I was inspired to write this article after having an emotional experience with clothes. I have a history of ripping pants, long-sleeved shirts, and never finding jeans that fit my quads, calves, and narrow waist uniformly. I usually laugh at this. It’s kind of a source of pride: knowing I’ve grown enough muscle to burst out of clothes made for average girls and having an athletic build that is not the societal norm. But, around 2010, when my mom bought me a dress that made me look like a bulky mini hulk, I thought my muscles were too unfeminine to look appropriate in a dress. I had athletically-induced fashion disorder, or AIFD (coined by myself). It was not until I learned that shapes (or the cut of an item of clothing) were my problem, not my body. I’ve since been able to wear dresses, skinny jeans, long-sleeved shirts . . . anything I wish. Follow the rules below, and you’ll be able to do the same!
We all know that muscular women look great naked, but finding the right clothing to flatter our physiques can be tricky. Some styles can make us look blocky. This is because clothing is designed for the masses: skinny, average, or plus-sized people. Below are four guidelines to make shopping for clothing simple. Remember, the secret is in shapes — the cut of the top, dress, or pants you wish to buy.
*** This page updates regularly to keep up with changing trends. ***
Rule 1. Accentuate your shoulders and arms with form-fitting, shoulder-flattering, and/or sloping necklines
Rule 2. Not so tight — look for breezy and/or halter-style tops
Look for tops that compliment your build. The neckline should not broaden your upper body. It should be fitted, flowy, or the neckline should be cut in a way the shows off your muscles and does not smooth over them. This broadens the body. Also, avoid stripes that go across the body. Horizontal stripes create the illusion of broadness.
Rule 3. Feel free to dress up, don’t be afraid of (stretchy) long sleeves, and you can’t go wrong with strapless
Stick with V-necks and straps close to your neck. This will create the illusion of a longer torso and make your muscles pop!
If you have nice glutes, a form-fitting long dress or short dress/skirt is good. I recommend not going too short. Short skirts/dresses can be cute on a skinny girl, but a muscular girl is often more of an eyeful and may draw more attention than desired. The choice is up to you.
Rule 4. When it comes to pants, accentuate your shapely legs and look for fitted and stretchable styles; also try roomy styles
Slim Athletic Fit in Blue Fade Barbell Apparel Stretch Pants
Everyday stretch pants and flowy pants, all colors
Check out Pac Sun for jeans designed for an athletic build. Most of my jeans and shorts are from the Bullhead line at Pac Sun.
Sports tops, tanks, and pants
Triangle-shaped tops with straps are close to your neck and not directly on your shoulders flatter muscular traps and shoulders. Racerbacks also flatter an athletic upper body.
Sporty pants are the easiest to buy because they’re already stretchable.
Summary of what NOT to wear:
For tops and blouses, stay away from wide straps that sit directly on your shoulders. Wide straps or the placement of straps farther from the center of the body often creates a blocky appearance. For bottoms, stay away from restricting materials. Tight clothing with limited stretchability or elasticity that restricts healthy blood circulation — something a fit woman should care about. Unless your skinny jeans are stretchable, consider staying clear of them.
Take the above four simple rules, and rule the clothing aisles and your closet. If you have some tips of your own, please share them with me. Fit women and girls have to help each other on our respective fitness journeys.
I want your feedback. How can this article be improved?
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Article initially published on May 4, 2015 - Updated and republished on May 4, 2018
MEET SYLVIA PETRO — THE BROKE, FIT SINGLE MOM: As an athlete of over 15 years, and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created this site to aid not only broke single parents to a life of fitness, but anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the road to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; informing readers about mastering both of those building blocks is my goal.