Let's be honest - exercise is not my favourite past time at the best of times, and when cute looking exercise gear is usually only available for the skinny minnies out there, well, my motivation drops pretty much to zero. There is no way you are going to feel great about yourself while wearing an oversized tee and drawstring sweats stolen from hubby's wardrobe. Luckily, more and more brands are realising that us plus sized girls do exercise, and that we also want to look great while doing it! Just like I've narrowed down my main wardrobe, and use capsules when I travel, a capsule wardrobe for exercise makes a lot of sense.
The majority of my work out wear is from Virtu and Old Navy, simply because when I bought them a couple of years ago, these two brands had nice gear that fit, looked good, and was reasonably priced. Now, I've found lots of options out there regardless of your shape or size. I like to have items that I can co-ordinate with each other - that way a small wardrobe of workout clothes can take you through various activities in style. My exercise capsule consists of three pairs of pants, three tops, two pieces of outerwear, shoes and a bag.
I like having three different style of pants: a traditional yoga style, a skirted legging, and a cropped pair. The yoga pants are great for walking, yoga (obviously), and exercise in cooler weather. I love leggings for more active exercise like a X Tend Barre class or if I'm going to the gym, and I prefer a skirted style so that my butt is covered up while I am out and about - no one at the supermarket needs to see my behind if I nip in there after a gym session! Finally, a cropped pair is wonderful in warmer weather - if you feel comfortable in shorts, then swap in a pair instead of the crops.
How many tops you need really depends on how many days a week you exercise and how often you do the laundry. Three is a good number for me, but you may need more or less. I like to have a couple of tank style tops, and a short sleeved tee. Because I have a very large bust, I need to avoid tanks with built in bras (they never fit!), and look for tanks with wide straps that will hide my bra straps. I particularly like the teal one from Old Navy - the shelf bra (rather than built in) and compression fabric add some support, while the blousy mesh bottom skims over your tummy. A tee is great when you feel like a little bit more coverage, or for cooler weather.
Outer wear are the pieces that help you take your workout clothes from the gym to the street. For cooler weather, I like wearing a sweatshirt that doesn't look like a sweatshirt - this one above is very similar to the cocoon style one that I have. It just adds a stylish touch to basic workout clothes, and means that if I stop for a coffee or am wearing these on the school run, I don't feel like a total schlub. Similarly, in warmer weather, I throw on a sleeveless jacket - its adds a little bit more coverage, and just makes me feel a touch more polished.
Shoes and bags are the final pieces to the capsule puzzle. I have this exact bag from Marc by Marc Jacobs - it was a total splurge, especially for a workout wardrobe, but I love it, and use it a lot of other times as well. It is nice and roomy, but casual enough to suit exercise clothes. There is nothing worse than seeing someone in workout clothes carrying a nice leather purse - it just looks wrong! Finally, shoes - here is one area where comfort and fit should definitely take precedence over style, but if you can find a pair with both, even better. I like black sneakers, since they go with my mostly black clothes, but go for what fits and what suits your main form of exercise. I highly recommend going to a specialist sports store to be fitted - I prefer going to a store that carries a range of brands since they all fit so differently. Reebok and Asics seem to fit me best and offer me the right amount of support for my flat arches, and I've never had any luck with Nike (which is a shame, because I am in love with the shoes above!), whereas Nike seem to be the best shoes for DH.
So there are my recommendations for a capsule exercise wardrobe, but where should you start looking? Here are my suggestions:
Old Navy - their regular range goes to XXL, their plus sized line (often the same items) goes to 3XL, and they ship worldwide.
Just My Size - a plus size specialist, their active wear goes up to 4XL, and chlorine resistant swimwear up to 24. (US shipping only)
Lane Bryant - another plus size specialist, they go up to 28, and include a range from Reebok. Ships worldwide.
Taking Shape/Virtu - this Australian plus retailer has a wonderful range of activewear, often in bright and cheerful colours. Ships to Australia and NZ.
Female for Life - another Australian retailer, with activewear recommended by body type and up to size 24. Also includes plus sized maternity active wear. Ships worldwide.