Athleisure Wear

A Definitive List of the Best Exercise Dresses, the Most Effortless, Essential Athleisure Piece Everyone Needs in Their Closet

Photo: Outdoor Voices / Nike / W+G Creative
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Ever since Outdoor Voices dropped The Exercise Dress ($100) a few years back, exercise dresses have dominated athleisure. Sports dresses are no longer just for club sports like golf and tennis—they're a wardrobe staple for workouts, errands, and everything in between. And for people who want to change their wardrobe from the usual tank-and-leggings kit, exercise dresses offer both style and function, says Amber Anderson, a certified personal trainer in Chicago. "I love a good exercise dress," she says. "They are cute and comfortable, and they have built-in support—and most importantly, pockets."

While the original OV version is rightfully iconic, it's not the only exercise dress out there. Legacy athletic brands, like Nike and Adidas, have all gotten in on the athletic dress action too, while new players, like Halara and Kitty and Vibe, have entered the arena, too.

From V-necks to cross-backs, exercise dresses now come in tons of different styles. Below, you'll find a definitive ranking of the best of the best exercise dresses on the market, from everyday wear, to high-impact workouts, and everything in between.

Best exercise dresses, at a glance:

The 16 best exercise dresses your money can buy in 2022

Best overall

Outdoor Voices, Move Free Dress — $108.00

Great for: Pretty much anything.

Sizes: XXS-XL

Colors: Navy, green, and hot pink

Inspired by its Move Free Tank, Outdoor Voices just dropped a dress version that’s just as supportive and comfortable to wear. It features a full shelf bra with removable padding, giving you an extra boost of support in medium to high-intensity workouts. There are adjustable straps, a built-in shorts liner (with pockets!), and rubber grippers on the shorts to help you stay in place. Just note, it runs a tad bit smaller than the original dress—many reviews suggest going a size up. But otherwise, it’s pretty much perfect.

What reviews say: “It’s like a new and improved exercise dress! I love the extra support that the built-in bra provides, although it is on the snugger side so larger chests may need to size up! The material is similar to the circle back dress and is a little more substantial than the exercise dress so it feels more durable but just as soft. I love the side pockets too!” — Outdoor Voices customer.


Runner Up

Outdoor Voices, The Exercise Dress — $100.00

Great for: Low-impact workouts, running errands, and hanging out.

Sizes: XXS-XXXL

Colors: 16 different colors and patterns

Our Runner Up is the dress that changed the game for everyone: the original, beloved Exercise Dress from Outdoor Voices. Since debuting a few years back, the Exercise Dress has evolved with some much needed improvements, including adjustable straps and built-in shorts over a brief liner. What’s stayed the same is the barely-there fabric that feels easy breezy on hot, summer days. While its lightness is largely a plus, it is a bit thin for those who prefer thicker more compressive material. We love it for casual workouts over HIIT-sessions or intense cardio workouts where something more supportive might be better. Otherwise, it’s a damn good option.

What reviews say: “I’m converted… I knew they had to be good but I get it. It passed a sweaty day at Disney and now I am an exercise dress girly. The sweat dried and left no marks and the pocket on the shorts made it so convenient to pull my phone in and out for pictures or sending a text. It was so comfy for a full day of FL heat and I still looked cute. 10/10 for me!” — Outdoor Voices customer.


Best Under $50

Halara, Everyday Cloudful 2-in-1 Flare Activity Dress-Wannabe — $39.00

Great for: Low impact activities, hanging out, and running errands.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: 35 (!) different colors

Halara jumped on the exercise dress train, quickly winning over shoppers with its Outdoor Voices dupe for a fraction of the price. We can confirm—it’s pretty darn good, probably the best one under $50. It’s made from the brand’s Cloudful fabric which is just as soft as it sounds. There’s cross-back straps, built-in shorts, pockets, and a built-in bra with removable padding, meaning it has almost all the bells and whistles of other versions.

But, it’s not perfect. The sample we received did run a little short and small, so we recommend sizing up. It’s also missing some of those small details, like adjustable straps (so you don’t stretch them out) or the grippers so your shorts don’t ride up. But for $40, it’s a great buy on a budget.

What reviews say: “I wish it had more tummy control but other than that, it fits perfectly. I was worried it would be too short on me but since I’m only 5’4” it’s perfectly,” — Halara customer.


Best on Amazon

KuaCua, Women's Workout Dress — $33.00

Great for: Anyone who wants the convenience of a dress on a budget.

Sizes: XS-XXL

Colors: 27 different colors and patterns

Want an exercise dress that’ll show up in two days? Or that can be delivered to your doorstep in hours, depending on where you live? This one from Amazon is made for you. Expect all the makings of a solid active dress, like lightweight performance fabric, built-in bodysuit, sports-friendly design, all for just $33. Judging from the 1,600 different reviews, there’s a reason it’s so beloved.

It does have its downsides, though. It’s $33, after all, so if you’re looking for a high-tech, ultra-compressive exercise dress you can put through the ringer, this probably isn’t it. Some reviews also complain the sizing is off, running much smaller and shorter than expected. Others say it, “felt cheap,” specifically in the straps, which are key for support. Do your research before you buy, but if buying from Amazon is a must, this is your best bet.

What reviews say:This is a really nice athleisure dress! I wish it would’ve worked out for me but it’s just too short… Very well-made!” — Amazon customer.

 


Most sustainable

Girlfriend Collective, Paloma Raceback Dress — $88.00

Great for: Earth-conscious shoppers who want a wide range of sizes and colors.

Sizes: XXS-6XL

Colors: Four essential colors (brown, black, navy, green) and four seasonal colors

Girlfriend Collective was quick to get in on the exercise dress action, too, and we’re so glad they did. The Paloma Racerback has quickly become one of our all-time favorite dresses for its sports-friendly details, inclusive sizing, and eco-conscious design. It’s probably the most inclusive dress on this list, ranging from XXS through 6XL, meaning there is something for everyone. It’s the most Earth-friendly, too, made from 79 percent recycled water bottles and recyclable through the brand’s circular fashion program.

What we’d change? Not much. Compared to other dresses, it’s a bit heavier, meaning it’s also more supportive and compressive. But overall, it’s an A+ pick.


Best for everyday wear

MWL by Madewell, Flex Fitness Dress — $88.00

Great for: Iced coffee runs, strolls around the block, dinner with friends.

Sizes: XXS-XXL

Colors: Black, white, green, orange, and light blue

Slip into this high-neck dress from Madewell and it feels like you’re wearing butter—it’s that soft. Which is why we picked it as the best exercise dress for everyday wear. Whether you’re running to the grocery store or watching Netflix, it’ll keep you cool and comfortable, almost like nothing’s there at all.

Now, would we workout in this dress? Maybe. It’s super stretchy and cozy, yes, but it’s not the most supportive. It’s probably best for low-impact sports, like yoga and barre class, but you might want to opt for something more supportive when running and jumping around. Still, it deserves a space in your closet for its effortlessness alone.

What reviews say: “I’ve had my eye on a dress like this and i am so glad i purchased this one! It’s perfect for running errands or lounging or yes, even some light workouts! it fits true to size and honestly the material is so dreamy and soft and has some nice stretch. I got the black and it is very slimming. love the high neck,” — Madewell customer.


Best for getting wet

Kitty and Vibe, Play Dress — $110.00

Great for: Paddle boarding, swimming, puddle splashing.

Sizes: XS-5Xl

Colors: Three “vibes”: Daisy (light blue with flowers), Goldie (orange flowers), and Ashton (black stars)

Kitty and Vibe is known for their inclusive line of swimsuits that actually fit your booty. Recently, the brand expanded into athleisure with its Play Dress, a waterproof dress made from the same material as its bikinis. And it’s amazing. It’s got a shelf bra that provides unmatched support and lift, adjustable straps, built-in shots and, best of all, is completely waterproof. From afternoon paddles to full-fledged dips, the Play Dress is designed to, well, play, and then dry before you want to play again.

What reviews say: “This dress exceeded my expectations in every way. It’s so comfy, flattering, and I feel like I can do anything in it. I guarantee I will be wearing this, and the second one I just ordered all summer long,” Kitty and Vibe customer.


Best for golf

Adidas, Frill Dress — $90.00

Great for: Long days on the green.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Black and navy

Golfers, this dress is a hole in one. For one, it’s incredibly sporty, designed with quick-drying, sweat-wicking material that keeps you cool and dry on even the hottest days. But then there are the details—each Frill Dress comes with built-in shorts, so you won’t have to worry about bending over to get balls or tee off, features a feminine frilly skirt, and sports a high collared zip neck that can be opened or closed, depending on if you want added ventilation or not. Layer on the fact that’s it’s made from recycled ocean plastics, and this dress deserves a golden jacket.

We do wish it came in some more colors though, and some additional sizes beyond XL. Otherwise, it’s worth adding to your cart.

What reviews say: “Great dress for golf, lots of pockets for storage and love the frill hem!” — Adidas customer.


Best for tennis

Athleta, Ace Tennis Dress — $89.00

Great for: Tennis, golf, or pickleball.

Sizes: XS-L, with tall, petite, and regular sizing

Colors: Black, white, and pink

True to its name, the Ace Dress aces exercise dresses, especially on the court. Whether you’re a seasoned tennis player or just learning how to play, it won’t disappoint. That’s because it’s made from a recycled flexible fabric that moves with you while keeping you dry and comfortable. There’s also a back mesh pocket that’s perfect for carrying balls, and a zip-up neck that can add a breeze when you need it.

Only thing is, there are no built-in shorts, which is kind of a bummer. You’ll definitely want to add some spandex underneath or some briefs to keep you covered when things get heated.

What reviews say: “This is a great every day dress for running errands or grabbing lunch. I’m typically a small, but I sized up because I don’t like things too tight. Very comfortable but not lined,” Athleta customer.


Best for running

Lululemon, Nulux Running Dress — $138.00

Great for: Endurance runs, quick jogs, and everything in between.

Sizes: 0-20

Colors: Black

Leave it to Lululemon to create a near-perfect running dress. Unlike most of the other dresses on this list, the built-in shorts are actually longer than the actual dress, giving you eight inches of added protection from chafing and discomfort on the road or treadmill. But it’s not just those lengthy shorts—the dress itself is easy breezy, lightweight and airy mile after mile. It feels fast, contouring to your body to mitigate any drag.

And the details! There are so many little things that make this your perfect running uniform, like silicone grippers that prevent the shorts from riding up, reflective detailing for safety, and a back zippered pocket for easy storage. Run, don’t walk, to get the Nulux Running Dress.

No reviews yet.


Best for hiking

Stoic, Desert Dress — $67.00

Great for: Hitting the trail.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Black, green, and purple

Contrary to the other dresses on this list, the Stoic Desert Dress is made from a sporty, windbreaker-y fabric opposed to traditional nylon or recycled poly. This makes it so lightweight—it literally feels like nothing is there—water-resistant (for unforeseen mud puddles) and easy to clean (see: unforeseen mud puddles).

Our favorite parts, though, are the mesh back and side panels and the cinchable waist. Truth be told, it’s a little boxy and less streamlined than the other dresses, so the drawstring waist is a game changer for giving you a fitted, customized silhouette. If you love the dress (you will) it also comes in matching shorts and a skort, so you can complete your desert-ready look.

What reviews say: “It fits so well. Very roomy. Especially with the drawstrings, it defines the waist. I got this in black. Now placing an order for the green one too! I wish it came in a dark forest green or khaki and a burgundy too! Love!!” — Backcountry customer.

 


Most comfortable

Beyond Yoga, Spacedye Essentials Dress — $116.00

Great for: Anyone who likes soft, snuggly things.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Three core colors (black, white, navy) and two seasonal colors

If you haven’t tried Beyond Yoga’s beloved leggings, you’re missing out, and we strongly suggest you get a pair. Or, you can just get this lil’ diddy, which is like leggings in dress form. It’s made from the brand’s silky, kitten-soft Spacedye material which feels warm and cozy against skin. Seriously—if you’re looking for comfort, you can’t get more comfortable than this dress.

And it’s sports-friendly, too. We don’t necessarily recommend it for high-intensity sports since it is on the lighter, less compressive side. But yoga, barre, walking around the block, and quick trail hikes are definitely a go, thanks to its built-in romper, flexible fabric, and UV protection.

What reviews say: “This is a beautiful, flattering dress. However the sizing is a bit off for me—I’m between a small and XS and I decided to just keep both as I liked both depending on how snug I want the fit to be,” — Beyond Yoga customer.


Most minimalist

Reformation, Amy Ecomove Active Dress — $98.00

Great for: Just about everything.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Beige and black

This dress is simple. So simple. As for the design, it’s your quintessential mini active dress complete with four-way stretchy fabric, a compressive silhouette, and built-in shorts. But the style is a bit more minimalist than other, technical dresses. The clean, square neckline and thicker tank straps give a bit of a ballerina-y vibe, while the subtle fit-and-flare provides an effortless look, in and out of the studio. The hero is its fabric, though, which is made from a recycled poly blend sourced from plastic water bottles.

No reviews yet.


Most breathable

Free People, Good Karma Dress — $98.00

Great for: Days where you just don’t want to wear clothes (but have to).

Sizes: XS/S, M/L

Colors: Ice gray and washed ice gray

Speaking of ballerinas, this ballet-inspired exercise dress from Free People is the definition of breathable. It swaps the racerback for a set of open straps that allow air in without getting loose or disrupting compression. And the flouncy skirt (which, unfortunately, doesn’t have shorts underneath) makes is easy, breezy, too.

Cons: It’s missing those shorts! And the sizing is a little minimal. But overall, it’s an excellent choice for those who like to “air” on the side of airy.

What reviews say: “Super cute! I picked this up as a return in store and was obsessed right away. Wish it had shorts built in because they’re definitely needed, but I have a few pairs of the good karma running shorts and they’re obviously perfect to go underneath,” Free People customer.


Sneakiest exercise dress

Halara, Everyday Cloudful 2-in-1 Flare Activity Dress-Wannabe-Scallop Details — $55.00

Great for: Brunch, date night, and family outings where you want to be cute but comfortable.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Desert rose and black

Another Halara pick that looks like any other fashionable dress, only it can be worked out in. Like its Everyday Cloudful cousin, it’s super soft and light as a feather, only less compressive and contoured. Instead, it’s a bit looser, perfect for low-impact activities that require a lot of movement, like dance, barre, and yoga. But what we love is how sneaky it is—the scallop detailing makes it look like a stylish dress you picked up for an event, only there are shorts underneath. You can’t beat that.

No reviews yet.


Most vibrant

Eleven by Venus Williams, Moon Desert Dress — $96.00

Great for: Standing out on the court.

Sizes: XS-XL

Colors: Pink snake and blue snake

Leave it to Venus Williams to create one of the funkiest, coolest, most vibrant exercise dress on the market. There are no muted colors or simple silhouettes in this bad boy—between the princess seams, waterfall hem, and of course, the shiny snake print, it’s about as maximalist as it gets.

But don’t let it fool you—it’s just as technical as the others. The fabric is stretchy enough to move as you do, wicking sweat and staying dry along the way. There’s a shelf bra, too, so no worrying about support. But you will want to layer a pair of bike shorts underneath—unfortunately, it’s unlined.

No reviews yet.

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