Pilates Attire and Clothing


While yoga, dance, and other forms of exercise claim a name to certain types of clothing (ex. yoga pants), pilates students are sometimes left in the dark when it comes to finessing their pilates wardrobe. Allow me to help.

First Timer in the Studio?

The critical ideas are comfort for you, and visibility for me (as the instructor). I always tell my new clients to wear something that is not restrictive of movement, comfortable to wear and move in, and that isn’t too loose or baggy. As you deepen your practice with pilates you will gain insights regarding what you like and don’t like to wear - in many ways it’s trial and error. For more tips… read on.

What Not to Wear - Pilates Style

When doing pilates you want to be able to focus on the exercises and principles, not worrying about your clothing. With that said the most important thing about clothing for pilates is the fit.


Some ladies like to reveal a little cleavage but remember that in pilates you move around! What once began as revealing a little cleavage might result in a free peep show. Tops that are too low cut will end up begging for your attention, as you’ll be more concerned about not revealing yourself than what you paid to do - pilates. So when selecting a top to wear to your pilates session think about how functional the neck line will be for the type of bust you have. Try moving around in the dressing room to make sure that everything stays put.

The front of a shirt is not the only factor for buying - in pilates you spend a good amount of time on your back too. At the same time, the sportswear clothing industry has continued to upgrade, with new lines of higher-end clothing. While some of these clothes may please your palate for haute couture, they may not please your back!

For instance, when I was a pilates student in training I got a very cute, bright green, extremely soft, short sleeved shirt that I thought would be perfect for wearing to pilates. Not only did it seem functional but it had a fabric tie over my back, between my shoulder blades - it was cute and fashionable. But it only took me a few exercises lying on my back to realize that having that lump of fabric pressed into my spine did not feel good! So with thanks to the fashion sportswear industry, you can certainly look snazzy while you work out - just be sure to notice those embellishments which might cause you pain.


The metal in this top would really hurt if you were to lay on it for a while - not great for pilates.


I generally tell my clients to look for pants or shorts which are comfortable and not too loose. Gaucho pants are popular right now but I try to steer my clients away from them. Though these pants are comfortable and fashionable, they have too much free flowing fabric. This fabric can easily get caught in the springs of the reformer and when doing inverted pilates exercises they reveal too much of the southern hemisphere.


The excess fabric in these gaucho pants will probably get caught in the springs of a pilates reformer machine - not great for pilates.

I also avoid wind breaker material for any of my pants because they are too slippery. This slippery (usually nylon) material sometimes causes the pants to be pulled down your bottom - for instance doing multiple pilates roll ups.


Whether or not to wear shorts to a pilates class/session is really your own call. If you feel comfortable revealing those legs - then let them shine! Just be cautious when choosing your length of shorts that you won’t be enlisting yourself in a tug-of-war game with your shorts. No one wants to see those butt cheeks (regardless of how cute they may be) hanging out of your shorts - so do a movement test in that dressing room before you pull out your credit card.

Undergarments - Function vs. Appearance

Without getting too intimate… undergarments do matter! Have you noticed those cute underpants in the window of Victoria’s Secret that have metal designs near the sacrum (perhaps a heart)? It is best that you reserve the undies with hardware for the times when they can be fully appreciated, and keep them out of the pilates studio. Having a piece of metal over your bones as you roll over is NEVER a good idea - ouch!

Ladies also know that there is usually metal on the clasp of a bra. Some women don’t mind this and some do. Personally I don’t like the metal against my spine during an exercise like the roll over - so I generally wear a sports top that has a built in bra or a bra which has no clasp. However, some of you women who are more endowed might request a little more support. Again… thanks to the boom in the sportswear fashion industry there are many more options now for comfortable support for women who are “well endowed.”

So… What Do I Recommend.

Comfort is key. You have to be able to move so that you are not thinking about your clothes. This means that your clothes fit well and you feel confident about what you are wearing. I lean towards clothes which are made up of a blend of natural fibers and a stretch material - the natural fibers “breathe” while the stretch material helps the clothing move with (not against) the body.

I also recommend going to the studio in layers. Sometimes a pilates studio will seem a little cool in temperature from the previous person’s workout (the fans might be running on low.) I recommend throwing on a light sweater or jacket that can easily be removed once your get your blood flowing.

Some of My Favorites

I really love the Lucy brand for pants. This brand does an excellent job of making clothes that will fit a woman (and flatter her too) like a glove. You not only choose the pant size and style but also the length. The material is equally comfortable as it is durable. My pants are two years old, get worn at least 2 times a week, and they show almost no sign of wear!

Lucy also wins my heart for shorts. I love wearing stretchy shorts to pilates - especially in the hot and humid summer! But what I hate are stretchy shorts which ride up in the back - this breaks my cardinal rule of “no tug-of-war clothing games.” Lucy fixed this problem with shorts that are cut slightly longer in the back than in the front to ensure they don’t creep up.


Nike has a great line of athletic tops with bra coverage built in. The material is really durable, unlike some other sports tops, and I find that they fit nicely. Nike has also expanded the design of the traditional sports bra - better fit, more support, achieved comfort. It’s worth taking a look at their bras and tops. If you are a lady who needs extra support, some of their sports bras are designed in a way where the bras can easily be placed underneath a Nike tank without looking or feeling bulky.


For an amazing experience shopping for pilates clothing find a Lululemon Athletica store close to home. While they don’t sell online (big bummer - I know!) the experience is worth the trip - I don’t know a single instructor who has worn their clothes and not loved them! Their color choices are endless, the fabrics are luxurious, the clothes are fun and fashionable, and the clothes are made to look good on a moving body - not just a hanger. They have excellent stock for men too! Let’s just say… this is the brand the professionals wear and with all of the choices out there this statement says a lot!


Undergarments can make all of the difference in the world. Whether you chose full coverage panties or less coverage to prevent the “panty line” the material and seams will make your mood. Again, I choose fit and material over looks. I like to look for undergarments with minimal seams (sometimes marketed as being “seamless.”) This helps to reduce the lines underneath fitted clothing while achieving comfort. Calvin Klein’s more athletic lines have been a favorite of mine for years. They consistently fit well, stay in place, and feel great. Occasionally, CK has a stretchy bra available with no clasps in the back - I love this!


May you attain a strong and healthy body while being comfortable and feeling confident!

The Buzz {2 trackbacks/pingbacks}

  1. Pingback: Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog Carnival 37 | FitBuff.com's Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog on February 18, 2008
  2. Pingback: Fitness for Moms Carnival, 7th Edition-February 27, 2008 | Go Workout Mom on February 27, 2008

The Conversation {2 comments}

  1. Lynda Lippin {Thursday February 14, 2008 @ 7:12 pm}

    Great post! I also like Marika for women’s Pilates clothes. They fit me well.

    Pilates & Reiki In Paradise Blog

  2. Kelley Ranaudo {Tuesday August 12, 2008 @ 10:50 am}

    This is a great article. I finally experienced Lululemon in our town and loved their pants. If they are in your town, they also offer free classes on the weekends. We have also like We Pilates shirts b/c they are snug and comfortable for ladies who won’t wear athletic tops. I will check out Lucy as well. Thanks.

Speak Your Peace

  • Be nice and/or be helpful. Free feel to ask questions too, thanks.
E-mail It