Exercise dresses are super popular, and for a good reason: They are a no-fuss, easy-to-wear option that can seamlessly go from studio to street to the super popular brunch spot without missing a beat.
It’s basically your favorite pair of leggings—sweat-wicking, stretchable, and uber-comfy— in a fun, flowy and much less constrictive form.
“Exercise dresses are transitional,” says Deja Riley, a Lululmon ambassador, Mirror trainer, and dancer who spent years getting her groove on for A-listers like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.
“I can go from brunch with my friends to my favorite workouts, then to run some errands all while looking and feeling good,” she says.
“Plus, they usually come with a few hidden pockets, so I can move around the city with my hands-free, which is ideal.”
How to pick an exercise dress
When it comes to shopping for an exercise dress (or really any sort of workout gear), experts tend to agree that it’s all about fit, fabric quality, functionality, and feeling good.
While this is a personal measurement, you know when something fits well and when it doesn’t.
“You want to be as comfy as possible when working out because ultimately you’re there to move your body,” says Gabi Gregg, a designer, influencer, and Athleta ambassador.
Focusing on the workout is the goal, rather than being distracted by straps that slip, built-in shorts that ride up, overly restrictive gear, or a too-short dress that you spend an entire workout tugging on because you feel like you are exposing yourself.
For Gregg, she personally likes a balance of comfort and support.
“I want things that hold me in so that I can move easily yet still support me so my body isn’t constantly bouncing as I move.”
You also want to consider the type of workout you are actually doing before investing in a good workout dress.
Some modalities call for different fits, according to Riley.
“When I’m dancing, I like to reach for something looser so that I can be really in touch with my body and feel the movements, and when I’m boxing, indoor cycling, or doing HIIT training, I like something tighter to keep me feeling secure,” Riley says. “Whatever I’m wearing though, stretch is a must.”
Whether you are powering through an AMRAP or doing the 100s in Pilates, you want a well-constructed garment that’s strong enough to meet the needs of the workout, but still feels great against the skin.
Gregg suggests buttery soft fabrics that breathe.
And just as you use the good-old squat test for leggings to see if they are thick enough, the same strategy can and should be used for an exercise dress to see if the fabric you are donning is see-thru or not. Better to know up front than to be sorry during your next exercise class.
Does the exercise dress do what it claims to do? For the most part that simply means managing excess moisture and then having a fabric that dries quickly. Look, no one wants to be saddled with a sweat-soaked garment, especially if post-workout you have errands to run.
Also, does the fabric breathe? Feeling like you are having a heat stroke in your gear will surely affect your performance (Translation: No PRs today!).
Clothes are powerful. How you look and feel in them can really make or break a workout.
“I think most people, like me, are taking a more holistic approach to fitness and wellness,” says Riley.
“You can’t do your best without feeling your best, so taking that extra effort to make yourself feel and look good while still being functional in your daily practice goes such a long way.”
Keeping the suggestions of our pros in mind, here are 10 dresses that you might want to cozy up to this summer.
The thing we love most about this tennis dress from Willit? The sleek and supportive shorts are detachable, which means you don’t have to shimmy out of the entire thing when the urge to use the bathroom hits.
OK, and it has all the traditional things we’ve come to love in an exercise dress: a built-in bra with removable cups, hidden pockets large enough for your phone, and a breathable nylon-spandex blended fabric that expertly manages sweat. Did we mention it’s also comfy enough to lounge around in all day, too?
From playing tennis to enjoying a picnic in the park with your significant other, the versatility of this Outdoor Voices dress makes it a must-have wardrobe staple.
Not to mention with this pick, you get the same great, light-as-air dress that caught everyone’s eye when it debuted in 2018 (and basically ushered in this whole dress movement we’re in the midst in now), but with a few key upgrades: adjustable straps, pockets big enough to fit your smartphone, and elastic grippers on the built-in bodysuit to keep it from riding up. Choose from six colorful hues.
Available in extended sizing, this Nike exercise dress gives you the best of both worlds: a short knit bodysuit with a built in bra that hugs and supports your frame and a lightweight outer layer that keeps all of your goods under wraps.
The best part, though, is that this frock is eco-friendly—it’s made with recycled polyester—so not only will you look good during your next HIIT class, but you’ll be helping out the planet too. We call that a win-win!
When outdoor adventures call—be it fishing or hiking—you’ll be ready with this flattering alfresco find.
Not only does the silky, smooth fabric contain a 50 UPF rating, which helps protect against the sun’s harmful rays, but your sweat will activate a special cooling technology in the fabric that will chill you out—literally.
Even better, this workout dress by Columbia, which comes in an assortment of colors, packs away without wrinkling, making it the perfect travel companion.
The fitted bodice and flowy hem will make even your toughest miles feel pretty— and that’s not even the best part of this Lululemon dress.
It’s the little details that will complement your run that have us placing this pick in our online shopping cart again and again: a convenient pocket in the built-in shorts to stash essentials, including keys, cash and an energy gel for those longer distances; the lightweight fabric that not only wicks sweat but dries super fast; and reflective details that make sure you’re seen when the sun goes down.
Made of Sweaty Betty’s signature super stretchy and body-shaping fabric, this cute sleeveless number can handle everything from boxing to indoor cycling to Pilates.
Plus, the built-in bra and supportive shorts make this an all-in-one, so you can grab it and go, and feel confident that you have all of your gear. Warning: Some reviews say it can be a little tricky to wiggle into this workout dress, but once it’s on, you’ll totally forget that little struggle.
Don’t be fooled by this high neck choice from Athleta. It still provides plenty of relief from the heat thanks to the front zip and the heavily ventilated mesh back (which will also show off a cute little sports bra!).
While there is nothing wrong with a body-con dress, sometimes you just want to feel a little less constricted. With its relaxed fit throughout the body and the slightly flared bottom, this super cute Old Navy camo number totally fits the bill.
Also handy: The built-in shelf bra along with the moisture-wicking, poly-spandex fabric make it ripe for any sweat sesh, though we prefer to rock this as everyday wear.
If you want a do-everything, casual summer exercise dress, look no further than this one from Patagonia.
Not only does this A-line silhouette travel well, but it’s durable (read no pilling or sagging); has anti-odor properties so you can sport it more than once without worrying about a foul smell; and it’s constructed with recycled materials, making it eco-friendly too.
Consider this your recovery workout dress, and cop it in multiple colors. This formfitting style from Halara, which really shows off your stems (read: it’s definitely shorter than the others), is made for low-impact moves, such an easy five-minute standing yoga flow or an easy-paced walk around town.
The shoulder straps, while thin, won’t dig in, the pockets on the shorts are perfect for any little do-dads you want on hand, and the soft, cloud-like fabric feels like heaven against your skin.
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