Battle Stripes: Lululemon Wunder Under vs Athleta Stripe Contender

In honor of all the Food Network that a bunch of you likely watched over the holiday break, I’m copping inspiration for this post’s title from Iron Chef. Although, maybe a FOOD reference was a bad idea.

I am writing this intro from 35,000 feet (first rule of airplane internet is always tell people you have airplane internet), and was delayed for almost 4 hours on the ground after boarding. How does that relate to food? I got upgraded and was banking on breakfast being served to me around 8:15a. It’s now after 12pm and I’m hangry.

Anyway, you’re not here for my first world problems. You’re here for pictures of pants.

Lululemon played Santa and brought parallel stripes back on Christmas night, in the form of the Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight *Full-On Luxtreme ($98) – still available & the Wunder Under Hi-Rise Crop *Full-On Luon ($88) – which is now SOLD OUT. In a fit of FOMO, I anxiously and indecisively ordered both, plus the lazurite Pack it Down Again Jacket. Gift card from my Uncle didn’t even last 24 hours.

For a while now, Lulu’s signature “when the stripes do the thing” had been absent from their offerings. A long enough time passed that other brands (Athleta, Glyder) began to swoop in with doppelgängers. Athleta’s Stripe Contender 7/8 Tight ($66.99) seems to be the most popular of the lot, and I fell in love with them in March. A bunch of you felt the same way and pulled the trigger.

Now that lululemon’s risen up to steal your holiday money, I’ve now received the same question several times: how do Lululemon’s parallel stripes stack up to Athleta’s Stripe Contenders?

As soon as they got delivered, I shared an immediate one-on-one comparison over on my Instagram / IGTV Channel, a few days ago. Now that I’ve had some time to properly photograph the lulu pieces, it’s time for a true visual side by side, not my sitting on the floor of my spare bedroom rambling like an idiot.

FRONT

Head on, there are the obvious differences to the educated eye. The color and stripe thickness vary, and the seam across the front sits a little bit lower on the lululemon. But to your clueless boyfriend/husband: they look like the same pants, babe.

SIDES & STRIPES

Here’s where it gets jazzy. Athleta’s tights have more paneling and strategic features, intended for functionality. Lululemon stays horizontal throughout, minimizing seams.

The WUC & WUP are intended for yoga, while the Contenders want you to take them for a run. They’re more compressive, have a drawstring to keep them up and multiple pockets to keep your keys & goos in check.

STRIPES DOING WHAT STRIPES DO

Let’s get to the real reason all of us keep going back to horizontally striped pants. The rear view.

The rise on Athleta’s tights is slightly lower, and much tighter. Think of the fit like a sport two-piece swimsuit. In order to stay put, it’s got to be a bit tighter in order not to move.

Athleta? Mini muffin (top) for the slightly squishy person like me. Necessary evil of pants that stay up when you do things. Lululemon? NO MUFFINS IN THIS BAKERY.

THREE’S A CROWD

If only there were two pieces in the equation… but there are not. Going through a set of Athleta fitting room photos from this fall, I realize there’s a third player in the game: Athleta’s Elation Virasana 7/8 Tight ($89).

Shown here is an M. Not going to lie, these run a bit snug. My issue with Athleta is that their number sizes work great… but when they pull the S/M/L thing, an L is always too big but M makes me feel a little like a sausage.

Once I squeezed into the M shown above (they fit like Spanx if any of you have any of their leggings), I looked and felt like a million bucks. The only reason I didn’t get them that day was because I only had ONE 20% coupon and the Stash Pocket Moto Tight on the brain. I was TRYING to be kinda financially responsible. Which sounds like total BS seeing that this post only exists because I spent almost $200 on practically identical pants/crops, that look incredibly similar to something perfectly good that I already own. Because I couldn’t decide on a difference of 8″ in length. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

Speaking of fiscal responsibility… if you’re an XXS there’s a fourth player in the game, Athleta’s cropped version, the Stripes Chaturanga Capri on sale for just $29.99.

So what’s your point, Katy? Are the Wunder Unders worth it if I already own the Stripe Contenders?

It depends what you want them for.

For Running, CrossFit, and the ability store things: Stripe Contender 7/8 Tight

For Yoga, Spin class or looking hot on Instagram: Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight

For feeling super sucked in, also looking hot on Instagram: Elation Virasana 7/8 Tight

Does writing this drawn out post help me decide whether I should keep the pants or the crops?

Ha! Nope. You?

23 comments

  1. I bought the xxs athleta chaturanga capri (hello, $29.99!!!) before the lll came out. I prefer the wider stripes on the athleta, but MUCH prefer the high rise of the wunder unders. Tbf to athleta, although I can squeeze into the xxs, I’d probably be better off in the xs…add in holiday (over)eating and the muffin top struggle is real.

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    • High five on the Athleta deal! I’m a little fluffy at the moment too – definitely have to wear a looser top with the Contenders until I get my fitness act together again. Oops.

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  2. Judging from the pics, I have to say that Athleta pieces win out. The contender tights are suuuuper flattering, and the Elation tights look great too. The PS look good, just I guess kinda ehh?

    I have the original PS WUP that i had hemmed into high times length. I didn’t spring for this release even though I love lux and the hi-rise. I’ll enjoy my OG PS!

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    • I honestly thought lulu was the winner until I put the photos side by side. Now I’m trying to figure out if Athleta wins or is my holiday fluffiness partly to blame for slight difference in the photos. Hmmmm

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  3. Wished I’d tried the Athleta ones before they sold out as I like the look of them in comparison. I just got my lululemon striped crops today and they immediately went back. Stripes were just OK, look better on model and on you but on me, meh not worth it would rather get something I love.

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  4. I also sent back the lazurite Pack it Down Again Jacket as it felt cheap and was HUGE for LULU items on me and was just so unflattering. Huge disappointment as the color was beautiful, just not worth it. It seems like that is happening to me more and more and I am not keeping that many things which I guess is good!

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    • Really? Bummer to hear about your experience, I’m loving that Pack It Down Again so far. Torso fits great even though I feel the shoulders are cut a bit small. Definitely not too big on me, even with sizing up to a 10.

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      • Well I think part of it was that I am just too short and it stuck out at the bottom in a not so great way. I am only 5 3 and I think it’s meant for a taller person like you, glad you like it! I hope they come out with other items in that blue, a huge favorite!

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      • Saw jacket on instagram, looks GREAT on you, great purchase for you! Wishing it would have worked for me I love the color, but it’s only for those who are tall sadly.

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  5. I love this! Thank you for the in-depth review. I love the look of athleta but the fit was off for me so fingers are crossed for the wup. They’re both awesome but I feel like Athleta’s are more flattering.

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  6. I have the elations and contenders, XS in both! Between the two my vote is for elations because I don’t care for navy or mid-rises haha. I love the actual structure and seaming of the contenders (about to grab the new neon orange pair and maybe yellow too!) I used to have the old chat capris also but I gave them away because I wasn’t wearing them enough (I’m 5’6″ – true mid rise and capris are both generally no gos!) I haven’t tried the lulus – I mainly get sale prices sports bras and shorts from them now.

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  7. I love the stripes! I wanted a pair but have soooo many leggings but today I found a pair at the Gap outlet store that look just like the Lululemon ones for under $10! Score!

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  8. Love this post! I really want some striped leggings and was excited to see the parallel stripes on Lululemon’s website.
    I think the Athleta striped contender tights looks great on you, but Athleta sizing doesn’t work for me. Their number sizes are great in jeans, but I’m in between sizes in their S, M, L. The fit isn’t quite right and I definitely need high rise to help with the mid section.
    I’m hoping Lululemon will come out with more strip options in different colors.

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    • The stripe contenders are admittedly a little snug, but that also means they stay put during workouts. Full length lulu tights ALWAYS fall down on me because the legs aren’t tight enough compared to the hips/midsection.

      I’ve got my fingers crossed that more stripey options come out of lululemon soon, I love patterns that can be woven into the fabric, instead of printed on, and we’re seeing a ton of that lately.

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  9. I have the elation and chaturanga Athleta versions and love them – nice compression and the stripes match in all the right places. I used to have the original Parallel WU crops but sold them a few years ago as they weren’t compressive and I didn’t think the spacing on the stripes was attractive enough. I looked at the Luxtreme versions but am very happy with my Athleta pieces – I wear them often. I think the elation looks great on you and my experience is that the waist band loosens up a bit with wear.

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    • After reading your comment about how the waistband eventually gives a little bit, I totally went back to Athleta hoping a rogue pair was still kicking around the store somewhere. No dice 😦

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  10. I purchased the Athleta striped Contenders when they were on clearance because I’ve been wanting stripes and Athleta tends to fit me a little better than Lululemon, as they make petite sizes. Sometimes, even with hemming, Lulu pieces feel a tad too big on me. However, after I bought the Contenders (which are GREAT, I love them), the Gap black and white striped leggings appeared as a FB ad and I snagged them for 40% off. (I saw them at the outlet too, right before Black Friday, and I’m still kicking myself for passing them up.) I’m still waiting on those, but my experience is that Gap and even Old Navy leggings fit very similarly to Athleta leggings with the same great level of compression, so I’m optimistic!

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