a scare at the beginning of the year which has given me a massive jolt to get myself moving and active. Sadly, all my activewear is pretty old and too tight. So I’m exercising at home in whatever I can – cotton jarmies this morning! This label looks amazing. Lots of practical but gorgeous pieces. My first thought is to say the loungewear pants, but that’s lounge lizard me from last year 😉 This year, I will say the Love My Bum pants – they look super! New things are lovely to wear, and that would keep me going.

  28. Hi Nikki. I had a look at what’s on offer and it was hard to narrow down but, I like the classic lines (literally) of the gym pants with the white stripe and the gray femme top. They look great and sound as though they could take me through gym, yoga or a morning run : ).

  29. You had me at leopard! Who wouldn’t be motivated to keep active while wearing the Lynx tights? Like a leopard ready to outrun it’s prey… (okay, that’s probably taking the leopard thing a TAD far?)

  30. Those love my bum pants would be amazing. With a name like that a great motivator too. Thanks Nikki my pants are forever falling down while working out or too long, hot and sticky these look like the perfect pant solution. Amazing!

  31. I LOVE my Female for Life stuff. I’m so tempted to get the yoga onesie… CATWOMAN!!! I recommend their stuff all the time. I have the same 3/4 leopard pants as you!

  32. Thigh Cover 3/4 bottoms. Genius. That is all. If I knew that I could be out and about with all my worst bits covered up, that would be all the motivation that I need.

  33. Great article! Love, love, love the Disco Diva pants! They’d help hold it all in and help me stay motivated to keep going to the adult fitness class I’ve just started at the Dance Studio my son attends.. trying to get back on track! AND, they come in the studio colours and would look a lot more attractive on than the standard studio outfit of crop top and booty shorts (mind you, that’s with an average age of 12!)

  34. BAM. Love it. I remember the overwhelming SHOCK of trying to buy exercise gear at Lorna Jane after having Elke and NOTHING FIT ME. I was about a size 14 and all the tops were tight around the tum. Some great links here, thanks lady x

  35. As someone with a less than desirable leg shape, I love the look of the Lovable Legs pants as something that is relatively fitted but still comfortable for me to start exercising again. After having baby number 3 a few months ago, my body needs the workout and I need the motivation! So comfy, good quality clothes would be just the ticket.

  36. I love the Chameleon Workout Pants, they would replace my current ones which I brought from Scotland 7 years ago !!! And having gone throughout the menopause and finally realising I do need to exercise more, they would make me want to workout more !!

  37. The loungewear pants would be perfect for working from home and dashing to the shops. Not sure my favourite work thongs would be the best choice of shoe for styling, though…

  38. Hi Nikki, you look great by the way!
    I would definitely love to try the Lovely and Loose top as I have carried a legacy of baby fat near my armpits for my whole life, and it looks like that tank has a nice fit around the armpit area – not too loose. I regularly hit the gym straight from school drop-off, so I don’t want to cover up with t-shirts that show perspiration circles either. Hmmm, bulging baby fat or noticeably sweaty pits? Do you see my dilemma 🙂

  39. Ha, ha. You had me at ‘de-wedging’! Great post. So funny, but so true. Whoever you are and whatever you do, a girl wants her workout gear to be comfortable, supportive and look good. Thanks Nikki for adding to my shopping options : )

  40. thank you Nikki and SY reader! I’m three weeks post op gastric sleeve, and have dropped 11kg. I need to get out and get moving. There is nothing inspiring in my wardrobe, and not much in around online or in store. I have my plastic ready and I am going to get one workout outfit. Looking forward to some hot new trainers when I reach my wedding weight {11kg to go}

  41. I love the thigh cover pants with the skirt as they would be perfect for rollerskating. Having just started to exercise again I find it so difficult to find clothes that fit my size 18 bum. I want to feel cool, look funky and be able to move freely. Most things are either too tight, daggy or too short. Feeling good about how I’m looking while in exercise gear will help motivate me more. The Female for Life gear looks gorgeous.

  42. As a size 18 apple shape, I love the look of the thigh cover pants with a built in skirt. It would make me feel a lot more comfortable about getting out and exercising. I can feel very self conscious with the very trim ladies around here, so something to disguise my ample belly is essential!

  43. I love the Female for Life stuff and have for quite a long time too. It is such a fantastic but simple idea – have great quality and good looking clothes for women of all sizes with a nice way of sizing them. Brilliant!! I have not noticed those “Love my Bum” pants before and I think they are the pants I need to motivate me. I don’t love my bum but maybe wearing a pair of pants with that name might just help (along with a few squats thrown in for good measure ;-)!!). I also love the “Brazilian Funk” pants – they just look so much fun.

  44. I love the tiger loungewear pants and the body love tee ,they would be great for tai chi and doing stretches and would look good enough to leave on,what a wonderful website Nikki .
    Like you Nikki I can only do gentle exercise but any excercise is better than none and I also walk in the pool as there is no impact on my knee.

  45. Awesome post – thanks Nikki! I love your Gwinganna outfit; I didn’t realise this was ‘active wear’, it looks so chic. I’ll definitely be looking into those items for lounging at home and low impact activities such as meditation / slow yoga. These are pricier than chain store / department store items but it looks and sounds like they are very much worth it. You’ve inspired me to get active and look good doing it 🙂

  46. Liking the leopard, and the bright splashes of colour . Might have to try one of those bras, but it will be underwear, not outerwear for me!

  47. I neeeed workout tops badly! I seriously can’t choose my favourite on the site, I like the yoga jacket a lot though. My husband has 25 kilos to lose and I’ve dedicated myself to helping him by planning our meals and working out together so new clothes would really help me out this year, keep me motivated!

  48. Love the leopard leggings! Hard to find leggings that aren’t just black and boring so love the variety…think they would be great for yoga!!

  49. Those lounge wear pants! Love! I would adore those and it’s possible I’d never wear another pair of pants again! This brand sounds terrific thanks for sharing Nikki, am
    Jumping online to buy the comfort bra, nothing worse than going for a run and coming home with two black eyes due to inappropriate bra issues.

  50. I love the disco diva gym tights which would match my pink gym tops & I do consider myself to be a bit of a disco diva from way back!!! I already exercise regularly & participate in group exercise classes such as body pump & step. It’s very important to me to feel comfortable & confident about my appearance when I go to the gym & I feel much happier if I “look the part ” by dressing in fashionable & appropriate gym outfits to fit in with the other “gym junkies”!

  51. I love the Femme top with some plain is pefect pants these would keep me motivated cause right now I don’t look like I am serious in the gym look, more just daggy leftover clothes

  52. I don’t have a favourite but surely need to find one & fast! I have 15 kg to lose this year! Hmm best start moving! Thank you for chance to enter.

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