One writer puts good-looking activewear brand The Upside through its paces to see whether the pieces can actually perform in the gym.
When it comes to workout clothes, I’m all about function over fashion. There is no feeling more annoying than leggings that sag at the knee, a sports bra that rubs as you burpee and trainers that pinch your feet. It’s why I re-wear the same few reliable pieces of activewear time and time again, and why I’m scared to dip my toe in the world of Instagram gym kit – I would love to exercise in beautiful clothes but I’m not willing to compromise on support.
This is why I was sceptical about whether the Australian activewear brand The Upside could actually keep pace with my training. The brand’s social media is filled with gorgeous lifestyle shots of women dancing, bending and walking in low-key leggings and preppy sweatshirts. “Looks good,” I thought. “But I bet it won’t hold up while I’m sweating in my London gym rather than stretching on Melbourne beaches.”
There was only one way to find out. I put their Mia kit, consisting of high waisted leggings (£110, net-a-porter.com) and a racerback sports bra (£90, net-a-porter.com), to the test. I wore it to a host of different classes and gym sessions to see whether the attractive activewear actually works during workouts.
The Upside kit is undoubtedly chic, but I particularly love the combination of orange stripes on dark blue. Not only is the panelling on the side of the legs perfect to give some length to my short legs, but it gives a sporty edge that means I don’t feel out of place at the gym. The racerback cut on the sports bra is also my preferred shape to add some functionality to the set with its supportive shape.
The seamless material makes for an incredibly comfortable workout. With no hard threads to press into my skin, I can get through mat exercises in pilates and yoga without irritation. The compression fit stops the super-high waistband from rolling down when I squat, and it’s also super stretchy, which means I can take big breaths to brace my core without feeling crushed.
My main worry is that this kit simply won’t withstand my training, but as soon as I try on the mid-weight material of the leggings and bra, I can tell it’s squat proof. I also love how strong the fabric feels – from the first touch it’s clear it won’t rip or tear when I’m moving fast through my exercises.
In fact, the material is so thick that I am actually concerned I’ll end up covered in sweat marks. However, it turns out to be incredibly sweat-wicking and fast-drying, leaving no visible damp patches even after tough workouts. The bra is supportive for a medium-impact cut, meaning I’ll save it for strength-based workouts or walking rather than running or HIIT.
Value for money
The whole set comes to £200, which is on the expensive end of the activewear scale. While I absolutely love the kit, I don’t think you need to spend quite that much money to feel supported in the gym. It’s also worth noting that this specific set doesn’t have a particularly inclusive size range, only stocking extra small to large. However, other The Upside pieces go up to XXL.
It’s a shame that the price and size range make this amazing set inaccessible to many because the pieces have definitely made me feel stronger and more confident while strength training. The quality of the materials and design is obvious: this set is one of the most comfortable and best-performing kits in my collection. But given the current cost of living crisis, who has £200 to spend on a bra and leggings? Fortunately, at the time of writing, there’s a sale on their website, so you may be able to bag a couple of pieces at up to half price.
Images: Net-A-Porter/The Upside/Chloe Gray
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).