Gym Mysteries: The Curse of the Disappearing Workout Pants! [How do you cover your butt?]

by Charlotte on November 13, 2012 · 55 comments

These hot-off-the-screen-printer Nike X-Ray Leggings are so popular that they’re already sold out in every color and size. And yet… I don’t know that I love them. They feel a little naked to me. Like those weird jean skirts that have the undies painted on the outside. Also, knowing me, I’d be way too tempted to point at the pelvic girdle and be like “So this is where my hips loosen and expand and here’s where the babies come out!”

And by disappearing, I mean de-materializing right when you’re at the bottom of a really deep, heavy squat, leaving your assets disconcertingly uncovered thanks to too-stretchy too-thin fabric. A fact you won’t notice on your own, by the way, unless it’s in the reflection of an oddly placed mirror or you’re really good at reading the shocked looks on your friends’ faces. For me, it was the latter.

Let’s be honest: If there is a way to inadvertently flash someone in the gym I have done it. I got a little too aggressive with the shirt-cutting-art and had my top disintegrate mid-stretch. I did a handstand and had a too-loose shirt slide right over my head and down my arms. I had a heavy pager clipped to the back of my worn yoga pants that de-pantsed me better than any middle schooler. Heck, I’ve basically stopped wearing track shorts for anything other than just straight running because of their tendency to flash my goodies at inconvenient moments. There is a reason the Gym Buddies invented “the cleavage corner” on our weight floor – and it covers both varieties. So when I got this e-mail from Reader A, I totally had an “Ohhhhh GIRL!” moment. My ovaries high-fived.

“Ok -this is a pretty dumb question, but I figured I would give it a shot. Since you are the smartest and funniest workout guru I know (although we’ve never met or communicated ’til today) I thought you might be able to humor me with said “dumb question”. Anyhoo – here’s my sitch…I love working out in capris (black of course), but have found that no matter what kind I buy (cheapo or pricey), they stretch so much when I bend over they become see through – like “girl I can see your butt crack” see through. (you don’t wanna know how I found that little bit of info out) So – do you know of a brand of workout pants I can buy that don’t do the stretch and show? Or is the answer really, workout til your butt is smaller and this won’t be an issue?”

1. This is not a dumb question. This is an awesome question and one I’ve had WAY too much fun thinking about.

2. Oh yes I do want to know how you found that out!

3. “Do the stretch and show” is becoming a part of my gym vocabulary as of this second. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 12 occasions where that would be contextually appropriate. And yoga doesn’t even make the top ten.

4. Repeat after me: It is not my butt’s job to fit my clothes, it is my clothes’ job to fit my butt. I don’t know you and sadly you did not send a picture of your stretch and show (see? There’s one already!) but I can guarantee you that it’s not your butt. I say this because it’s happened to almost all of us.

And because so many Gym Buddies of the female variety have fallen victim to the curse of the disappearing pants, I actually do have a few useful suggestions.

1. Brand/style. The Fila compression toning resistance capri tights*, the Champion shaping capris* and the Lucy Perfect Core Capris* are all super thick. Like double-layer thick. It’s a mixed blessing: while I’ve never had an attack of the crack-en (The Kraken? Get it? Puns are not funny when you have to explain them. Yet that does not stop me…) they do make my nethers sweatier than some other pants. I’ve also had good luck with the JC Penney Xersion line which has the added bonus of being super affordable. *I was not paid nor given free product to promote these items. I mention them simply because I own them, like them and wear them.
2. Skirts. I used to be obsessed with finding those “skircapris” or “capri skorts” or whatever you call those things where there’s a skirt attached to the leggings but then I realized I can take any adorable skirt and stick it over any color leggings and – viola! – endless combinations of “capriskirts”. Or whatever. My point: I have a lot of workout skirts and I layer them over my capris. That solves the see-through issue, camouflages problem areas  and (at least in my opinion) look adorbs too. (And if you’re looking for a super-cute one that also supports a great cause, Mizfit is selling her printed workout skort now!) I know some girls don’t like the whole girly-girl vibe of skirts though so sometimes I do the same with short-shorts – I used to just look dorky but it’s totally a trend now, thank you Sun Drop Girl! (P.S. If you get a skirt that doesn’t have attached shorts, it’s worth it to safety pin the skirt to the waistband of your capris to prevent unfortunate skirt migrations.)
See? Layering a Nike tennis skirt over (see-through) Old Navy capris! So cute it goes straight from the gym to voting! (Although Jelly Bean thought I said we were going “boating” and threw the biggest tantrum ever when we got there and there was no water, swimsuits or inner tubes.”
3. Patterns/Colors. You have to be choosy here – some patterns only accentuate the problem (horizontal stripes, eek) but some are quite good at camouflaging cameltoe, crack-age and lady bits! I have a tie-dye pair that are so mind-blowing with all the colors and swirlies going on that no one ever notices my crack and even if they did it would probably give them a seizure first. Colors are tricky too. Black, as most of us have discovered, is by far the most forgiving! Not only does it hide crotch sweat and slim you but it’s best for full-coverage. However, I happen to love me some bright tights and I do have a couple of pair from Balera (yes the dancewear company) that are thick enough to wear on their own. The others I tend to layer under stuff. But the only way to really tell if the color/print is flattering or flashing is to try the pants on and then bend waaay over in front of a mirror. Hopefully you’re flexible enough to see your tush. If not, you may have enlist a close friend to help you out. Sing “Baby Got Back” – it will make the whole experience less awkward. Double funsies if he/she can beat box.
4. Undies. I hate panty lines too. And scrunchy double layers. But I do have one pair of Nike Core Compression tights that are too cute to get rid of but too sheer to wear solo. So I put flesh-colored undies under. It’s not a perfect solution – flesh colored means it still kinda looks like my butt but at least there’s no crack! So people will either assume you’re like Barbie with strangely unformed nethers or they’ll see the panty line and figure it out. Okay, now that I’ve written that out I’m thinking I should wear my hot pink polka dot undies instead to make it clear that I’m not a flasher? Also, some Gym Buddies swear by thongs. I can’t handle them. I hate the way they ride in everyday wear and wearing them to workout is wedgie hell. Also, they don’t do anything with the crack problem so if that’s your purpose then why bother? But some girls love them so I thought I’d throw that out.
5. Avoid cotton. 
Shorts, capris or pants: What are you fave workout bottoms? Do you have any recommendations/tips for A? Do you have a good butt crack story to share?? Annnnd… what do you think of the x-ray Nikes??

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyssa (azusmom) November 14, 2012 at 12:27 am

I don’t like the x-ray pants. Sorry. I guess I’m just too old for the flashy stuff (although I still totally wear 25 year-old concert tees and my shirt with a picture of the Milky Way galaxy with an arrow pointing to a dot that says “You Are Here.”) I did the flashy neon thing in high school, back in the 80′s (See? Old.) and feel no need to call a whole bunch of attention to myself when I’m working out. In fact, I’d like gym-camouflage workout gear: clothes that, chameleon-like, pick up whatever background they happen to be around. The wall, the water cooler, the guy bench pressing 400 pounds…
Sadly I don’t have much advice for Dear Reader, but i LOOOOVE my Lucy Perfect Core Pants! As far as see-through or falling pants, I was leading a warm-up in a theater class once with a bunch of kids: we were doing jumping jacks and the my pants fell down. In front of 50 10 year-olds. Yeah, I lived THAT down real quick!

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Exactly! I’d have an arrow pointing at my crotch that says “You were here” for the benefit of my kids lol;) I need to try those Lucy pants!

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Sue November 14, 2012 at 2:32 am

Woah, now I’m worried. I really need to check out my butt the next time I’m wearing my gym clothes. When I’m working out, I always wear either a pair of long, baggy pants (perfect for Zumba) or my running capris. I think that both of them are rather sturdy and non-see-through, but I’d better double check.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Eh, I’m not out to give anyone a complex – I’m guessing if it’s never come up before then you’re probably fine!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig November 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

Lululemon! I have about six pairs of pants from them, and none of them turn transparent when I bend over. They have standard tights and then other pants like the Studio Pants which are much thicker and can be worn to the gym as well as casually. LL is expensive, but you get what you pay for.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Ah Lulu! I keep meaning to try some and see what all the hype is about but everytime I go and see the price tag I just choke. They’re not even cheaper on ebay! But I’m gonna do it! Some day;)

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Bek @ Crave November 14, 2012 at 2:43 am

What? You wear them solo? For the past couple of months i’ve gone the G String route and I will never go back. Lucky for me the cheapest pair (2 for $6) is also super comfortable and slightly different from your traditional G banger- they look like the perfect sport G. My favourite bottoms would be my new Lorna Jane skort or my black rockwear pants. I use to wear el-cheapo supre tights and they were too thin and nasty see through. I love how proper gym pants suck you all in ;)

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Colleen November 14, 2012 at 7:53 am

Thank you! I was feeling I was the only gal who still wore panties under my workout bottoms. Bek, please share the brand G-string you found that works. Ive been wearing a Hanes 84% nylon 16% spandex; black or nude. You are working out ladies! Who cares if you have VPL?

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Bek @ Crave November 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Haha, I don’t actually get VPL with the pants I wear and these undies. Well they are an El cheapo brand called allsorts. Made from cotton/elastane and they are only $6 for 2! I got mine from Big W. The colours I have are white, black, skin colour and soft baby pink.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm

ROFL. You are definitely not the only one! I’m in the minority among the gym buddies. It’s not so much the VPL for me as comfort. Can’t do undies under compression tights – too many slide-y layers going on! But other pants, yes, undies all the way!

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Depends on what type of pants they are. Some of the ones I have are meant to be worn solo. Others, not. But I cannot do undies under compression tights! Too many layers going on;) And yes to proper sucking-in pants!

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Redhead November 14, 2012 at 6:11 am

Wear black undies under black stretchy pants and, if someone CAN tell at that point when the pants/capris are stretching thin and showing your undies, then they’re looking WAY too hard!

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Sara November 14, 2012 at 7:05 am

Thanks for the suggestions. I’m in the market for a pair of capris myself. I always struggle with the “do I wear undies and have a VPL or not?” dilemma when working out. Tough problems. ;) And, oddly enough, I like the Nikes. I don’t think I’d ever wear them as I don’t like to draw attention to my thunderous thighs, but they’re cool!

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Bethany November 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

I usually buy a size up so that they’re fitted but not tight on me. I really like under armour pants. I squat in them and I have had someone check out my ass to make sure they weren’t see through and they’re not!

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Ooh yes! I love Under Armour too! good call.

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Nicole November 14, 2012 at 8:59 am

I’ve never had the see-through problem. I tend to workout in shorts though, not capris (which leads to different flashing problems), but none of my capris go see-through. They are just the Costco cheap capris too! But I like shorts because most of my shorts are baggy enough I can wear regular underwear underneath them without lines.

As for the x-ray capris…it feels too much like they are framing the lady-bits (which, I mean, they are! Because our pelvis and hipbones DO frame them!). The fluorescent-ness of the bones on the one on the right doesn’t help, and the one on the left makes the model’s lady-bits look like a black hole of doom! I like the idea, but I feel like those pants are just asking people to stare at bits I don’t want stared at!

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

This: “makes the model’s lady-bits look like a black hole of doom! ” made me laugh SO HARD. Agreed!

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Aine November 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

I use Tek Gear Fit and Flare capris from Kohls and I love them. They are particularly flattering, and I’ve not noticed any of the stretch and show problems if you get your correct size, plus they’re SUPER affordable. I also wear underwear with all of my workout clothes except bicycle shorts while out riding, otherwise I find I have to constantly pick at my cameltoe. Maybe not the best thing to share but there’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to waddle to a private place so you can yank your sweaty polyester pants out of your hoo-ha without giving the muscleheads by the squat cage an eyeful.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm

” but there’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to waddle to a private place so you can yank your sweaty polyester pants out of your hoo-ha without giving the muscleheads by the squat cage an eyeful.” Oh this cracked me up! For whatever reason I don’t seem to get the camel toe problem very much – or maybe I just don’t realize I do??

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Amber November 14, 2012 at 10:31 am

My NikeFit running capri’s are 92% polyester and 8% spandex and there is now stretch and show. However, I’m unsure if they still make that exact line since mine are several years old…
I also have a few pants from Athleta that are nice and thick don’t show through, but I don’t know about their leggings.
As for the x-ray pants, I like them! But I run outdoors and think anything that makes me more visible is a good thing.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Isn’t that how it always goes? You find the perfect pants and they discontinue the line. Same problem with hair products;)

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Amy Lynn November 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

Thanks for the suggestions for pants~ the last think I want is the I can see your crack from see through pants! I’ve had really good luck especially since I wear black workout pants just about every day. I find the worst pants are white…..and recently I found Albion workout pants and have a few pairs. They are super thick too! The nike pants look a little scary at first but the neon ones would be great for running in the am with my pup~ especially since its so dark at 630am. I am totally loving your blog! You have a great sense of humor! Happy Wednesday :)

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Aw thank you!! You are so kind – and I really appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff!

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Jenny C. November 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

I get my workout capris from Target. They’re usually the super cheap ones, but I’ve never run into any issues. Then again, I wear solid colored underwear underneath and never really checked, but I don’t think they’ve turned see-through on me ever…

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carrie November 14, 2012 at 10:51 am

To fix the VPL problem in everyday life as well as workout life I switched to BOY SHORTS underwear. Be sure to get the kind that has a lace edge! Not only do I NOT have to pick my underwear out of my butt every time I do mountain climbers or squats, but I don’t have VPLs. And be sure to buy your boy shorts a size bigger or you will have a wedgie you will have to pick out of your teeth as soon as you breathe.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm

” And be sure to buy your boy shorts a size bigger or you will have a wedgie you will have to pick out of your teeth as soon as you breathe.” ROFL. I almost want to see this one in action.;)

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Kaelin November 14, 2012 at 11:08 am

Ugh, this is such a girl problem! Guys don’t have to deal with this stuff!!

I love love my Gap gfit capris (black and dark purple) that I picked up 2 or 3 years ago. They are thick and totally not see-through. I wear them for everything except running in warmer weather. I also have a pair of gfit tights for cold weather running.

I haven’t found a solution to the underwear situation that hasn’t left me chaffed or picking wedgies down there. I prefer the less is more route on this one.

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deb roby November 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

The xray Nikes are interesting, but would fail to show my awesome bionic hip! So they would be a lie. I’ll pass.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm

ROFL. Good point Deb!

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Happier Heather November 14, 2012 at 11:52 am

This issue is exactly why I prefer to do my workouts at home. Only those who see me at my worst (fiance, sister, etc) will see the see-through pants.

But, on the rare occasion I might decide to take a yoga class, I’ll keep these tips in mind. Thanks!

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Leth November 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I wear cute exercise pants from Vumawear (mostly the Margarita style). They’re expensive (about $100 a pair), but I can wear them several times a week for years and not have them rip or see through or anything. I’ve had three pairs for at least five years that haven’t faded, gone see through, or ripped, and they look like I just bought them yesterday. It may seem like a lot of money up front, but it also means you’re set for years!

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delia November 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I always have to have good pockets on my workout gear to hold my keys, phone etc., so I don’t wear the trendy pocketless shorts or black capris that I see everywhere. I do have some awesome Reebok shorts with two large side pockets and a smaller side zippered pocket that hold all my things. I have three different pair :). They cover me literally and figuratively.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I love it! Find what works for you – and then buy one in every color! That’s my motto;)

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Wendy T. November 14, 2012 at 7:43 pm

You all crack me up! I guess I’ve never had a see-through problem – maybe I’m lucky? Sometimes while I”m doing sit-ups, but undies slide up and my shorts slide down – not a pretty sight! I also usually only wear running shorts or skirts with the built in undies and my own undies underneath (can’t be too careful, right?). For whatever reason, I don’t like capris – too skin tight and make me feel self-conscious about my hips that bore three children.

On a note sorta related to buttcracks, I have a big ‘ole raw spot on my tailbone (at the very top of my crackage) that has come from doing sit-ups. Anyone else experience this? Any ideas on what I can do to prevent it?

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Cyndie November 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I get that raw spot too! I hope someone has some tips. Even when I use a super cushy mat, I still get it.
I’m another undie-wearer (ha!) when I work out. I hate VPL though. I found Commando underwear, and they have no panty line and are pretty comfortable. They’re pricey, but I just bought one pair, and then copied them and made my own for a fraction of the price.

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Marla-Deen November 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thought I was the only one getting the raw spot!! So glad I’m normal! It is especially bad after pilates and yoga boat poses! I’m also looking for tips for this one . . .

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Oooh it’s called a “posterior ulcer” and you are def. not the only one to get it! Gym Buddy Allison has this issue too. I did a whole post on this! http://www.thegreatfitnessexperiment.com/2008/07/nasty-side-effect-of-sit-ups.html

Good luck! I hear it’s really painful!

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Jody - Fit at 54 November 14, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Well…. I do wear undies all the time now under the workout tights.. I find the no line or ones that work & at my age, I don’t even care about panty lines anymore! ;)

I wear the Under Armour bike looking tights & they are fine for a while… I do not have many workout clothes so I do have to be careful due to many wears & washes… but the undies under help… plenty of workout undies that are great!

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Jess November 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Haha love that the jellybean was totally stoked to go boating. Poor thing. Not a fan of the x ray pants. I’ve never found a perfect solution, but definitely suffered through it. Definitely buy a size up and avoid cotton. Look for thicker fabrics. I always wear undies underneath, usually black. Id rather panty lines then crackage.

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Claire November 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I just wear undies and the right size pants. To be honest I really don’t care about VPL at the gym when I’m covered with sweat, bright red and have no make up on anyway…

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shelly November 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

I’m a big fan of the Gap’s ,leggings for fit and thickness. And I just generally wear a pair of dark non_thong underwear that I know to be weggie proof under my workout clothes. (let’s just say that thongs are a bacterial superhighway and I refuse to wear them.) Life is too short to worry about VPL!
Also, I LOVE that tennis skirt.

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Sylvie @ StruggleswithaFatA November 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Oh I love you, you’re the bestest! I learn so much from you. I had something more substantial to comment but I forgot what it was. I don’t think I’m a fan of the x-ray pants though.

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Stefanie November 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

I wear black workout capris all the time. Mine are from Target and Old Navy, but they seem to not stretch too much b/c the material is thick enough. I love crazy workout pants as well, but not sure about the x-ray pants! Talk about drawing attention to yourself!

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Di November 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Not a fan of the xray pants! But the most daring I get with running pants is grey (huge step from my usual black). Why? The sweaty groin patch that makes you look like you peed yourself = not pretty! I do own one pair of dark purple shorts, figured they were DARK so they were safe ;)

As for the stretchy “show and tell” (we all have our little names for it!) I cannot tell you how many times I see this. I work at the gym! I’ve seen it all. White leggings with black undies, overstretched black pants with neon green undies. Here’s a tip if I can see the color of your underwear it’s time to get new pants!
Whenever I buy new pants I do the squat/knee test. Go to the changing room, try on pants. Perform a series of squats checking out your ass in the mirrors. Repeat with high knee lifts and any other moves that stretch the material around your ass. If you can see skin through the material ditch them. I love champion and nike pants btw…

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LucyLawless November 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm
Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Annnnddd I just went and bought my first Lulu skirt! Thank you very much for that;) Seriously though – so excited to get it now!!

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Kat November 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Durn, now I’m paranoid about wearing my yoga bottoms into the weight room! It doesn’t help that I’m one of the few women in the free-weights part, and one of even fewer over 30. I get enough attention when I’m in the squat cage just for being there – I never considered the show I might be giving when squatting! And I’m a thong wearer, because I don’t want regular panties giving me 4 butt-cheeks!

This is going to require some thought and attentive shopping.

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Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Oh no! I’m not trying to give anyone a complex! I’m guessing that if you’ve never noticed an issue before you probably don’t have one! I am also not a 4-butt-cheek fan;)

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Heather too November 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

As opposed to wearing nude colored undies, I wear the color that matches my workout pants (generally black). This way, when the fabric stretches and fades, the black undies fill in the color gap!

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Courtney February 20, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Let me tell ya, I’ve been hunting for months for new pants. I’m a tiny girl with a cutie little booty and I NEVER thought this would be a problem!!! However, I too found out a few months ago from my loving fiancé, mid squat and buns to the gym about my transparent pantaloons. Now I test EVERY pair in the fitting room! (Yes, I’m the weirdo that does squats in the fitting room.) The biggest downside to this problem is there are not too many pants that work. I completely avoid Adidas, Victoria’s Secret are cute as long as your not doing anything serious, Aerie has the same problem, and many no-name brands are just a no go. I really wonder, are workout pants just for lounging these days? Nike isn’t bad, but I found most of their pants practically go up to my armpits. New Balance and Under Armor are great though. They’re just also expensive. I think I’m going to try your JCP suggestion next….wish me luck!!!

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Beth October 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I definitely can’t get away with the x-ray pants- being short means most of these stretchy pants come up past my bellybutton! I found the only pants that don’t show the “goods” are from Champion, their C9 line for Target has some reversible knee tights that are extra thick and as long as you get the black ones, also don’t show much sweat at all. I’ve bought a few different styles from that brand and had good luck, but I’d avoid the Power Core styles as they tend to show underwear even with the patterns. I’ve bought a few sets of their workout underwear on clearance too, they seem to really minimize most VPL.

I don’t really understand why so many workout companies keep making see through pants though. I find myself squatting in fitting rooms and asking whoever I am with if they see my underwear, even holding them up to the lights to see how transparent they are. I see so many cute things but I have no idea who wears them, and then I wonder if they know they are showing everything off.

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