Cotton On has seriously piqued my curiosity for a while now. As someone whose wardrobe leans verrrrry casual, their mostly jeans-, graphic tee- and loungewear-centric aesthetic speaks right to my soul. Combined with denim that seems to be substantial in its construction, claims of ethical and environmental responsibility (activewear made from coffee grounds??), and a super-accessible price point, I had to know: what’s the real deal with Cotton On?
Is Cotton On Legit? A Review Of Their Cute, Affordable Lounge & Activewear
So I ordered a haul — they do offer free returns, after all — to find out for myself: What is Cotton On’s sustainability story? How does the quality compare to the price point? And what the heck is the deal with the sizing?
The reviews for almost every piece are annoyingly — maybe even suspiciously? — vague on this front. The denim is Misses sizing, with a size range from 0-14, but most styles seem to start at 2 and top out at 10 or 12 — with the models most often wearing a size 6. I found it all thoroughly confusing. (Note: they do have a plus-size line called Curve that spans sizes 16-24, but there aren’t many styles that overlap both the straight and plus-size collections.)
Oh, and when it really comes down to it, Cotton On’s models most definitely skew young, so am I just…too…uhhh, old for this stuff?
In the end, I took the easy route and avoided all that Misses sizing entirely, opting to dive headfirst into the Cotton On world of activewear and loungewear. Below, an honest review of just that. (And coming soon: all things denim — I promise.)
Cotton On Love You A Latte Line:
Activewear Made From Recycled Coffee Grounds
I intended to review Cotton On first and foremost for the denim, and then I caught wind of the Love You A Latte line of sustainable activewear made from recycled coffee grounds aaaand was immediately distracted. One, because it just sounds cool. (More on that in a minute.) Two because this dotty pattern sang to me big time. Which is perplexing as all hell because Chris claimed it was “creepy,” and yet I’m as trypophobic as they come (I mean…almost debilitatingly sensitive), and this doesn’t trigger me in the least. It’s cute, friends. Real cute.
As for those recycled coffee grounds, apparently they result in a fabric that’s fast-drying, odor-absorbing and UV reflecting. All good things! But what about production? According to the Cotton On website, the recycled coffee grounds are processed in a “high-temperature, high-pressure environment to make yarn” which is then woven into various fabrics. (Read more — albeit not much more — about it here; shop the full Love You A Latte collection here.)
Now, to me, “high-temperature, high-pressure” automatically sounds potentially energy intensive, so I dug in a little, and other clothing manufacturers who tout the same recycled fibers specify that their activewear is made in a low temperature environment that reduces CO2 emissions. Hmmmm.
I imagine only a certain number of facilities are producing these fabrics, so Cotton On is either working with a vendor that genuinely uses a lesser publicized, more energy-intensive production method — orrrrrrr Cotton On’s fabric is made using the same low-temperature process and their copywriter slipped up. Since Patagonia, North Face and a handful of other companies notorious for their sustainability models are also using recycled coffee ground fabrics in some of their garments, I’m going to give Cotton On the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter. Which I really hope is the case, because there’s a lot to like about these pieces — especially for the price.
Key Takeaways: At full price, these Love You A Latte 7/8 Active Tights retail for $34.99, the Love You A Latte Reversible Veslette — hi, new favorite word — retails for $19.99. (As I write this, they’re on sale for $15 and $10, respectively.) Are they the same luxe quality as Athleta, Lululemon or even Zella? No. The fabric isn’t quite as thick or compressive, but it is performance-oriented (assuming all that coffee talk is the real deal) and the features feel like a serious value add. I love the ruching at the ankles on the leggings (my photos don’t do it justice, but you can see it better here), and I do appreciate the pockets — and the contouring seams, especially around the booty, are pretty damn good.
My absolute favorite feature, though, is the reversible vestlette. I adore an activewear top that has an added “pretty” feature, so getting twice the wear of out of this one with the feminine racerback detail makes me all sorts of happy. (More colors here, but I’m not confident the style with a back pocket fits the same as the style with side pockets; see below for details.)
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs, and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. Per reviews (which were very vague but still mostly consistent), I bought both pieces in a size Small — the higher end of my normal size range — and found them to fit as expected.
Key Takeaways: What’s the difference between a Vestlette and a Vestlet, you ask? I wonder the same thing. I fear it’s yet another copyediting oversight — or maybe a casualty of trying to cater to consumers in both British and American English. But that’s not the point here. The point here is that Cotton On is really winning at the cropped athletic top game. Granted, this Ruched Vestlet is not the most supportive top, but for a mat workout — lovely. And so pretty. (You can even redistribute the ruching for more or less coverage in the front, though doing so does affect the length of the straps in the back.) I wouldn’t hesitate to own this in several colors — especially the Punch Pink — and could see wearing it under looser sweaters all year long, or even in place of a bikini top on beach days. At the full price of $19.99 (currently on sale for $10!), another solid buy.
These tights are another story. These are supposedly the same pants as above with a few different features, and while I love the reflective striping and the hidden back pocket, these feel thinner than the ones above (you can faintly see the outline of one of the interior tags in the butt pic below) — and I had to seriously shimmy into them. They fit just fine once they were up, but it seems almost like the thread used for stitching isn’t as elastic as the fabric, so I was afraid I’d pop a stitch (or 20) in the waist getting them over my bum/hips. Maybe this is a sizing inconsistency, or maybe the strange fit is exclusive to styles with the back pocket versus the side pockets like the ones I tried on and loved above. (Happily, most of the colors are the side pocket style.)
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs, and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. Per reviews (which very vague but mostly consistent), I bought both pieces in a size Small — the higher end of my normal size range. The top was perfect — and as I mentioned above, the straps/ruching detail make the fit somewhat modifiable. The bottoms were a little tight throughout, but especially in the waist. I think this sizing could be exclusive to colors with the back pocket; the side pocket style that I tried on above fit as expected for a size Small.
Cotton On Performance Activewear & Loungewear
While I was initially drawn to Cotton On’s activewear because of the whole recycled coffee grounds thing, that makes up a pretty small percentage of their workout and loungewear offerings. Some of the activewear, in particular, is labeled “made with recycled fibers,” but outside of the Love You A Latte collection, I’m not sure exactly what that means. I do know there were plenty of cute pieces that caught my eye — enough that I added them to the haul — so the investigation continues below.
Key Takeaways: Anything labeled “ultimate” invites skepticism, but these two pieces are solid. Neither claims to be made with recycled materials, but both deliver on fit. The top (oh look, we’re back to vestlette) isn’t hugely inventive, but I like the interest that the cut-out adds. Decently supportive, and available in a few other colors, too (pink, white, lavender). But the booty shorts sure do pop dat butt. I love that they fit almost like real cycling shorts (yes, the kind with the chamois built-in — although to be clear, these have no padding) but they’re a thick, unlined, laser-cut fabric with seams in all the right places. Super comfy.
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. Wearing a Small in both pieces.
Cotton On Lifestyle Seamless Yoga Short & Ash Crop Tank
Key Takeaways: Holy crap, pals — at first blush, these Seamless Yoga Shorts are FREAKING GORGEOUS. I am in love with the washed boysenberry hue (it’s like the Clinique Black Honey of pants!), the seamless ribbed waistband and the stitched details. I honestly want to wear these and only these — preferably with a bit of a tan — forever and ever. OK, maybe I’d be persuaded to buy a few other colors, too. I want to love them that much.
My issue is that I fear they might have the potential to creep up in the crotch. Legs apart — fine. Although, aside from my old flat-footed Ken doll, who stands like that? But as soon as you move a bit in them, the creeping/creasing begins. Maybe it’s the color. I genuinely love it, but would these offenses be less apparent in boring ol’ black or — ooooh, navy? I’m just not certain it’s worth it to find out. But then again, they’re a limited risk at $19.99…
Not a lot to say about the crop tank other than the fact that it’s perfect for layering under sweaters or hanging around the house. I wouldn’t call it a sports bra — not enough support — but in theory you could wear an actual bra with it, which puts it into official top territory. Keeping this one for all the layering and lounging potential.
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. Wearing the shorts in an XS/S (I honestly love the forgiving nature of combo sizing for pieces like this). Crop top is a Small and fits TTS.
Cotton On Cropped Muscle Tank
Key Takeaways: Fine for a layered workout tank, loved the potential for a matching set. Loads of colors, all garment-dyed which feels a little higher-end. Was hoping sizing up would give it enough extra fabric to also be knotted, but as you can see, that’s just a ridiculous look. Better off wearing it as intended with the slightly high-low hem. Made from 40% cotton, 60% recycled polyester.
Sizing: I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and waver between an XS/S. I went with the Small thinking it would be more versatile, but ultimately I think an XS would fit a little closer to the body with less gaping armholes.
Cotton On The Lounge Pant & Isla Seamless Cami
Key Takeaways: Torn on these The Lounge Pants because I love the fit (you can easily wear them higher or lower without them riding up in the crotch or looking too dumpy), but for $30, you could probably find something comparable at Old Navy or Target. That said, I continue to be intrigued by Cotton On’s “Doing Good” initiatives, so if I have a chance to support a brand that is investing in both people and the planet, so much the better. If you don’t already have something similar in your closet (or laundry day is coming atcha a little too hot these days), a worthy add. Would I place an order for these and these alone? Probably not.
As for the Isla Seamless Cami, I didn’t realize how much I needed a piece like this in my wardrobe. I love wearing camis under sweaters and sweatshirts, but I hate fussing with tucking them in. Previously, this led me down the bodysuit route, but turns out a cropped cami (duh, Emily) is the way to go. This color is equal parts earthy and romantic — it’s also available in black, taupe and a handful of other colors — and the seamless construction is the perfect weight. Not a lot of support, so it’s not going to replace a bra in that respect, but if you’re all down with bras!!, it’s a good move. And on sale for $7.
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. Following reviews, I went with the smaller of my usual sizes for the pants and snagged an XS, but based on the fit, I think a Small would have worked fine, too. Unfortunately, I’m not feeling like these bottoms would give you tall gals the length you crave, especially if they were to shrink at all in the wash. The top is combo-sized and the XS/S is TTS.
Cotton On Super Soft Draw Cord Crew, Pocket Short & Slim Fit Pants
I am always skeptical of anything labeled “super-soft” if it’s a synthetic knit — it just so often leads to pillsville. (The exception so far: this sweater, which isn’t marketed as super-soft, but I’ve proclaimed it as such.) So of course when I saw Cotton On’s line of Super Soft loungewear, I picked up a few to try.
Key Takeaways: So the pros — these pieces (all featured in the Magnet Blue, by the way) really are supersoft, and not in a “snags on your dry skin, flame-retardant kiddo pjs” kinda way. I really like the cinched waist style of the Super Soft Draw Cord Crew — it’s blousey, drapey, forgiving. A little bit elegant even though it’s undoubtedly loungey. Although how many drawstrings at the waist is too many drawstrings?
The Super Soft Pocket Shorts are comfy, even if they skew pretty short. And the look together? Well, I’m just a sucker for a set that pairs long sleeves with short shorts. The Super Soft Slim Fit Pants are exactly what’d you’d expect them to be and make for a cute matching set option, too. But I do feel like there’s the potential for pilling here, so I’m not 100% sold. Prices are $24.99 for the top (currently on sale for $15), $19.99 for the shorts, $29.99 for the pants. For $75, I’d probably put my dollars into a single loungewear piece that would hold up better over time.
And this waffle knit top? I bought it for the cute back, but ultimately…pass. The construction is pretty chintzy, and whatever drew me to this particular yellow color online doesn’t translate well in person. Creamy yellow heathered with muddy gray. Not ideal — especially on me. Loads of other colors if you can’t resist it, though — and it’s on sale for $10. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Sizing: I’m 5’5″ with a thicker waist, ample booty and athletic thighs, and wear a 25/26 or an XS/S in most bottoms. Up top I’m a 34C with strong shoulders and also waver between an XS/S. I sized down to an XS for the pants and the top since both seemed adequately roomy; I went with the Small in the shorts hoping to take advantage of juuust a bit more length.
Cotton On 90s T-Shirt Nightie
sleep shirt (wearing an XS)
Threw this one in just for funsies, and it’s a total keeper. I’ve long been a tee-and-undies sleeper (that is until Chris got me these ridiculously luxe washable silk jammies for Christmas), so it’s no exaggeration when I say this 90s T-Shirt Nightie is going to become one of the most worn-things I’ve ever owned. Loads of other band graphics available. Wearing an XS, which initially seems giant, but it did shrink a little in the length after washing.
So in sum? I think my cautious optimism appropriately metered my expectations. Cotton On isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means, but there are some gems here, especially for the price point. Extremely curious how the denim will stack up (spoiler alert: I’m about halfway through try-ons, and it’s also been hit or miss, but some of the hits are GOOD) — so stay tuned, folks.
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!
Oh hey, Pinners…