Here it is: as a self-proclaimed EXPERT of yoga pants, I have complied a brief comparison and review of some of my most oft-worn leggings from the studio to the street. Lululemon vs Alo Yoga vs Senita Athletics vs Gold Sheep vs Teeki! (FYI I am not being sponsored for this post nor partnering with any of these brands for this post)
Why I'm qualified to give you the low down: I worked at lululemon for 2 years, an athletic/running store that stocked various running and yoga brands for 2 years and have taught yoga, Pilates and barre in said brands for 9+ years. I also never wear jeans and pretty much live in leggings, so I wear the heck out of them. Through trial and expert and a little insider knowledge, I'll tell you my honest, unbiased thoughts. Keep in mind I am a petite, athletic short-torso'ed mom of 2 so these reviews are based on the fabric, fit, performance and my body type.
Along with the aforementioned brands, I wear some Senita Athletics, Nike, Athleta, Blue Life and Namastetics, but the four I'm comparing are my favorites, and seem to have a longer life than the other brands in my closet, and fit and perform better.
Sizing: for your info/sizing help, My waist is 25.5", hips around 33" and I am a 4 in lululemon bottoms which equates to an XS, XS in Alo, XS fits best in Senita, and S in Gold Sheep. I like my pants to be snug but not too tight; I can't stand skin hanging over a waistband at all. I also do the bend test to be sure pants are not sheer in the rear: this is clear sign your pants are a size too small, or that the fabric is thin/cheap
Now for the top 5.
1. lululemon is king. And not just because I worked there; in my experience their pants stand the test of time for the most part. Note the fabric though; rulu lasts a long time and is super soft, and the new buttery nulu is one of my favorites (featured in the Align pants) as is luxtreme, the best for Wunder Unders; I wear these pretty much daily, and the fabric is still sleek. Their more original luon fabric is my least favorite; it tends to pill faster and just look older and I dislike the thickness. When cared for correctly (more on this below), it lasts years and years; I have a couple pairs from 8 years ago when I worked there that you would never know they are more than a year old; and that is with frequent wear. They used to be on the more expensive side, but now there are tons of even more expensive options out there that in my opinion, perform the same or worse. $98 doesn't seem so bad when you look and feel amazing and they last years (and can be worn in and out of the studio).
2. Alo Yoga. I love this one too, and along with lululemon, they offer a good instructor discount. Even with the discount though, it can get pricey; I recommend scoping out Amazon when you find a pair you like. You can't beat deals like $76 for this sleek pair that retail on the site for over $110. My only issue with Alo is that sometimes pants with features like unique stitching and mesh cutouts can be a little itchy at the accent spots; they are not quick as sleek as lululemon in seamlessly incorporating details. But also keep in mind my skin is extra sensitive; for many of you this would not be an issue.
3. Senita Athletics. I love their price point first of all, and obsession with side pockets second, but when it comes down to it, they wear faster than Alo and lulu. They will pill and show wear at the seams faster than any brand I've tried, so bear in mind that though the price and fit and style may be fantastic, you will wear through them faster. They also tend to loosen up in my opinion; I find myself pulling them up a lot. So just keep this as mind as you compare; I know clearance tights are hard to resist! I do love their sports bras with the pocket in the back, though.
4. Gold Sheep. Can't tell you what's behind the name but I can tell you they are luxurious-feeling on those stems. Smooth and sleek, yet watch out--they snag easier than any pair I've owned. Literally the first day I took barre in my pair, a little rough skin on my hand--not a nail--scratched them and made a little snag. From far away they look great; up close, not so much. Also they are a little loose around the ankles which bugs me. They also fit fine in the waistband area but seem a little roomy in the crotch and tight on the quads. If you have a petite frame and with strong legs, you may want to skip this brand. For the standard price of $80-100, never again for me.
5. Teeki. These are on the thinner side, but they come in some of the most unique and fun patterns I have seen (like these!). They also have a great life; no pilling at all, and hold together well. The price point is about on par with Alo Yoga: these come in at under $80. A fun option for yoga, but the waistband slips some and I don't wear these for casual daily wear, like I do with my lululemon or Alo leggings. I do love that they are mostly made with eco-friendly materials, though!
How to care for your leggings:
-NEVER wash with towels, denim or anything with velcro or zippers: this causes instant pilling
-Wash on delicate with cold water only.
-Lay flat to dry (best way) or tumble on low, with only similar items (what I do because #momlife, no time to lay everything flat around the house!).
-Do not use fabric softeners (this ruins technical fabrics/takes away wicking-sweat ability).