I'm Fussy About Workout Clothes, But These 9 Legging-and-Top Sets Are Great

I’m not sure exactly when my love of activewear began - whether it was when I first started taking my dance training more seriously or whether it was post-covid during which activewear became my daily uniform, with nowhere else other than the supermarket or the park to go for our daily outings - but I now have an overflowing drawer of activewear that is one of the most-used categories in my wardrobe. 

That said, there are also many pieces I bought early on that didn’t live up to their waist-cinching, hip-holding and butt-lifting expectations or that simply didn’t wear well. Not great for me, but great news for you as I have now tried and tested pretty much all of the most well-known sportswear brands and I’m pleased to report I have some favourites. 

What to look for when shopping for activewear tends to be a pretty personal choice, specifically down to what sport, if any, we are making the purchase for. I always look for medium to high-impact support in my sports bras and with leggings, it has to be a high-waist, zero transparency and compressive fabrics to hold me in, give me confidence and support my back. I also frequently wear my smarter sports leggings with a sweatshirt and crisp white trainers when doing the school run for a look that is casual but polished so tend to go for block colours rather than prints. 

Whether you're vegging out or hitting the first of your new year's Pilate classes here are my top 9 sets to buy right now. 

1. The Stylish 3-Piece Coord


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Today more than ever activewear is way more than purely functional and I love how many endless options there are. British label Adanola is the cool go-to brand for stylish athleisure that can be worn every day, even when not working out. This chocolate colour way is my new favourite but its the matching cropped cardi that had me sold. 

2. Printed Looks That Won't Break The Bank


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It’s been a while since I last wore bright printed leggings as lately I gravitate towards matching sets in block colours as I feel they look more polished when worn outside my dance classes. That said I was super impressed with the latest M&S Good Move range. The leggings have this fab punchy pink leopard print and I chose this soft cotton top that has a hidden bra for support but is long enough to cover my midriff. This pink fleece was a must to pull the look together and shows just how polished activewear can look. 

3. The Everyday High-Street Favourite


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I’ve wanted to try these H&M leggings for a while as I had heard great things and they didn't disappoint. There are a few things I love from the matt finish to the high waist but what had me sold is the thicker fabric across the wide waistband that provides a lot of support and smooths out my tummy area. They have a great selection of sports bras too depending on the support required, but I liked this bra-like style which is great for every day and gentle exercise paired with this fleece gilet to complete the look. 

4. The Dressing Up To Work Out Set


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Now, this look is basically me in sportswear form. I love colour and always prefer fun sets in bright shades of pink and lilac, however, I'm equally happy with the super flattering black base colour that is lifted by the splashes of neon pink and orange. The leggings are high-waisted, the sports bra supportive and long enough to cover my waist and the matching jacket is super cool. Sportswear first and foremost has to be functional for me, especially as I do high-impact Brazilian samba dancing, but if it can look this cool too I'm on to a winner. 

5. The Technical Must-Have


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Under Armour is known for its technical base layers, so it wasn't surprising this set felt like a second skin. That said, if its support you're after this set isn't for you, but the moisture wicking fabric is perfect for sweaty runs or weight training in the gym. This unusual minty shade made a nice change from the usual all-black or vibrant sportswear colour palette. 

6. The Best All-Black Set


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I've seen Varley activewear in stores many times but haven't had a chance to try them until now and these leggings have to be my new favourite black pair. They are comfortable, supportive, and high at the waist. The wrap-over sports bra is pretty genius too as it has removable padding and provides a touch of shaping for smaller chests and push-up support for larger busts too. You know you're onto a winner when activewear you try on a sports bra and leggings combo that doesn't need fiddling around with and makes you smile. 

7. Mindful Movement Must-Have


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I really like the detailing on this set by American label Lorna Jane. The seam under the bust lifts and shapes your chest and the ribbed corset-inspired detail around the waist gives this sporty look a sculpted feminine silhouette. The oaty colour way feels calming which is perfect for moments of mindful movement. 

8. The Weekend Favourite


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Australian label The Upside is all about creating stylish yet functional pieces you can wear in and outside of your gym classes. The knitted ribbed fabric of this top and leggings is perfect for low-impact sports like barre and pilates but would look super-cool for a relaxed weekend brunch with friends too. 

9. The Great All-Rounder


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I have been wearing Girlfriend Collective sets for about 3 years now and personally, when it comes to my needs, no other brand comes close. From the thickness of fabric, the compressive qualities, the high-waisted leggings and supportive sports bras, to the extensive array of colours, styles and extensive size range available, they're one of the few brands that you can rely on producing your favourite styles season after season without them being modified or tweaked in some way. Throw in the recycled fabrics and affordable price point and you get one of the best activewear brand I own.

Up Next: I Live in Leggings—7 Fresh Ways I'm Wearing Them This Year

Freelancer Fashion Editor

Lily Russo-Bah is a London-based freelance fashion editor and the founder of beachwear shopping destination Beachflamingo.com. A fashion expert who started her career at Grazia magazine in 2008, where she worked across both digital and print as fashion editor, compiling shopping pages and styling main fashion, and in 2014 was awarded Gold as one of the top five journalists in MHP’s Journalists to Watch. She is known for her expert eye, compiling killer edits and her obsession with anything pink. She is a self-confessed swimwear obsessive with so many bikinis she doesn’t have the time to count them. From runway trends to the high-street hits you need to add to cart right now, one of her favourite pastimes is spotting the next cult buy and under-the-radar designers. When she isn’t scouring the shops for the next must-have trends, she can be found dancing Brazilian samba and booking her next sunshine getaway.