Though tennis skirts and dresses have existed for years, they were never really marketed as everyday apparel. Outdoor Voices’ Exercise Dress is often credited as the piece that ignited people’s love for this feminine style of athletic wear. Today, tons of brands — from Girlfriend Collective to Athleta and even Nike — offer sporty dresses designed for everyday life in a range of cute cuts, styles and colors.
But now the version that made such a splash is back: Outdoor Voices has relaunched its best-selling Exercise Dress with all new improvements and nine perfect-for-summer colorways. Ahead, we dive into these updates, give you the lowdown on how the dress holds up during different activities, and whether it’s still worth the $100 price tag.
Our mind and expectations were blown after testing Outdoor Voices’ original Exercise Dress, which launched back in May 2018. A dress you can jog and bike in? That’s sweat-wicking, comfortable and cute? We were sold, and the garment lived up to the hype — garnering a 5-star rating from nearly 3,000 reviews.
But as much as we loved it, there were a few drawbacks we urged folks to consider before adding-to-cart: The lack of adjustable straps made it difficult to get on and not suitable for all body types. While we loved the hidden pocket included, it wasn’t quite big enough to fit all phone models. And the fabric of the inner bodysuit was super comfortable, though it did tend to ride up during more sweat-inducing activities. Luckily, Outdoor Voices took the feedback from thousands of reviews (including ours!) to make a range of improvements to one of their best-selling products.
The newest iteration of the Exercise Dress addresses all those pain points. It features adjustable straps, a second pocket built into the bodysuit portion of the dress and grip material on the interior of the bottom of the short part of the bodysuit, so it doesn’t roll up during activity. OV also removed the bodysuit’s center seam to prevent bunching. Meanwhile the dress’ beloved main components have remained the same: the built-in bodysuit liner, the flattering and feminine silhouette and use of Outdoor Voices’ Lightspeed fabric, which is lightweight, breathable and perfect for all sorts of summer activities and adventures.
There’s very little we don’t love about the Exercise Dress. It’s perfect for all the same low-impact activities we shared the first time around: Hiking, walking, biking and certain yoga or pilates classes. While it’s not quite supportive enough for burpees or a HIIT circuit, you probably wouldn’t want to wear a dress for that activity in the first place. Rather, the dress’ versatility makes it perfect for going from workout to a busy day of running errands or an afternoon lunch with friends — and it’s ideal for more vigorous activities like summer bike rides or boardwalk trips. You can dress it up or down super easily, one of the main reasons the price tag seems justified.
While I still had to do a slightly uncomfortable shimmy to get into the Exercise Dress, the adjustable straps are an absolute game changer. They’re not bulky nor uncomfortable, and are practically indistinguishable from the original non-adjustable straps. But they’re easy to use, stay put and make the sizing a lot more flexible for those of us who might be one size on top and another on the bottom. The pockets are great as well. With the addition of another pocket, you can pack up a phone, AirPods case, keys, and slim wallet (I use an envelope wallet), making this a perfect on-the-go article of clothing. While I never had an issue with bunching, I did notice that the shorts part of the bodysuit lining would ride up as I moved around. The new grip material on the inner part of the lining is a fantastic addition, and I think will be massively appreciated as temperatures warm up, too.
Regarding colorways, I was able to test the brand-new Gecko shade, a bright yet super wearable yellow-green. It’s actually way more flattering than anticipated, and would be perfect for any number of summer activities. One thing to note about this color (and similar lighter colors I would imagine): Because the inner lining of the dress isn’t as thick as a sports bra, it may look as if you’re not wearing a bra, which is a big no-no for some folks. While my black Exercise Dress also doesn’t provide my ideal amount of coverage, it’s definitely a problem that’s more prominent on a lighter shade. Something Outdoor Voices recommends for extra support (and I’m tempted to do just for the coverage) is layering the Exercise Dress with the brand’s All-Time Bra, which features a super similar racerback cut.
There is one element that seems to have been lost in this update to the Exercise Dress. As someone who prefers super supportive (and honestly, tight) activewear, it seems that the exact material used to construct the inner bodysuit of the dress is a bit different. While it’s softer, more lightweight and feels like it’d perform better in hot temperatures or during more sweaty activities than the previous version’s material, the drawback is that it seems to have lost some of that body-hugging and shaping support that is so valued in activewear. In our last review, we noted that the material works to “‘hold everything in,’ so to speak – definitely a high priority when it comes to exercise gear.” I felt a bit less supported in this material, but the difference isn’t a dealbreaker — just something to note when comparing the two versions directly side by side to one another.
The bottom line
If you’ve been looking into purchasing an athletic dress, or are even just curious as to whether there’s a place for one in your wardrobe, there’s still no better option than Outdoor Voices’ Exercise Dress — especially with all its new improvements. The standout features of the dress — how comfortable, cooling, and flattering it is — are all still as good as the first time we reviewed them.
Something that’s also stayed the same, is our evaluation of who this dress is best suited for. If you’re looking for a staple piece of cute yet comfortable athleisure, or something that you can both wear to brunch and for a summer hike, we’re pretty sure you’re going to love the Exercise Dress. It’s also a fantastic option if you’re interested in summer workout clothing perfect for low-impact activities like biking, walking and hiking. And with all its updates we mentioned, the Exercise Dress is even more comfortable and flattering to a range of body types. Plus, it’d be impossible to deny that the new, bright colors aren’t perfect for any and all summertime photo shoots.
Finally, this latest iteration of Outdoor Voices’ beloved bestseller is also an indication that the brand values, listens to and uses customer feedback to improve on its products — something we’re huge fans of. And as we mentioned in our original review, $100 isn’t cheap for a mini-dress, but when you factor in its versatility, comfort chicness, and the fact that an athleisure set of similar quality could easily cost you way more than $100, we’d say the price isn’t all too much for something you’ll find yourself reaching for all summer long.