New York For the past two years Eliza Smith has been strutting past the steamy windows of a local yoga studio in New York City dressed in her yoga pants and matching camisoles.
But she's never set foot inside.
"Maybe it's the fear of the unknown," she says. "It looks so complicated and scary."
Smith is one of many women who have adopted athletic and particularly yoga-inspired looks for their everyday outfits but may not know the difference between Warrior One and Downward Facing Dog.
Smith pulled on her slim-cut yoga pants about two years ago when she grew tired of regular, bulkier sweatpants. She says the yoga pants were a lot more feminine than other athletic clothes which had big waistbands and bunched up in the back.
Manufacturers and retailers are taking note of the feminine trend in all women's clothing from undergarments to workout wear, says Maria Lorenzo, the president of Lab Sports. But, she adds, women also are looking for a functionality that works in their busy lives.
Lab Sports' line of skirts, pants, tank tops and dresses are intended to work well both in a gym and an office. "Other sportswear that I saw was very male and very baggy," she says. "It seemed as if someone had taken their clothes and scaled them down for women."
Yoga "fashion" is becoming more mainstream, even at the highest levels. For instance, supermodel Christy Turlington is on the cover of October Vogue in bow pose, a yoga posture in which she is lying on her stomach and pulling her feet toward her head. Turlington has been practicing yoga since 1988 and she launched her line of yoga clothes, Nuala, in 2000.
Infusing yoga into fashion might be a good match for an industry that is centered around fleeting ideas, such as beauty and celebrity, says Sally Singer, the fashion news and features director at Vogue.
Singer says the poses for the cover and the accompanying article were Turlington's idea.
"I think that Christy just wants to share something that helped her cope with a lot of things in her life like the death of her father, her identity after modeling as well as her relationships," Singer says.
Singer compares the current mainstream interest in yoga to what went on in the 1960s and '70s when the Beatles and other famous people were running off to India to meet with gurus. Back then, people were trying to make sense of the Vietnam War, she observes, and now they are grappling with last year's terrorist attacks and their aftermath.
"It's been a year in which people have been looking for more meaningful activities," Singer says. "They're looking for a way to re-center and yoga's not a bad way to do it."
Designer Donna Karan recently has taken to a more simple outlook on clothing and life. She practices yoga for three hours every morning. Her casual Body Spa line was designed to fit every activity of a woman's life.
Using cotton, nylon and Lycra, Karan created a line of tank tops, leggings, capri pants and T-shirts that are as flexible as the people wearing them, and that layer easily to make an easy transition from a yoga class to the street. The clothes are sold at mainstream stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
"When Donna designed this line, she thought about the sorts of things she would need to pack if she were going to a spa," says Patti Cohen, a spokeswoman for Donna Karan.
Nike has come out with what the company calls the Kyoto, a lightweight yoga shoe that is meant to be worn en route to yoga classes. (Yoga is usually practiced barefoot and often without a mat.)
Kyoto, though, is the name of a city in Japan. The Japanese don't often practice yoga, which is an ancient Hindu tradition. Lindsi Miller, a spokeswoman for Nike, says that the company is aware that yoga is a southeast Asian practice, not Japanese.
She says that the shoe was inspired by the designer's trip to Japan. Zen gardens influenced the texture of the shoe and an Issey Miyake dress inspired the richness of the fabric. It wraps around the foot much like a kimono would wrap around a body.
Once in class, yogis can wear Nike catsuits that retail at around $80 or yoga pants that retail for $100.