In my experience, exercise dresses are mostly a thing of Instagram ads, and for a while there I thought Halara was trying to make them happen all by itself. But according to two recent articles from New York-based publications (the New York Times and the Cut), these things are everywhere (in NYC, apparently) and people are perplexed. What kind of exercise are you even supposed to do in them?
The authors of both articles concluded that exercise dresses are for looking like you could exercise at any moment, even if you don’t intend to. In other words, they are “athleisure” wear. Or to put it another way, they are a cuter and more socially acceptable alternative to sweatpants, which you probably weren’t intending to sweat in.
But exercising in a dress isn’t that oddball of an idea. Tennis dresses have been a thing for over 100 years, and running skirts enjoyed a boom in the 2010’s.
A running dress makes sense: You usually want to choose to run in thin compressive shorts to prevent chafing, and many running shorts include a second layer over those. Why not make that second layer a skirt instead of overshorts? I found runners saying good things about exercise dresses on forums, suggesting the dresses work just fine—if they fit right. (Some brands’ shorts may ride up, or be too tight or too loose.)
Exercise dresses look like they’re meant to be worn without a bra, which can limit your options. If you want to actually exercise in them, you’ll probably want to wear a sports bra underneath. For that reason, runners seem to like the dresses without a built-in shelf bra. Casual wearers, meanwhile, often wish dresses with shelf bras (or even a more supportive built-in bra) were more common.
Besides running and tennis, exercise dresses could work for a variety of workouts, if you truly want them to. The skirt is short enough for cycling, and I could see a swishy dress being fun to wear to a Zumba class. But if you just think exercise dresses are cute and don’t want to plan your workout around them, embrace your trendy fashion sense and wear them without working out in them at all.