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I Tried Six Pairs Of Plus-Size Workout Leggings To Find The Best Ones

I am pretty fat. I would also like to work out. Why is finding clothing so hard?

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As a size-24 woman, there’s little more frustrating than the gap in the market of great plus-size workout gear, and the cacophony of very concerned people who think that I should work out to lose weight so I can cease being fat in their eyes.

slothilda.com / Via giphy.com

(A note: The appropriate response to this problem is not to tell me to magically get skinny.)

Listen. The average American woman is a size 16, but a lot of workout brands stop at an XL (usually a 12–14).

That means that if you’re an average American gal, and you need workout gear that’s well-fitting and — dare I dream? — actually cute, you’ve got a tough task ahead of you. Many of the most popular and well-known purveyors of stretchy pants for athletic adventures, like Lululemon (famously), GapBody, J.Crew, and other straight-size athleisure lines don’t deign to dress bigger butts — or, if they do, only go up to an XXL (roughly a size 18–20). Even plus-size brands often stop at a 3X/24, leaving anyone larger potentially pantless and definitely frustrated. I've been wearing my faithful black Old Navy compression leggings for years, but variety is the spice of life — and my thin friends always have so many more options. Still, now more than ever, there’s a growing selection of plus-size workout gear. But I was skeptical — would they be as cool as the pants my smaller friends can rock?

I tried out six pairs of leggings at a variety of price points to come up with an answer to the eternal question: What’s a fat girl who wants to get her barre on to do?

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I looked at fit — does it accommodate my butt, my belly, my thick calves, and my long legs? Do they offer cute patterns or colors beyond the standard black and navy? How do they hold up to multiple wears and washes? Can they make me feel cute AF? Are they going to wiggle down during warrior pose? I’m not a professional athlete, and I don’t run ultramarathons, so highly technical and performance-related features didn’t matter as much to me — I just needed them to wick enough perspiration so that I don’t slowly chafe to death. After trying them, I rated each pair on a highly scientific scale of 1 to 5 peach emojis. 🍑

Danskin (1X–4X) — $13.96

walmart.com

These Danskin leggings from Walmart are comfortable, and have a cottony feel vs. a compression, tech-gear feel. I ordered them in a 3X and I thought they fit true to size. I wasn’t worried they’d go sheer when I bent down to pick up a torturous 3-lbs. barbell at barre. They were only available in black and navy, but their price point is super accessible and they make a great starter legging. It’s hard to find leggings above a 3X, so this is a good option for 4X-wearers. These leggings are also sold in stores, which is rare for plus-size brands.

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑

Fabletics (1X–3X) — Two for $24

fabletics.com

Oh, ho, ho, Fabletics. I did not want to like these. For those who don’t know, Fabletics is a brand created by Kate Hudson that recently expanded into plus-sizes. It operates with a VIP membership model, where you get MUCH better prices if you subscribe — though, just like those bogus “compare at” price tags at TJ Maxx, Fabletics’s non-VIP prices left me skeptical AF. If you’re not a VIP member, an outfit might cost $95. If you do join, your first outfit (pants + sports bra and/or top) is $15 to $25, and then you’re billed $50 a month moving forward, which gets you one “outfit” credit. It can apparently be hard to cancel, although I was able to do so via customer service chat and didn’t have to make a phone call.

When I joined, I was annoyed by the subscription process, and I wanted to HATE the leggings. I wound up buying leggings with adorable petal-shaped cutouts at the ankle and a strappy black-mesh sports bra, and I (regrettably!!!) love both. The sports bra actually fits, which, given that my tits are the kind of huge that most mortals cannot fathom (but a certain sea witch could), is remarkable on its own. I wouldn’t go for a run in it, but it worked great for barre. I loved wearing these items to barre classes — the outfit felt sleek and cute, and comparable to what the barre mermaids were wearing. I was a majestic manatee, floating through class in a pool of my own sweat. But I’m taking a half a peach away for the absolutely stupid ordering process, which involves a quiz, varying levels of discounts, annoying widgets there to upsell you but that don’t account for plus-size specific shopping (meaning you get shown lots of items that don’t come in your size, suddenly), and the membership model.

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑🍑.5

Torrid (00x–6x) — $54.90

torrid.com

Torrid’s options were cooler and more on-trend than much of what’s typically available to fat women; I was able to get a pair that has an Instagram girl cutout at the ankle. They fit really well, and the fabric was soft — it felt like a simple cotton and a high-tech fabric had a baby — and held up for everything I needed to do! I thought they were better quality than the Danskin leggings, though I think the price is a bit high for what you ultimately get. On the other hand, Torrid tends to run good sales, so it would be worth keeping an eye out for that.

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑

Yogaletics Wear (XL–6X) — $68

yogaleticswear.com

These were GORGEOUS. I got a wild print, and I loved how bold it was. So often, fat women are told to try to disappear their bodies and seem smaller with lots of black; on the rare occasion we’re granted something different, it’s usually a hideous floral pattern. I love that Yogaletics says eff that — rock whatever pattern you want, girl. That said, it was tricky to order these — a lot of sizes and styles were sold out, so I didn’t get my first choice of pattern, which was a bummer.

The leggings themselves are very stretchy and very silky — which, depending on the kind of underwear you wear to the gym, could potentially lead to some slippage. I learned this the hard way when I was casually jogging on the treadmill at my gym, and I realized that my pants were slowly and stealthily making their way down my ass. I had to do some fancy footwork and my coordination was put to the test as I tried to keep myself from exposing my undies to the guy running behind me.

I LOVED the lined crotch (which means you can skip the undies for hot yoga with no worries about flashing anyone), and though these were very patterned, the pattern didn’t stretch weirdly or become sheer when I pulled them on. These are expensive, but very pretty, and felt high quality.

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑🍑

Superfit Hero (XL–4X) — $98

superfithero.com

Oh, Superfit Hero. I wanted to love these leggings! They have a POCKET! They’re a nice stretchy cotton, and they don’t require Wonder Woman-style maneuvering to get them on! But I ran into two issues with them: 1) they had less room for my derriere than every other pair of pants despite the fact that I ordered according to the size chart, and 2) they attracted cat hair like nothing I’ve ever seen. If I were to reorder them, I would go up a size, but at the price point, and given the fact that they were just black (though it looks like they’ve added new colors since I ordered), I’m not sure they’re worth it. I do love that they make a point to use models of varying body types on their website, though. (More of this, fitness brands! More of this!!!)

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑

Nike (1X–3X) — $110

store.nike.com

Listen, I don’t think you really need to pay $110 for a pair of workout pants in order to go to a Zumba class at the local YMCA, but I’ll be honest: Sometimes, as a fat woman, it’s nice to have the brands the skinny kids have. These fit great and they had an interior drawstring, which meant they felt really secure — I wasn’t worried about them wiggling down while I was exercising. They looked sleek, didn’t get sheer at all, and had some neat calf mesh that made me feel very I’m training for the Olympics, not just walking along here on my local trail. If they’re in your budget, I’d say: go for it.

Rating: 🍑🍑🍑🍑

Overall, I’d have to go with Fabletics as my top workout gear for women up to a 3X, because I loved the sports bra and leggings combo. I like Fabletics more than Old Navy because of the variety of patterns and details available, but Old Navy hands down is easiest and will last you forever.

If you're interested in trying any of the leggings yourself, check out Danskin, Fabletics, Torrid, Yogaletics, Superfit Hero, and Nike.

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