This may seem like old hat to more experienced yogis, but for the beginner, choosing your first yoga "outfit" might be a bit daunting. While some women in particular take pride in their (often expensive and trendy) yoga clothes, you really can get away with some basic workout clothes that don't cost too much, especially when you are first starting out. Men in some respects have it easier and harder - there are fewer yoga clothes out there just for men, but a t-shirt and sweatpants will work just fine (more on why t-shirts don't work as well for women later).
Styles of yoga clothing will depend on the style of yoga, as well as the particular yoga studio you are attending. Certain teachers may inspire a certain "culture" in their classes that deviate from the yoga norm. When in doubt, go for modesty before you barge into a new class wearing short shorts and a workout bra (unless you are doing Bikram Yoga).
So the first thing to clarify is: What type of yoga class are you attending? Different styles of yoga need different uniforms. We'll first go over the exceptions before covering the basic "Hatha Yoga" wear.
Clothing for Specific Yoga Styles
Bikram Yoga/Hot Yoga: As little as possible. This is not done for show, but because you are in a hot room. Men usually wear shorts or a bathing suit bottom and no top. Women wear bathing suits, "hot pants" with a workout bra, or short bottoms with a light top utilizing moisture-wicking fiber. Try not to wear cotton, as it will get heavy with sweat - as in dripping, soaking wet. (See picture on right.)
Iyengar Yoga: General yoga clothing is fine for Iyengar Yoga, but because of the focus on alignment and form, wearing a tight-fitting leotard or legging for the legs is preferred. (This way the teacher can see your form better.) You can also get Iyengar shorts, which provide visibility as well as modesty by utilizing an elastic band around the legs (so they don't ride up or fly up when doing poses).
Chair Yoga: You are taking chair yoga because it is gentle. You will not be doing any really "out there" poses, so you can wear any somewhat loose clothes you are comfortable in. This includes plain old khakis and a button down shirt (as long as it's not too tight).
Kundalini Yoga: Loose-fitting, comfortable workout clothing. All white is preferred, but not required at regular classes. (All white with a head covering is required at White Tantric Yoga events.) Depending on where you take Kundalini Yoga, you may be in a sea of students with head coverings. (Los Angeles, for example, has lots of head coverings. Texas, not so much.) Head coverings can be full-on turbans or "bandana" style, but should (ideally) be white (though no-one is going to kick you out for wearing a blue turban). White in Kundalini Yoga is considered to be a healing color that uplifts the entire energy system. The head covering is to help protect the magnetic energy of the practitioner.
A note on modesty in Kundalini Yoga: Contrary to the image presented by Ana Brett in her Kundalini Yoga videos, most Kundalini Yoga teachers dress very modestly due to the Sikh influence on Kundalini Yoga. The most experienced Kundalini Yoga teachers will often be seen wearing full-length white pants and white shirts or dresses with a turban on their heads. Students are also encouraged to dress somewhat modestly in many Kundalini Yoga communities - though not as much as some of the teachers dress. Even in a city like Los Angeles, showing up to a Kundalini Yoga class wearing what Ana Brett wears in her videos - clothes that are skimpy and revealing even by Bikram standards, with nipples showing through the shirts - might get you some strange looks or stares, to say the least.
For example, in this photo below, you'll see many practitioners wearing Bermuda shorts at this outdoor Kundalini Yoga class, but even so, the dress tends towards modesty:
Clothing Guidelines for General Hatha Yoga
(This includes Hatha Yoga, Power Yoga, Hatha Flow, Vinyasa, and other Hatha variations)
Women should wear a sports top with shelf bra, or a workout bra with tank top. Do not wear a loose-fitting t-shirt as it will tend to fly up and expose you when you do any sort of inverted pose. For the bottom: sweatpants, leggings, crop leggings, knit workout shorts (but Bermuda length, not short shorts as in Bikram), and yoga pants (flared at the bottom) are all good choices. Some yoga clothing companies sell special yoga pants made out of a parachute-type material and zippers or slits on the legs. You can even wear loose-fitting drawstring linen pants, provided they allow full range of movement (some are made just for yoga).
Men can wear sweatpants and a t-shirt, of course. Tank tops also work. They can also wear yoga pants for men, many of which are made of linen and have a drawstring. Shorts can worn if they are Bermuda length and loose enough to allow movement. Men always have shirts on in regular yoga class, unlike Bikram, so don't show up to a regular yoga class shirtless.
Do not wear socks to hatha yoga classes, unless they are special yoga "toe" socks that have cut-outs for the toes and special "grippy" pads on the bottom to keep you from slipping.
Where to Get Yoga Clothes
A whole industry of yoga clothing companies have sprouted up. Many offer high-quality materials that are eco-friendly. These companies tend to be expensive, however, with prices for shirts sometimes ranging from $50-85 and pants at $80 and up.
For cheaper yoga clothes, you can check out discount clothing stores like Ross, SteinMart, and even WalMart, which has an arrangement with Danskin and offers decent yoga clothing for prices under $15. (Some readers may balk at the reference to big discount stores, but some of our other readers may simply not be able to afford expensive yoga clothing.)