The internet is obsessed with this $100 exercise dress—here’s why I am, too
The Outdoor Voices exercise dress lives up to the hype.
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It never feels quite right to deem a particular item of clothing—jeans, a sweatshirt, a T-shirt, whatever—the perfect item of clothing. All bodies are different and all taste is subjective, which means the concept of "perfection," and how it pertains to clothing, is always going to be a wonky metric.
But, for me, my purposes, and my own anecdotal experiences, there is but one clear candidate for the perfect dress, and possibly overall perfect item of clothing: The Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress.
I’m not the only one who feels this way—it's racked up thousands of rave reviews from fellow shoppers. Here’s why I love this exercise dress, and whether or not it would be a good fit for you.
What is the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress?
The Exercise Dress’ premise is simple: It is a dress that you can wear when you work out. This is not exactly a new concept (tennis dresses exist, and have for a very long time), but this one has taken on a life of its own. Outdoor Voices dropped the $100 dress in the summer of 2019. Less than two years later, it has more than 2,000 reviews and constantly sells out, gets restocked, and sells out again.
I didn’t buy it when it was first released. But in March 2020, when lockdown in the United States started and I was in search of an online purchase-sourced serotonin hit, I caved and ordered one in black-and-white polka dots. As an on-the-record Outdoor Voices stan (I evangelize the brand’s TechSweat leggings whenever I find the opportunity) I was expecting to like the dress. But what I wasn’t expecting was for it to become one of my favorite pieces, like, ever.
What does the Exercise Dress look like IRL?
The exercise dress has a simple design. The dress itself is a lightweight nylon-spandex blend with a slightly flared skirt and racerback spaghetti straps. It comes in a wide range of colors that shift based on the season and what's in stock, but it’s usually available in a mix of solids—like red, black, white, and evergreen—and a few patterns, like floral, leopard, and polka dots. On the inside, there’s a pair of spandex liner shorts, which have a pocket on one leg that’s the perfect size for a phone, credit card, or pair of keys. It does not have a built-in bra, but the liner gives it some support, and it’s easy to layer a sports bra (or a long-sleeve shirt in colder weather) underneath. It comes in sizes XS to XL, which is comparable to dress sizes 0 to 14.
I got a small, which is the equivalent of my usual dress size of a 4 or a 6. It fits true to size for me—I am 5-foot-7 and the dress hits slightly above my mid-thigh—but some reviewers say they think it runs small.
What I like about the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress
I have to confess that a good portion of my affection for the dress is purely superficial—I just think it’s really cute and I like that I get a lot of compliments when I wear it. Due to its polyester shell and thin racerback straps, it looks decidedly athletic, in that if I ever go back to an office, it would be hard to pass it off as work-appropriate apparel. However, it clearly has an intentional design, with a slightly nipped-in waist and fluttery skirt that mimics the shape of some of my favorite sundresses.
But, functionally, my favorite thing about the Exercise Dress is how easy it is to adapt to any activity I’m doing. It’s a great thing to put on in the morning on days when I’m pretty sure I want to work out at some point, but am not sure if that workout is destined to happen right after I wake up. This way, I feel comfortable and non-restricted—which isn’t always the case when I throw on a pair of leggings and a sports bra right after waking up—but the athletic material reminds me of my plans to exercise and it ensures I’m ready to go as soon as inspiration strikes. And if I don’t end up working out? That’s fine too. It’s a great outfit for working from home, cleaning the house, running errands, or just hanging out.
For me, it works on its own without any supplemental support for things like yoga, Pilates, hikes, and other low-impact activities. (I have a relatively small chest—your mileage may vary based on the size of your own.) If I’m doing something that’s more high-impact, such as jogging or a HIIT class, I’ll put on a sports bra. I never feel like I’m overheating when I wear it, and when I do get sweaty, the moisture gets wicked away so quickly that the dress still looks fresh after my workout.
Outdoor Voices sells a sports bra, called the All-Time bra, that it claims is best for layering. I haven’t tried it, but, honestly, unless you need a new sports bra anyway or are looking for one that matches the color of your dress exactly, it doesn’t seem entirely necessary. I’ve worn the dress with several of the random sports bras I have, and they’ve all been just fine. As long as it’s a racerback (a sports bra with regular straps could look a little busy) and doesn’t have padding (the interior lining would probably make it feel too tight), it should work with the dress.
What I don't like about the Exercise Dress
The Exercise Dress’ main drawback, to me, is its $100 price tag. You could probably get three or four pieces of decent-to-great workout gear at a place like TJ Maxx for the same price, so I can’t really blame anyone for balking at its cost. However, there are some ways to get it for less. Outdoor Voices offers a 20% discount on any first-time order, so if you’ve never shopped at the brand before, this is a great initial purchase. And, if you have ordered from Outdoor Voices, and create a user profile that includes your birthday, you can count on receiving a $20 coupon off any purchase of $75 or more on your birthday and half birthday.
The price is the most potent criticism I have. If I really wanted to nitpick, I’d point out that it’s not the best choice for running long distances, even with a great sports bra. The liner is on the short side, and during runs, it can ride up and cause some inner-thigh chafing. I’ve done a few three-or-so mile runs in the dress and fared well, but after one seven-mile run, my thighs definitely felt a little raw.
Another small point of contention has to do with the convenience (or lack thereof) of wearing it when you have to go to the bathroom. The liner makes wearing it similar to the experience of wearing a romper, which means you basically have to get fully naked to use the toilet. I do think, like all good rompers, the Exercise Dress is worth the sacrifice, but it’s worth being aware of before you commit to it.
Should you buy the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress?
If you like the idea of working out or hanging out out in a dress, the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress is a great choice. To me, its form and function justifies its price, and thousands of other happy reviewers agree with me.
Outdoor Voices also has a decent return policy: You can send anything that isn’t final sale back for free 45 days after purchase, as long as it hasn’t clearly been sweated in. That means if you are't entirely convinced yet, it's easy to order one and try it on to see if it suits you.
My final tip? If you want an Exercise Dress, make sure to snag one before it sells out again.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.