I love all things loungewear and leggings, but I'm not the biggest fan of getting all gussied up. Because I prefer the couch to the club any day, the amount of dresses in my wardrobe has winnowed down over the years to a measly handful. (As a freelance writer, loungewear is my work attire.) When I do opt for a dress in my everyday life, it has to be comfortable, functional, and well-made. I also need it to be easy to style. Bonus points if I can wear it in a slew of different settings and for a variety of occasions.
So imagine my excitement when, this summer, I was searching my favorite activewear sites for yet another piece of loungewear to add to my relatively behemoth collection and stumbled upon the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress ($ 98, outdoorvoices.com). I promptly ordered it (and Insta Storied it, duh), while visions of trekking around the city in my comfy, stylish getup ran through my head.
I will say, though, it took me several months to work up the courage to actually exercise in the exercise dress. I honestly was worried about what people might think. The dress has built-in spandex shorts, but the other people in my exercise class probably wouldn't know that. I'd personally never seen someone show up to yoga in a dress, so I anticipated getting maybe a few looks at first.
Here's what I learned after wearing the dress for five different types of workouts.
The dress is incredibly comfortable, thanks to the stretchy, sweat-wicking material and built-in bike shorts.
As I mentioned, the dress came this summer. As someone who constantly runs hot, it was a pretty easy decision to slip it on right out of the package. I had already overdressed earlier that day and had broken into a full sweat, so I was ready for the respite of lighter summer layers.
When I put on the dress, I was honestly amazed at how comfortable it was. The construction is brilliant. The inner layer is a leotard of sorts, but with the added benefit of bike shorts, which placated arguably my biggest concern about working out in an exercise dress: inner-thigh chafing. Like most women whose thighs touch, chafing is an inevitable part of my warm-weather life. Thankfully, the built-in shorts, made of a moisture-wicking fabric, kept my legs from rubbing together and causing any sort of irritation that would make a workout—or just a day running errands—uncomfortable. The shorts are also so low-profile that you can't even tell there's an extra layer under the dress by looking at it on.
There's also a version without the bike shorts and just a leotard lining, if that's more your style.
What's more, the shorts have a side pocket—and I love a good pocket.
I shouldn't waste time waxing poetic about the beauty of a conveniently placed pocket—after all, I dedicated several hundred words to the same feature on my favorite pair of Lululemon leggings. But a dress with pockets is extra exciting. Since dresses almost never have pockets, this piece immediately went from workout functional to everyday functional. A place I can put my subway card and credit card so I don't need to carry my wallet around all day? You could say I was obsessed.
In fact, I loved this dress so much that I wore it nonstop this past summer.
It became a staple for me, which I wore multiple times per week. Basically, whenever it was clean, I threw it on. The navy number garnered legions of compliments from strangers and friends, who marveled at its flattering-functional combo. (Same, you guys, same.)
I got a lot of weird looks whenever I worked out in it—more than I expected.
I tried running, indoor cycling, yoga, boxing, and barre in the exercise dress. And honestly, each went quite well. Outdoor Voices is no stranger to the workout game, and that shows with the exercise dress. It was stretchy and breathable, just what I ask of a good pair of workout leggings.
What stunned me, though, was how many stares I got. I mean, I figured people might think it was unique. But I live in New York City. There's a cowboy in tighty whities playing a guitar in the middle of Times Square. There's a man who regularly jogs up and down First Avenue in just a thong. An exercise dress isn't really all that shocking in comparison.
Yet during a 3-mile run around my busy Queens neighborhood, I would wager not a single person didn't do a double-take—it was like I had three heads or something. Same goes for yoga and barre. Technically speaking, I got the least amount of confused looks in my Flywheel (indoor cycling) class, but that could have just been because the room was dark. It was frustrating every time, not only because I harbor some body image issues, but also because why should anyone care what anyone else is wearing to exercise? If you're busy working out and focusing on yourself, it shouldn't matter what the person next to you has on—even if it's something you wouldn't choose yourself.
Working out in this dress ended up being quite the unexpected learning experience.
Being stared at, while uncomfortable, also turned out to be a great reminder to focus only on myself and my own comfort no matter where I'm exercising. I'd never want to make anyone else feel the way I felt when people were gawking at me. Everyone deserves to get their sweat on in whatever apparel they choose.
And honestly, I bet if all those people knew how comfortable this dress is, they'd be jealous that they weren't working out in it, too. Joke's on them.
Buy it: Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress ($ 98, outdoorvoices.com)