With thanks to all the Lululemon Regent Street staff who gave me their time and attention.
‘Don’t laugh at the fat person in the gym’ memes do the rounds on social media every so often. Trouble is, if you are overweight then getting kitted out to go to the gym can be problematic – harrowing even. Changing rooms can be an unpleasant experience at the best of times but they’re even worse when you’re trying to hoist various bits of yourself into a highly elasticated piece of Lycra.
Furthermore many of us hold firm to the belief, realistic or not, being fat is a temporary state. Regardless of how long we’ve been overweight up to now, this isn’t going to continue for much longer. This makes us question the wisdom of investing any expensive clothing, let alone pricey sportswear – especially if we don’t usually go for the athleisure look. I gave my one and only hoodie away to my then boyfriend in July 2004. He looked better in it than I did.
Did you guess that there was a big but coming?
My experience in the UK’s flagship Lululemon store on Regent Street challenged all my doubts, prejudices and resistance. This Canadian yoga brand not only kitted me out in gorgeous practical clothes that I wanted to wear, they gave me Tuesday lunchtime morale boost.
If the prospect of going into a Sports Direct store causes you to sweat more than a 5k park run, be assured that a visit to Lululemon is totally different.
For a start, it’s a fun place to be! The flagship shop encourages play, with a photo booth where you can be snapped stating your dream and join their wall of positive intention. And if you’re looking to begin or extend your yoga practice, the shop also houses a studio. Offering free classes is at the heart of the firm’s ethos.
They also have a café stocked with food that tastes goods and looks virtuous. I had a salad and one of those intense juice shots that makes you feel a bit smug even if it has no effect whatsoever! It’s a great place to stop for a quick lunch alone or a quiet haven to meet with a friend in the heart of the city’s hustle and bustle.
The highlight, however, has to be the company’s clothes. I had a personal session with one of the staff, another feature that is freely available – and there was no high pressure sales pitch either. I answered a few questions about my preferences in advance, and a selection of garments greeted me, along with a welcoming sign.
Trousers, vests, t-shirts, outer layers: everything that I tried on was beautiful, comfortable and felt supportive enough to exercise in with confidence. The service was friendly and discreet, and staff explained the technology and concept behind each of the items.
Clearly a lot of thought and design has gone into every garment. The Swiftly Tech Racerback vest, for example, was seamlessly constructed to reduce chafage and had strategically placed mesh vents in high sweat areas to help with airflow.
Such attention to detail and design comes at a price. That particular Racerback vests cost £45, while the trousers cost £98 and the outerwear came in £100+. The grey marl Run It Out Tee I’m wearing comes in at £62.
These price points obviously rule out many consumers. That said, some cheaper high street sports stores exclude customers by only catering to a narrow range of body sizes. I currently wear a UK 16/18 and my body, all of it, was accommodated by the Lululemon garments that I tried. Easily accommodated. My experience doesn’t encompass the full range of women’s sizes in Britain today but it’s a marked improvement on existing provision.
Everything chosen fitted.
No too tight seams or skimping with fabric around the chest. No squishing of my excess required. No tears of frustration shed.
I didn’t feel like a freak.
More than that, I felt like I had a right to be there.
You’d think that anywhere willing to take your money would give that impression but it’s not the case. Fat shaming, overt or covert, is widespread. Yet despite all the assumptions about yoga culture losing its spiritual dimension in favour of pursuing the body beautiful (here’s looking at you, Instagram), I felt valued.
Thanks to a combination of the store’s vibe, the staff’s attitude and the clothing’s fit, I felt I deserved to feel good wearing Lululemon, whether for yoga, other exercise or something else altogether.
Plus I’d be the best dressed fat person in the gym.
Whatever your size, how have you found the experience of buying sportswear? Do you think that wearing an outfit that you like and feel good in would make exercising easier or do you think it’s more often a case of ‘all the gear, no idea’ (one of my brother’s philosophical gems)?
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Thank you for reading!