Why I’m done with Lululemon (and overpriced athletic clothing): a tall women’s perspective


So we’ll ignore the fact that I haven’t posted in a while. I’ll be catching you up on what’s been going down since then. But as I’m spending my weekend looking for workout clothing, I realized I had something to talk about.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m 5’11” and any pants that are considered “regular” length simply look like capris. It might sound selfish to complain about being tall but the fact is I’ve spent a good chunk of time looking for longer lengths in pants and tops alike. Slowly, retailers like Gap have rolled out “tall” sizes and it has been my saving grace, especially for basics. Workout, athletic and “technical” clothing is still a little far behind the times but slowly they’re updating as well. Lululemon was one of the first I experienced that had dedicated tall-sized pants and their jackets and tops ran a little long as well.

In case you’re wondering, I do have a little bit of street cred when it comes to workout apparel. I’ve spent well over a decade stuffed inside leotards and have learned what makes them great, what makes them terrible and how to care for them to get the most amount of wear possible . Somewhere in there I started buying yoga apparel and that goes for Lululemon as well. At first, it was like someone answered my prayers! I justified the high price tags by reminding myself how difficult it was to find long inseams and lengths.

A few things happened that made me quit Lululemon for good. First, tall sizes became more common. When I’m hunting for workout wear these days, I have my choice between Old Navy and Athleta for tall tops and jackets. For bottoms, the list is much longer: Nike, Under Armour, 2XU, Asics, Champion (even their Target Brand, C9), Columbia Sportswear, Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, prAna, Saucony, Lucy, Skins and the list goes on (and if it’s not listed here, please let me know–I’m always on the hunt). Not all of those are cheaper than Lululemon but they have tall sizes and at least provide an alternative.

Second, the price. I picked up a pair of Old Navy compression leggings for $19. They’re long enough for me and would probably be long enough for someone a little taller than me. I also got a tall-sized zip up jacket for $24. With those prices, Lululemon looks gratuitous. Both garments were made out of polyester. That means plastic. Of course polyester can vary in quality. Even if Old Navy’s material was truly insufficient, I could get FIVE pairs of pants for the price of one Lululemon pair, the latter of which has a nasty habit of snagging and pilling. The result is a pair of pants that collects every particle floating through the air so you’re like a walking lint roller. So much for Luon.

Third, Lululemon has taken a strong stance on sizing and I simply can’t contribute to that kind of thinking. Although I fit into either a 10 or a 12 in their sizing, it sickens me that someone curvier than myself would be left out. I’m also convinced that they stock fewer items in the larger sizes. It’s either that or they are a bad judge of what sizes will sell. However, they’re too smart to make that mistake. For all the good they do in the community and the fact that they support fair labor practices (or maybe not*) and are a green company (depending on your perspective), focusing on only skinny betches is uncool.

Finally, I’m quite turned off by the fandom surrounding Lululemon. It’s become so awful that their newest merchandise will be bought out and will appear on eBay a week later for twice the price. And people are willing to buy it! I sold the remainder of my used Lululemon apparel for about 20% less than what I purchased it for. You read that right: someone bought my old, sweaty, pill-ridden athletic clothes for only 20% off retail. Hope they liked it.

So that’s it for Lululemon.

I’ve also mentioned before how I’m pretty specific about my laundry care. If you have workout gear, no matter how expensive or cheap, it needs to be washed properly. Moisture-wicking fabrics require some TLC so here are some tips:

  • wash in cold water
  • be careful of zippers and other buttons that might snag on your more delicate pieces. Zip them up or turn them inside out.
  • do not use fabric softener. Most fabric softeners contain surfactants which are designed to get into your clothes and stay there, hence the “fresh for days” claims. Eventually, fabric softener use will destroy the garments ability to wick moisture by clogging up the fibers with fabric softener. When that happens, the fabric is no longer “breathable.” If you don’t care about losing this function, go for the fabric softener, but most people purchase moisture-wicking fabrics for that very purpose.
  • Use conventional laundry detergent at your own risk. Keep in mind the “detergent” part. Many detergents contain surfactants so the detergent can better remove stains. Great for cottons, bad for synthetics. Your athletic clothing will last longer using a laundry “soap.” I’ve heard of people using Castille soap and there are a few workout-specific laundry soaps out there but I just use my regular Bi-O-Kleen.
  • Skip the dryer. When you remove moisture-wicking garments from your washing machine they often feel half-dry already. That’s because they’re good at their job! If you absolutely have to put them in the dryer, put them on the “air only” setting. Hanging them to dry will extend the life of any garment, especially workout clothing. Another reason to skip the dryer is heat: sometimes the moisture-wicking property is done by applying a coating to the fabric. Heat will usually burn the coating away after a few cycles in the dryer.
  • Lots of sweat? Wash sooner rather than later. Synthetic material tend to stain easier and retain odors more than natural fibers like wool and cotton. I don’t wash my workout clothes immediately, but if it’s something like a leotard that’s been plastered to my body for a couple of hours and is drenched, I wash it as soon as possible. If you can’t wash it right away, hang it on the back of a chair or a clothes dryer so it will air out. If you find your clothes are becoming perpetually stinky, use my baking soda and vinegar method and see if that helps. Both of those substances are good at killing bacteria and odors.

I do all of the above to extend the longevity of my workout clothes, especially leotards and base layers. With that in mind, I have leotards that are several years old and are still looking (and smelling) great and I really think it’s due to proper care.

Happy Sweating!

*A quick Google search will reveal evidence that Nike and Lululemon share the same manufacturing facilities. Nike doesn’t exactly have a gold star for labor practices. If you’re purchasing your Lululemon products based on the idea that they use fair labor, I’d do a little research to make sure that’s still the case.


One Comment on "Why I’m done with Lululemon (and overpriced athletic clothing): a tall women’s perspective"

  1. Peggy Bright says:

    Great tips about laundry care. I’m an Icebreaker girl myself. Love their stuff. Thanks for dropping by and liking my travel blog.

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