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When it comes to what we wear while we workout, a lot has changed over the years. Gone are the days of wearing oversized t-shirts and running shorts. What we wear while we exercise has become almost as important as the exercise itself, so much so that it’s been given a category of fashion all its own — athleisure.
Wearing workout clothes has become acceptable, and even encouraged, for running errands as much as actually running. And for good reason! Exercise apparel has leveled up — balancing flattering styles with comfortable, performance fabrics that make you feel great whether you’re sweating or lounging. While there have been many developments on the workout clothing front over the years, one reigns supreme in my mind: the exercise dress.
Yes, you CAN and you SHOULD exercise in a dress.
I could go on with reasons, but most notably, they’re comfortable, cute, and make it look like you actually put some effort into getting dressed (when all you really did was put on one piece of clothing). The exercise dress is here to stay, and if you don’t have one in your wardrobe already, it is high time to add one in. Keep reading for the best exercise dresses you can buy right now.
Outdoor Voices: The Exercise Dress, $100
The exercise dress that got me into exercise dresses, and as far as I know, the one that really pioneered the trend as we know it. This piece hits all the marks: it’s great-quality, fits like a glove, and has thoughtfully-designed features like side pockets to stash your cards and keys.
With a built-in bodysuit liner, compressive fit, and adjustable straps, this nylon dress is perfect for tennis, running, lifting, or just taking a stroll around town. I probably wear this at least once a week, and I know I’m not alone. I can’t do an errand in my Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress without passing another girl on the street wearing the same exact thing. Outdoor Voices is always releasing fun, new colorways and patterns; they even recently launched a one shoulder dress. While I’ve never tried it, it looks almost too chic to workout in.
Reformation: Bella Ecomove Active Dress, $98
Simple, stylish, and sustainably-made, this dress is everything Reformation stands for. The dress itself is made of sleek, stretchy performance fabric derived from recycled plastic bottles. The Bella is fitted in the bodice with a relaxed, flowy shirt for breathability. Don’t fret though -- there are built-in shorts so you can twist, turn, and jump without fear. The v-neckline and racerback are flattering and functional. We love that this dress comes in a wide range of sizes and beautiful neutrals that will go seamlessly with the rest of your wardrobe.
You probably recognize the Halara Everyday Dress from its viral TikTok fame. The dress blew up as a near perfect dupe for the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress. While it looks almost exactly the same, the Halara Everyday Dress is made of a thicker fabric -- it has more of a soft, spandex feel than Outdoor Voices’ swishy, lightweight nylon. Shoppers note though that the material is still super breathable, great at wicking sweat, and quick to dry. At $50, this is the most budget-friendly pick on this list. This dress comes in a huge range of colors, and Halara even offers a range of other dress styles if this silhouette isn’t really your vibe. This wide selection means there’s really something for everyone. If you’re looking to add an exercise dress to your wardrobe without blowing your budget, you’ve found your match.
Athleta Match Point Dress, $89
All of the dresses on this list tow the line between athletic and athleisure, but the Match Point Dress is really made for movement. It’s made with high-performance, sustainably-made nylon that’s best for playing tennis, golf, or running. The material gives you compression where you most need the support, plus it’s breathable and dries quickly. The mesh back adds some allure to the otherwise simple silhouette, but is also great for ventilation and helps keep you cool while you work up a sweat. Unfortunately, this dress does not have a pair of shorts built in, so you may want to throw a pair of spandex underneath. While this definitely has a very athletic look and feel, you can certainly dress it down for an off-the-court event.
Girlfriend Collective: Undress, $88
The dress that is not a dress but is a dress. Catch my drift? You could probably tell from the name, but Girlfriend Collective’s iteration of the exercise dress is trying to distance itself from tropes of what a dress should be. Technically speaking, this dress has everything you could want from a piece of workout wear: a seamless unitard for coverage, adjustable straps, and mesh pockets for storing your essentials. On top of the basics, the Undress has a buttery-soft feel and a UPF of 50+ from its lightweight, sweat-wicking fabric. We’re impressed by the size range, as it’s the most inclusive on this list. Best of all, though, is that the dress is made from 90% recycled plastic bottles. If and when your time with your Undress has come to an end, you can send it back to Girlfriend and they’ll recycle it and use it to bring life to a new piece of clothing. That’s pretty cool.
So, whether your favorite type of exercise includes lunging or lounging, a great workout dress is a welcome addition to your closet. Take a deep dive into any of the brands we mentioned above to find even more fashion-forward fitness apparel.