Style and Styling

What’s Your Sweatsuit Alternative?

Comfort AND Style

Good day, reader dear!

If you celebrate during December, I hope yours has been peace and joy filled! AND I pray you have some time to relax before we head into the New Year. Speaking of relaxing: What do you wear when you aren’t wearing work clothes or work-out clothes? What do you wear for that in-between wear? Or when you retire? If you struggle, you are not alone…

I love Tim Gunn. Of all the sartorial Must Have lists in the world, his has (hands-down) the most original and interesting item. Mr. Gunn’s (I can’t bring myself to call him Tim.) item number 10 is a Sweatsuit Alternative. I remember reading one of his books (I think this one.) and running across that line item. My interest was piqued! He said (Paraphrasing …) that the Sweatsuit Alternative should be comfortable AND presentable. Mr. Gunn threw out a cashmere tracksuit as an option for those on a generous budget. I can’t wrap my mind around owning a cashmere tracksuit, but the idea? YES! You want something as comfy as your pajamas, but not sloppy like them. How do you find your Sweatsuit Alternative?

Let’s think this through: First qualifier: It must be comfortable. For many people that means jersey. Not the state or the island! The fabric… Think knit. Elastic waists or drawstrings add to the relaxed and comfy factor. Second qualifier: Presentable. No giveaway tees here or old college sweatshirts, we want a more polished top. And shoes. Real shoes.

What shoes? You want comfy, AND easy on and off. Beach shoes aren’t going to cut it. Nor are your soccer/football slides. Think slipper soft, and slip on/off. Imagine you want to slip easily out of your shoes (not untie) and curl up elegantly with your feet underneath you… Like a lady of leisure. How about ballet flats, slip on sneakers, or slipper-like loafers? The key here is that they must be clean and tidy! If they look like your slippers or your running shoes, it’s best to pass! Or give them a good clean.

First let’s try drawstring bottoms and a cozy sweater.

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Choose a leg width that is most comfortable for you, and flatters your figure. Go wide or narrow, but don’t go legging! (You’ll see them further down the page.) Your options will look more luxe in rich neutral colors like camels (for the warm complexioned) and greys or taupes (for cool complexions).

What if you live somewhere that cozy and warm means heat stroke? We can lighten it up! Here’s where woven fabrics may be more comfortable than knits. Try lightweight cottons and linens with smooth textures. Woven fabrics float away from the body and make for better air circulation. If a cami is too revealing, try a lightweight linen sweater in an elbow length or 3/4 sleeve.

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Leggings are comfortable, but look like workout wear. While that may be fine for the gym, it’s not going to get you upgraded from coach! (Or seated at the nice table at that little cafe.) If you must have your leggings, let’s top them with a short dress or long tunic for more polish.

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Each of these looks is as comfortable as pajamas, but presentable for everyday living. No hiding when the doorbell rings! A run to the store? Covered. A last minute invite for brunch? Absolutely. Coffee with a friend? Yup! A flight to the destination of your dreams? Perfect!

What’s my Sweatsuit Alternative? I’m not one for elastic waists and drawstrings, so my recent Sweatsuit Alternative has been Jeans + Cami + Cardie. Comfy and still presentable enough for out and about. I’d certainly travel in these… (Wrapped up with a scarf, of course!) In warmer weather, I’ll trade the cardie for an unbuttoned woven shirt, possibly tied at the waist…

So… What’s your Sweatsuit Alternative? What do you choose when comfy is key, but so is presentable? Have you got a go-to? Or does one of the looks above appeal? Do let me know in the comments below. I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,


  • Cjh

    I’m with you on the preference for jeans instead of elastic waists. My sweats alternative outfit consists of said jeans, usually skinny black ones, a long sleeve tee and drapey/boxy pullover sweater in winter, with casual tennis shoes like Converse All Stars, or what I call “townie tennies.” If going out in cold or wet, I just change to boots to keep my feet warm and dry.

    In warm weather, shorts and a sleeveless knit top with leather sandals are my choice pieces. For cool mornings or evenings, I’ll add a woven shirt or 3/4 sleeve cardigan.

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for the visit, Cathie! Footwear makes a HUGE difference. One question: Does your sweatsuit alternative make you feel put-together, or just dressed? I think that should be the third requirement beyond Mr. Gunn’s two…

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