Investing in New Workout Clothes Saved My Mental Health During Quarantine

Buying New Activewear Is My Quarantine Self-Care

It started with a pair of mid-calf crew socks. Apparently central New Jersey, where I spent the early days of quarantine at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, is known for ticks. A California native, I said “ABSOLUTELY NOT” upon this discovery, and refused to go outside lest my ankles were fully sheathed.

My search began. 

In 2018, I swore off fast-fashion brands and pushed myself to buy only from ethical, sustainable clothing companies. After hours poring over every niche sustainable socks brand I could find, I settled on Girlfriend Collective’s crew socks (Shop It: $14), hoping that a compression style would be less likely to fall down and make my legs vulnerable to those blood-sucking monsters. 

I was an annoyingly competitive athlete growing up, and I’ve worn my fair share of socks from Nike, Adidas, Puma, Under Armour etc. Girlfriend Collective’s socks not only stood up to these brands in terms of function and comfort, but they were, for lack of a better word, fashionable, too. When I wore them around the neighborhood to walk my dog, to the grocery store, and even around the house (pretty much the only three activities I was doing at the time), I felt the same way I do when wearing my favorite pair of white vegan leather square toe boots: effortless and cool. I was hooked. 

Girlfriend Collective has been on my radar since they were founded, showing up in my inbox as well as my Instagram feed with their founding message front and center: “Because old water bottles look better on you than they do polluting the planet.” But for the last few years, even as I’ve pushed myself to buy more sustainable and, oftentimes, more expensive pieces, I haven’t been interested in purchasing activewear. Looking good at the gym or in yoga class was never really a priority for me — I preferred to spend my money on second-hand Oscar de la Renta or a pair of chunky Doc Martens that would get me through my first winter in New York City. 

I still own (and wear) sports bras that my mom bought me from Target when I was 15, as well as one black sports bra that I “forgot to give back” to a friend after I borrowed it for an ‘80s-themed high school dance. A perk of working at a fashion magazine is that I’ve been lucky enough to have picked up a few pairs of leggings from health and fitness reporters, but I threw them into the rotation of Victoria’s Secret Pink and Old Navy leggings that are at least a decade old. And I was OK with all of that. 

And then, we were forced to remain inside. After I fell in love with Girlfriend Collective’s lineup, I, um, went a little wild. I purchased: 

Everlane Leggings Review

Two pairs of leggings from Everlane. ($58, everlane.com)

Review: Way too thin, and they show sweat! But the colors are a delight.

Girlfriend Collective Review

Three sports bras from Girlfriend Collective, plus more socks. ($38, girlfriend.com)

Review: 100,000/10, I love this brand. Compressive material and a sexy cut? Can't go wrong.

Beyond Yoga Bike Short Review

One pair of bike shorts from Beyond Yoga. ($68, beyondyoga.com)

Review: So soft, so stretchy, so worth the slightly higher price point.

Outdoor Voices Leggings Review

Two pairs of 3/4-length running tights from Outdoor Voices. ($88, outdoorvoices.com)

Review: These are somehow constricting in the thighs and loose in the waist, but also slip down when I run. And, to be honest, the fabric is not the most supportive. 

All the money that I would have been spending on “real” clothes, happy hours, subway fare, concerts, and just, well, living, I invested into this new activewear wardrobe. I shed my one pair of sweats for new leggings, my Bonnaroo 2017 tie-dye tee for a rainbow rotation of mix-matched sets. It was, I told myself, an investment in my mental health. As the packages rolled in, I ignored the sideways glances from my boyfriend, who wondered if I was “compulsively stress shopping." He was absolutely correct, I was, but I felt no shame because: One, we’re in a pandemic, and two, can I live?!

Even if I had no plans to work out, putting on workout clothes — more so than putting on “regular clothes” — made me feel lighter on my feet, somehow more put together. At the beginning of lockdown, I tried the whole, “dress like the day is any other day” trick, but when I wore the Ganni dress I purchased in April for a day working from my couch (read: bed), I felt silly. Getting dressed as though another day at home were really another day at the office is a pandemic hack that just didn’t quite hit for me.

Wearing workout clothes — matching sets in jewel tones, windbreakers, with white sneakers — was what gave me that joy of getting dressed again. Best of all, these pieces made me feel sexy. Turns out, wearing a tight, cropped workout top for a day walking around the empty streets of rural Jersey is just as invigorating as wearing a regular crop top while strolling the streets of Manhattan. I feel whole again!

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