What Do I Wear to Pilates Class?

Simple Pilates Workout Apparel. Mike Harrington/Getty Images

Question: What Do I Wear to a Pilates Class?

Workout style is orginal but Pilates is specific. What clothing to wear for a Pilates workout is very much up to you within the confines of certain rules. Of course you will need Comfortable exercise clothes that allow you to have full range of motion. However, there are a few things to consider if you are going to a class at a studio or gym.


Most Pilates studios are casual.

Keeping your attire simple, at least at first, will help you figure out what works best for you and what the norms are at your studio. One exception however, is fitness attire that is too loose. Baggy is a problem in Pilates as well as yoga classes because it can be too revealing, and because an instructor must be able to see your alignment and form. If you are unsure about what to wear or about other standards at a studio, there is nothing wrong with calling or visiting to find out what other students wear. As a rule form fitting clothes that provide the appropriate level of containment are your best option. Consider this; in Pilates class you may be asked to take your legs up over your head and even open your legs. If your shorts or pants are too loose, they may fall up your legs. Worse yet, they may provide your class mates with an unwanted view of your under garments. If you are sporting a loose flowing t-shirt or sweatshirt while upside down, you can also experience potential embarrassment as your shirt rides up your body exposing previously covered areas to the elements.

Let's talk about equipment and your clothing. At a fully equipped Pilates studio, upholstered apparatus are where you will spend your time. Adornments on your apparel, such as zippers, buckles or other metal trimmings can severely damage equipment. Repairs are costly and can cause studio downtime resulting in lost workouts.

To avoid such incidents choose simple workout wear with absolutely no metal or plastic adornments.

But what about those cute tie-back tops. That's a "no". Here's why. Try doing a shoulder stand with a big wad of cloth under your spine. It's just not possible. Pilates workout clothes must support the workout. That means simple cuts with a low profile fit. Ties or belts or tassels can get caught in the springs that are part of every Pilates studio and cause an injury. In a gym class, your adornments can shred the exercise mats. If you are wondering what you should add to your Pilates workout wear, look for seams and stitching that follow the centerline or side lines of the body. This will help you and your instructors identify alignment and symmetry in your body during class.

Beyond the apparel selections, keep your jewelry to a bare minimum and avoid strong smelling perfumes and lotions. As a courtesy to other students many studios ask that students avoid wearing strong-scented fragrances or perfumed lotions.

Footwear should be limited to socks or clean, bare feet. 

This brings me to the final Pilates class protocol - makeup. Gym mats and studio apparatus are subject to stains and discolorations from makeup, oils and even nail polish. Liquid and creme foundations and blushes can bleed onto the surfaces you lie on especially when you are face down. A fresh manicure may be subject to peeling and chipping if you have to adjust your own springs in a Reformer or Tower class.

Despite the fact that simple and basic rule in Pilates, you can still have fun with your workout attire. If you like fashion nearly every single major brand now offers athleisure or dedicated fitness wear. Clothing for Pilates and yoga is essentially the same, and the explosion of popularity of both disciplines has brought about a revolution in stylish exercise clothing. It is much easier than it used to be to find not only interesting clothes, but options that are designed for a variety of body types and needs. 

​​Edited by Alycea Ungaro

Continue Reading