Here’s a brief history of women’s running apparel summed up in a conversation:
Dude designer: Hey, I’m making these running shorts for these women.
Dude manager: Great, we don’t know if there’s a market for it but we’re getting a ton of requests for women’s apparel from actual women. But, you never know. What have you got?
Dude designer: Well, I’m making these spandex booty shorts that are only available in XS and S and they may or may not be see-thru.
Dude manager: Sounds good. Keep pushing to production and use the cheapest materials possible because we don’t know if these ladies are actually going to run in these things, you know?
Okay, maybe this dialogue is a leeeeetle unfair, but sometimes I’ve looked over items in the women’s running section and wondered to myself, “Is this really designed to be comfortable?”
Cue in Seattle-based Oiselle, a company making apparel “by and for women athletes.” And it shows. Here’s how a conversation about new product at Oiselle goes:
Lady founder: I’d like to see us push harder on a lifestyle short. Let’s do a running plus yoga lifestyle short with pockets. Kind of like a jeans style. Jean shorts are so uncomfortable. They’re so crotchy.
Lady designer: Oh my goodness, yes. Also, I’ve been to the future. We’re all going to have a lot more color in our underwear drawers soon.
Lady founder: That sounds amazing.
Lady designer & founder: Yassss!! *high-fives*
Guess what? Those are real quotes from actual conversations at Oiselle. Well, maybe not the “Yasses” but I can’t imagine a conversation about comfortable, perhaps run-worthy jorts not ending in a “Yass.”
It’s really hard to find running apparel that checks the important boxes of feeling really good and looking really fly, but Oiselle does it. And they do it with a conscience and a mission.
Not only does Oiselle make comfortable and fashionable athletic clothing, but also they cultivate community for female athletes at every level. From its pro-team including Olympians and boundary-breaking bad asses, to the everyday bad asses of the localized Haute Volee.
And at a time when founders of other brands spend time backpedaling after the occasional body-shaming (cough cough, lululemon), it’s refreshing to see female founders celebrating female strength in all its forms: through PRs, pregnancy, injury, and the evolution of age.
It’s also refreshing to have a company devoted to supporting women’s achievement. In the wake of Nike’s Breaking2 challenge, Oiselle’s founder, Sally Bergesen, wrote in Outside of the need for creating new milestones for women as we set records in sports that we were barred from competing in up until a few decades ago. Rallying for the 4:30 minute mile for women, Bergesen writes, “The 4:30 mile. We will shout it from the rooftops, drop it into casual conversations, and speak of the women who break it with reverence. Because as it turns out, if we want someone to be a household name, we might have to build the houses.”
Oiselle is building a new house given their approach to women’s running apparel but also in how they treat their sponsored athletes. Olympic runners like Kara Goucher tell of being discouraged and even docked pay by sponsors for their decision to have children. Goucher, when ending her contract with Nike to sign with Oiselle, told Outside’s Elizabeth Weil, “I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like I was free.” The company has also led efforts to push for athletes receiving fairer pay from the world-class events they compete in.
In the world of sportswear, in which heavy-weights like Nike have so much influence on the development of running, it’s crucial to be conscious of the brands you consume and their impact on the sports you love.
Now, let’s talk about the clothes
While we’ve drilled into what makes Oiselle unique from a mission stand-point, let’s take a look at some their clothes. The team shared with me some key pieces to put through the wringer and here’s what I’ve found.
I’ve ranked the pieces, starting with the ones I liked most:
Mile One Pullover
This is probably my favorite piece of the bunch. It’s light and super comfortable, perfect for morning or evening runs that start out a bit on the chilly side. The sleeves are a good long length (which is great for all the long-limbed ladies out there like myself) but also easy to roll up if you need to get your hands dirty. What I also love about this shirt is how easy it is to dress up and wear to work.
Whenever I find pieces I can wear straight from work to run, it’s an automatic win.
This bra is so comfortable that I slept in it. A few times. I was soooo tired. It’s the perfect balance of holding the twins in place while not feeling like it’s hard to breathe. I’m a size 34B and a medium felt like the perfect size. I also had my friend who is a 32D try it as well and she found the support to pass the test. Big thumbs up for the Team Bra.
These are by far the most comfortable running tights I have ever worn. They are designed with generous pockets and a waistband that you can tighten as needed. They aren’t see-thru at all (even when bending wayyyyy over). They’re warm without being too hot, fitted without feeling too tight, and I can wear them multiple days in a week without them feeling too stretched out. The only drawback for me was the stitching. The pant’s design has a lot of stitching to support the pockets and waistband, but after the first two weeks, some of the reinforcement stitching started to unfurl. Not in a way that ruined the pants, threatened the structure, or made them unwearable – everything remains intact. These pants are still glorious two months later, even missing a few aesthetic strings.
Here’s a piece that is work-to-run-to-night-out ready. I love the see-thru breezy breeze of this sleeveless wonder and it softens nicely with more wear without losing any strength. The contrast of the cowl neck with the sleeveless-ness makes it fun and a little saucy.
The medium is true to size.
Roga Skirt with Shorts
I’m forever on a mission for a running skirt that will work for my bootylicious bootay. While this running skirt is the closest and most comfortable of all I’ve tried, it still slightly misses the mark to make it a staple in my weekly running rotation. When I ran uphill, the inner shorts and skirt often wanted to go uphill on my booty as well and I found myself tugging to pull the shorts down throughout my runs. However, I enlisted the help of a smaller-hipped and smaller bootied friend who found the shorts comfortable to run in and not requiring any mid-run adjustment.
I’m typically a pant size 4 or 6 and the size 4 felt great while just walking around but when running started to ride up. For ladies packin a little extra back there, I would size up or try Oiselle’s Roga skirt with briefs.
These shorts feel like second skin. So smooth and they don’t ride up when running which was great. The only problem is that they are a little see-thru for my ladies carrying some junk in that trunk. I again enlisted a smaller bootied friend to help test and they worked great for her. Like the running skirt, size up if you got that booty.
Size medium felt great on but was a tad too see-thru for me. Juliette is typically a small but these mediums worked great for her with no see-thru.
The common denominator for all the pieces for me was comfort. None of them made me feel as if my booty cheeks would make an unplanned appearance and, with most of Oiselle’s clothes, they feel very true to size historically for me. For the Spandos shorts and Roga skirt with shorts, these are the only pieces I would advise ladies with larger hips and bottoms to size up in. Other than that, everything felt refreshingly balanced all the key factors I look for in running apparel: comfort, function, and easily wearable to work.