What Do You Even Do in an Exercise Dress?

Photo: Retailer

I have reached the point in this summer/pandemic where I no longer wish to think about what clothes I put on my body. It is too hot, and I am too tired. Put me in a romper-style hazmat suit and let me be. Fortunately, bodysuits and other one-piece outfits require minimal brain effort and are everywhere. Among these is the exercise dress, an A-line athleisure dress usually made of nylon, spandex, or some other stretchy material. It has built in shorts and a true oxymoron of a name. One that begs the question: What do you even do in an exercise dress? Because it is absolutely not exercise.

A recent New York Times article declared this the peak time of the “exercise dress.” Exercise dress sales nearly doubled in the past year, per the Times, which isn’t hard to believe if you’ve walked outside even one (1) time. The exercise dress is everywhere: in the park, at lunch, out running errands. However, it is notably not often at the gym. As a few exercise dress aficionados told the Times that, despite its name, exercising isn’t a realistic activity in many exercise dresses. They usually provide “zero support” and often require you to wear a sports bra underneath — a clear conflict with our current “no bra” era. “I also wish there was a flap or attachment of some sort for the shorts so you don’t have to remove the entire dress while going to the bathroom,” one person said. Is there anything so humiliating as being completely naked while hovering over a public toilet?

Much like the nap dress, the exercise dress seems more for aesthetics than anything else. Why else would you pay $100 for the definitive exercise dress from Outdoor Voices? (If $100 for a new exercise dress sounds steep, you could always pay $150 for a used exercise dress on Poshmark.) Similar to yoga pants, the exercise dress has outgrown its namesake. It is bigger than other athleisure; the exercise dress is a lifestyle, a whole personality.

Part of me thinks the exercise dress is a glorified swimsuit dress. It has unmistakable “mom at the pool” energy, which I mean as a compliment. If you wear an exercise dress, I will assume you know CPR. Some other activities that suit the exercise dress:

  • Grocery shopping with an overloaded shopping basket when you should have gotten a cart
  • Going on someone else’s boat
  • Working from home (exercise dresses should be a work expense!)
  • Walking your dog, but only if your dog, like mine, demands to be carried halfway through every walk
  • Getting the mail in something other than your pajamas
  • Honestly, anything that isn’t mildly intense exercise

Maybe the name comes from the fact that the exercise dress is made of the kind of material that makes putting it on feel like a workout? Regardless, the dress looks cute to me, and I will probably buy one to have something new to wear while I watch Love Island and sit very still.

What Do You Even Do in an Exercise Dress?