I'm no stranger to Outdoor Voices, the trendy company that has turned athleisure into a lifestyle brand. I tried their leggings a while back, and while I enjoyed them, I didn't think the cost was quite justified. While many of the brand's products are super comfortable and stylish, the material didn't seem as supportive and sweat-resistant as I prefer in my exercise gear. All this being said, I was doubtful that my experience with the Outdoor Voices Exercise Dress would be much different. Spoiler alert -- boy, was I wrong.
How the exercise dress looks and feels
Looking at the exercise dress on the rack or in a box, it seems pretty simple for a $100 garment. The outer material is made from Outdoor Voices' LightSpeed fabric, which is lightweight, matte and feels like standard sweat-wicking material -- similar to the fabric used in many styles of running shorts. But the magic happens once you put it on. Underneath the dress, you'll find what's essentially a super lightweight, super soft bodysuit that functions as a low-impact sports bra and bike shorts.
It's one piece, which helps hold everything "in," so to speak -- definitely a high priority for me when it comes to any exercise gear. And because it's simultaneously lightweight and supportive, the outer dress material falls really nicely over the bodysuit. The one-piece fit, however, isn't the easiest to get on: You have to step into it and wriggle yourself through the straps. This was slightly difficult for me, which is surprising, considering I have pretty narrow shoulders and hips. It also means that going to the bathroom requires some extra time and effort.
The most amazing part of the whole piece is definitely the pockets -- and not just shallow pockets for a couple of bills or one key. The exercise dress has two large built-in pockets, one on each side of the "shorts." I was able to comfortably fit my iPhone XR on one side and my keys, cards and earbuds in the other. One of my biggest workout woes was instantly solved through these hidden bike shorts, and none of it was showing through the dress.
How the exercise dress performs
Like any piece of activewear, this dress is better suited for some activities than others. Of course, the exercise dress looks similar to a lot of styles designed for tennis players. But as someone who has never successfully hit a tennis ball over a net, I came up with four alternate activities I think would be well suited to a piece like this.
Biking/cycling: I tested the exercise dress out during a recent 10-mile bike ride. I was definitely sweating quite a bit, but the shorts remained super comfortable and I didn't notice any sweat stains show through the dress fabric. The dress did hike up at times and you could see the bike shorts underneath, but that was something I expected and didn't mind at all. All in all, it was a super comfortable experience. After my bike ride, I went to an outdoor bar and I'm pretty sure nobody noticed that I was wearing gym clothes -- since the exercise dress can really pass as a cute mini dress.
Running: I've never been a big runner, so I did a brief 30-minute jog while testing out the exercise dress. It was comfortable, sweat-wicking and an overall enjoyable experience. One thing to note: I have a pretty small chest and typically wear a size small in sports bras but an extra-small in leggings. I ordered the exercise dress in a size extra-small and felt comfortable wearing it while running, because it was pretty form-fitting. But I don't know if it would be as comfortable for women with larger chests. The dress is definitely cut low enough for cleavage to show, and the inner material is similar to a low-impact sports bra at best. I read online that some women opt to wear a sports bra underneath the dress, which is definitely something to consider if you have a larger chest.
Yoga/Barre: I'm an avid barre class attendee, but the studio I go to requires that we wear bottoms that cover our knees. So I wore the exercise dress to do some yoga and barre exercises at home on a mat and really enjoyed the experience. The hidden shorts stayed in place for the most part, and the dress didn't restrict any movement. If you enjoy doing low-impact exercises at home, this dress can definitely keep up.
Running errands: Outdoor Voices stresses that its activewear isn't exclusively for performance-focused exercise, but also for an everyday, active lifestyle. So I thought it'd be worthwhile to share some thoughts about how the exercise dress performs during a daily activity like running errands. Those two pockets within the dress are really game-changing. They held everything I would have put into a purse. They're built well, and have a flap above the pocket that makes it feel like your valuables are actually secure and won't just pop out.
The bottom line
All in all, the exercise dress absolutely surpassed my expectations. It was comfortable, great for staying cool, and super flattering. While I didn't try it for other low-impact activities, such as hiking, I imagine it'd also be perfect for those. And true to Outdoor Voices style, it was also super cute and well-suited to everyday wear.
A few things to note before you click buy: Sizing might be a little tricky, especially if you're not the same size on top and bottom. I would say to order up if you're unsure, just because the straps aren't adjustable and run on the smaller side. And I'd be cautious of investing in the exercise dress as a workout piece if you have a larger chest. Cleavage and lack of support weren't an issue for me, but based on some reviews on the site, it's something to keep in mind.
Is it worth it? It depends on what your lifestyle is like and what types of exercise you do. I will get plenty of use out of it during the weekends when I'm going on jogs, walking with friends or running out to the grocery store. It will also be my go-to for bike rides or hikes. If you look at the dress as a two-in-one investment -- an everyday, casual piece of clothing and a workout outfit for running, hiking or biking -- the $100 price tag isn't hard to justify, especially when leggings can easily cost you that much or more. And at the end of the day, the exercise dress looks and feels great, which is always worth a little splurge.