When it comes to workout wear, there are two basic approaches. One is to focus solely on comfort and function—right down to that pair of sweats you inherited from your brother and the T-shirt you (finally!) earned in Camel Cash. The other side of the coin cares as much for the look of their activewear as they do the rest of their wardrobe, but sometimes compromises ultimate functionality for style.

I certainly favor the latter approach, but I still find myself hanging on to crap that I would never appear in on the street, figuring it's "good enough for the gym." That, and I have a reluctance to invest in workout clothing when I could be spending that money on going-out clothes or (god love them) shoes. It's that dingy corner of my closet that has most nagged at me lately, as I watched the crotch fall out of my one pair of flatteringly fitted workout pants, and the elastic loosen on my one mediocre sports bra.

Just as things are becoming rock-bottom bad in my personal activewear department, two things have come along almost simultaneously to perk me up. First, I saw the movie Step Up. While a perfectly enjoyable and inconsequential teen flick, it also takes place in an art school and centers around a dancer, reminding me that one of my favorite looks of all time is that of a dancer's nonchalant hybridization of streetwear and dance gear, like a leotard and leggings with a fitted jacket, bohemian print skirt, and dancer's heels, with a scarf—always a scarf!—and a post-pirouette chignon, perfectly mussed. See the flick to get inspired, then avoid the mall in your quest for that perfect little dancer sweater: Try The Glass Slipper (3106 NE Broadway) or haul out to Beaverton's Dance Togs (3835 SW Hall) for authentic gear. French ballerinas design Repetto shoes, and they kick ass. I found mine at Odessa (410 SW 13th).

The other cause for my workout-wear excitement is the fall fashion show being put on this week by Physical Element (1124 NW Lovejoy). Opened three and a half years ago by Jo Carter, this store is Portland's best, hands down, when it comes to activewear that's both comfortable and stylish—almost everything in the store can be worn both on the street and on the track.

No disrespect to hometown Goliaths Nike and Adidas, but we all tire of logos. And Lucy (1015 NW Couch), with its similar inspiration and lower price point, is all fine and good, but with locations nationwide, it doesn't fit the bill for our preferred mode of locally focused shopping.

But Carter, who has a background that includes working for Jantzen Apparel, really runs Physical Element like the chic, indie boutique it is, seeking out smaller, independent, and difficult-to-find lines. For instance, this fall she's looking forward to the arrival of several small lines from France, like Cop.Copine and Deca, and describes both as "funky, asymmetrical, and urban." Also look forward to yoga silhouettes in "dusty couture" colors from Tonic, and functional outdoor coats from Lole.

As for the fall show, Carter has deviated from her usual beat of small, independent design lines, and is debuting the Adidas by Stella McCartney collection, making Physical Element the only store where Portlanders can get their hands on it, short of a trek to Seattle or San Francisco. It's understandable that she made the exception and fell for the big-name label. McCartney's collaboration with the brand is the sharpest example of sporty functionality and (logo-free) drop-dead glamour you've likely ever seen. (And it's definitely too good to keep hidden in the gym.) Showing a total of 20 looks, the show will also feature new pieces from prAna, Lole, Spoken, and Karma.

Another twist to the show will be that the models are dancers from the local BodyVox dance company, who will be dancing their way down the runway, demonstrating the way the clothing moves on an active body. Accompanying them will be DJ StayInSchool, and refreshments will be available. (Umpqua Bank, 1139 NW Lovejoy, Thurs Aug 17, 6:30 pm, free)

Drop by the store whenever you're in the neighborhood, as they are constantly getting new arrivals, many from beyond this continent, to mix and match with the local designs they also carry (Dervish, WeMa, Style Sister Studio, Erin McCloud), and eliminate the division between streetwear and gym clothes. Just add a scarf.

You got to work to make it work. marjorie@portlandmercury.com