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Athletic On The Dressier Side

I’ve always been a fan of getting maximum use out of our clothes by wearing them for varying occasions. After my last trip through the athletic department, I’ve discovered many of their items can do the same thing so I’ve put these on heavy rotation. Today I’m showing how I level up my athletic pants. They’re sort of perfect for walking because the air keeps my legs cool, but I’ve discovered I almost prefer them dressed up for nice casual.


over 50 blogger jennifer connolly walking in garden wearing wide legged Zella pants with white cardigan

You’d expect recycled polyester pants to be hot, but these aren’t and feel very cool. The wide legs flow and let lots of air in so even on sweltering days, these feel airy. These have side pockets which I love, and a paperbag waist you could choose to show, or cover. They come in black or gray XXS – 16W and have a nice high waist. I’m wearing black in XS. Because of the fabric they pack like a dream, take up no space, and come out looking fresh as new.

woman sitting on wall wearing black Zella pants with cotton cardigan

In fact, I’m thinking these may be the perfect pants to travel in ( perhaps not a road trip ) because they don’t bind anywhere, and when you stand up you’re unwrinkled.

woman walking toward camera wearing black pants and green tank with white cardigan

I couldn’t resist this tank top. V necks are super flattering on all women (especially me with my broad shoulders) and this is one of my favorite colors. In fact, it’s the sort of color that will take me right into fall. They also happen to match my Labradorite earrings ( very similar) perfectly, so there is that:)

wide leg workout Zella pants and slip on sandals


Sneakers would have dressed this whole outfit down.  My sandals are the simplest design and surprisingly comfortable. They have a low block, woodgrain heel, and square toe that has been on trend for a few seasons. My feet are pretty square so I’m surprised I didn’t embrace this trend before now:)  They also come in gorgeous coral or blue. And also in brown or blush suede here.


over 50 blogger showing how to dress up athletic pants

I topped it with this simple pima cotton cardigan which is so much handier than I expected. I’m usually a v-neck fan but having this in simple white has proved to be one of the most useful purchases of the season. It’s available in 4 colors, sizes XXS-16W. I’m wearing a medium.


And about that drawstring waist tie that I and most women hate? I usually just snip and pull mine out because the elastic of the waistband holds the pants up without it.
I decided to leave this one on because it looks right with the paper bag waist. If I was wearing my top untucked, it wouldn’t matter because I’d simply slip the tie inside.

Have you tried wearing your athletic clothes for nice casual?




  1. Maybe try a scarf instead of the string?

  2. beth byrd says:

    Those wide leg pants are lovely — and they look so comfy! What a fabulous outfit.

    I’ve purchased a couple of joggers. Mostly to wear around the house or when I walk. However, athletic wear definitely was upgraded during the pandemic so I can wear them when I’m out running errands, too.

    I try not to wear elastic waist pants too often, because then I can’t tell when my clothes are getting snug!
    Especially now when I’m trying to lose that Covid-20+!!! lol

  3. That outfit really strikes a nice balance for casual but nice. I love the sandals because they cover the bunion area on my feet and they don’t show. I look like I have “normal feet”. As long as the leather isn’t stiff they work for me. Plus they look good with pants and skirts. Great find!!!
    Donna’s comment rings true with the weight gain and comfy waistbands.

  4. Joan Lynch says:

    I like this outfit on you, but after checking out the website, I don’t think they would work for me. I don’t think I would like the wide pants hitting above my ankles. Definitely keeping this style in mind though!

  5. I like athletic wear, they last for years. I wear them around the house , to the grocery, pharmacy, hairdresser, etc. I like a drawstring pant with a crop t-shirt at the waist. I never tuck any of my tops in any more. I hate my little muffin and pouchy tummy as I have gotten older. I wear hoodies with my athletic pants in fall and winter. My nice casual clothes last a long time since I save them for going out with friends for lunch or dinner and other nice outings. The danger of elastic pants is you can’t tell you are gaining weight if that is all you wear, haha.

  6. My husband and I go on a new walk/hike pretty much every week. When we hike, I wear athletic clothes that I know are breathable and will hold up to the trail. If I know that we’re walking and will have lunch after, then I wear nice-looking athletic wear — really like LL Bean and Eddie Bauer — and add a coordinating light sweater or matching hoodie. After being in for more than a year, I enjoy dressing up, so I’d never dress up my athletic clothes for dinner etc. It’s just not my style.
    I love the white cardigan — I’m looking for a ‘lacy’ one that I can use to dress up nice tanks and tees.

  7. Love the look. Wearing a lot of athleisure outfits. So comfortable and they look so good, and like you said feels cool on even when it s so hot, in Florida we are in our hurricane season and it is so hot and humid. Have a great weekend coming up.

  8. I live in Lululemon. Started with their yoga wear many years ago. For comfort, style, fabric care, service they can’t be topped. My favourite soft slouchy bag is from them too.
    Don’t be intimidated by all the fit young people who work there they have been hand picked and trained to be helpful.
    I don’t see many other 81 year olds in there but I feel welcome and cared for. The philosophy at a Lululemon is wonderful for all ages.

  9. I don’t mind drawstring pants but I do prefer elastic now that I don’t tuck anymore. I think drawstrings look cute though. I’ll tell you a little secret about these pants. Once they get older you can pass them down to pajama wear. Pop on a tee and you got pajamas. Double duty. I wish I could wear the cardigan but you need excellent posture to wear one Ike that.

    1. I love that idea, Eve.

  10. I have several pair of Athleta pants that are comfortable enough to go out and walk for exercise but dress up enough to wear out to dinner. I especially like the Brooklyn and Skyline styles. Skyline has a paperbag waist with a built in tie and has kind of a “Parisian-style” vibe. Besides improved styling in athleisure clothing, there is another advantage to wearing “tech fabrics.” I wore my black Skyline pants with a cute top and wedge sandals to walk to dinner one night. We got caught in a downpour on the way, and although I had an umbrella, my lower legs were soaked by the time I arrived. However, the fabric dried in about 15 minutes and you couldn’t even tell it had been wet (unfortunately, my shoes stayed wet the entire evening!) Also, it is currently in the high 90s around here, and these pants are very breathable, even in the heat and humidity.

    1. They sound wonderful!! Thanks for sharing, I will check them out. These newest tech fabrics are fabulous.

  11. Love this look. It’s what I find myself reaching for more and more as I find my new, post retirement style. To the disapproval of some, I’m sure, I wear a lot of leggings with dusters or long, nice sweaters. I’ve found it really matters that the leggings or other athletic wear be high quality, as Zella usually is. I just got some ponte in from Banana Republic that is really good and not quite as fitted as true workout wear. I would like to know what kind of purse works well with these looks. I don’t like belt bags or cross bodies. My Brahmin collection looks too ladylike and structured.

    1. I understand what you mean about the Brahmin. I adore them but they are a bit structured for athleisure looks. Try a smaller bag with less detaining and softer leather. A smaller shoulder bag works but look for thinner ones with less structure. You could also try a slouchy bag but I suspect if you love Brahmin, they wouldn’t appeal to your style.

  12. I mostly wear athletic casual. It’s easy to dress it up with a nice top and sandals. Drawstrings are tricky. Sometimes I just take it out entirely or tuck it in. I really like the cardigan on you. I’m always on the lookout for the perfect light weight summer coverup and that one looks great!

  13. Jill from Canada says:

    I LIVE in “nice casual” – its good for everything from walking , to going to the gym to shopping, to meeting for lunch – next time youre in Vancouver, check out lulu lemon – they started as a yoga wear store, but have all kinds of pants in this fabric- wide, narrow, stretchy – you can cycle to work in their fly away pant and still show up for an nine am meeting looking put together – (well, there’s helmet head to deal with!!) – I wear their midi dresses at the lake all summer..its a step up from “athleisure ” – when I think you always look like you’re going to the gym!! As for the ties – tuck em in, take them off, let them show – very easy to deal with.. Look forward to your posts and your Friday chats, Jennifer – I’ve learned SO much!!

  14. Seamstress here, I replace the tie with elastic, sewn down at ends, in pajamas. As a pear, I’m on “team” high waisted, as I have a long rise. Looks comfy though.

  15. Leslie Greaves Radloff says:

    Getting rid of the tie depends on brands and how it is attached. Some let you slip it out but do this only if there is elastic through the whole waste. Other brands attach the tie at right and left sides to tighten only front. Not to bad unless the pants are slip-on. If there is a packet try adjusting the waist to size and use pins to mark the tie. Get out your sewing machine, or needle and thread and securely tack the tie. Cut off the excess.

  16. Maribeth Conklin says:

    Good morning
    I hate the draw string tie also. Never looks right. What did you mean about leaving this one on? Is there a way to get rid of THE tie?

    1. I just cut them off or if they’re not sewn at the back, I pull them out and stitch the hole closed with needle and thread.

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