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Editors and experts love these trendy and award-winning exercise dresses

Athleisure is here to stay — whether you work out or not.
Tyler Essary / TODAY

Wearing a dress to work out didn't sound reasonable until the exercise dress trend took off during the pandemic. And now, it's considered the new normal, much like how we've made everything athleisurefrom leggings to biker shorts — part of our everyday wardrobe, whether we plan on hitting the gym or not.

And, although summer is cooling down, we think the exercise dress is about to enjoy another revival. Plenty of retailers are releasing new designs in vibrant colors and bright patterns that feel just right for the season. TODAY staffers have been eyeing the trend for quite some time — and some recently put them to test for our Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards.

To help you style some of our award-winning picks, Shop TODAY also spoke with other style experts for more insight on the exercise dress trend.

What is the exercise dress trend?

"I am a huge fan of exercise dresses," says style expert Brittney Levine. Not only are they comfortable, but they flatter a range of different body types, she explains.

Stylist Samantha Brown adds that finding a good pair of shorts can often be a challenge for women because many don't offer the right amount of coverage or can ride up in uncomfortable ways. An exercise dress can be a stylish warm-weather alternative. "They’re really easy and convenient and there’s not a lot of thought you have to put into the look," she says. "It’s not a matter of matching up a skirt and a bottom." You can wear it directly from a workout class to a coffee date or you can throw it on before heading out the door to pick up the kids from school or run errands.

Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards: Best exercise dresses 2023

KuaCua Women’s Tennis Dress

Award: Best Overall

You can choose between multiple colors and patterns, including houndstooth. Given its slim fit, the brand recommends sizing up if you want a looser feel. One Shop TODAY editor already bought two more colors after trying it!

Spanx Sunshine Dress

Award: Best Splurge

This pick from Spanx ensures you get the most out of your wear. With a neck collar, this active dress can take you from work to the tennis court. And don't think that your fashion will compromise function. This dress has 4-way stretch, is chlorine- and saltwater-resistant and is made with a UPF50+ fabric, according to the brand.

Old Navy PowerSoft Shelf-Bra Support Dress For Women

Award: Best Built-in Support

This dress from Old Navy comes in petite, tall and regular sizes to help better fit your frame. The brand says that it’s made with a moisture-wicking technology to help keep you dry all day long. Plus, you won’t need to put on a bra, because the dress already has one built in.

Quince Ultra-Form One-Shoulder Active Dress

Award: Most Fashionable

Sport this unique take on your exercise dress! To add some extra support to your look, this dress comes with a a built-in shelf bra. The material of this dress is no joke: anti-bacterial, sweat-wicking and quick-drying. 

Best exercise dresses, according to experts and editors

Outdoor Voices Volley Dress

Senior social media editor Kate McCarthy says, "It's super flattering and comfy, and best of all it makes you feel like you're wearing athleisure but gives you a more 'put together' look."

And photo editor Kara Birnbaum had similar thoughts, saying that it is "the most flattering exercise dress" she owns and that she has worn it for both outdoor activities like biking and concerts.

Outdoor Voices Court Dress

While this may be an athletic dress, it's actually designed to be a crossover between the Double Time Bra and Court Skirt. You can except the cutouts to keep you cool during outdoor activities and hot days.

Outdoor Cross Back Dress

This A-line exercise dress features a stylish crisis-cross back with built-in shorts, so you'll feel breezy and secure during hikes and everyday errands. Reviewers love how comfortable and flattering it feels — it nearly has a five-star rating.

Willit Exercise Dress

Style expert Melissa Garcia loves this affordable Amazon exercise dress, which comes in 10 colors. Plus, it has pockets! We're pretty much sold on that fact alone, but we also love that it's a top seller with more than 440 verified five-star ratings. A cropped hoodie can turn an exercise dress into a bonfire staple since it is an easy layer to remove. This way, it's almost like two outfits in one — take off the hoodie to wear the dress alone or throw it on to make it look like you're wearing a top and a skirt.

Halara Everyday 2-in-1 Activity Dress-Wannabe

Garcia says this Halara dress is a great way to get in on the trend without breaking the bank. The TikTok-favorite dress comes in several colors and sizes XS-4X. Style it with a baseball cap to top off the sporty look.

Athleta Venture Out Dress

Brown said that you can find some good options at Athleta. This dress, for example, is perfect for wearing during hikes, long walks or even runs. The Featherweight Stretch material is designed to feel "light as air."

Girlfriend Collective Racer Juliet Strappy Dress

"I am obsessed with my Girlfriend Collective exercise dress, which the brand just dropped in this fun (and very on-brand for TODAY) bright orange color," says production associate Audrey Ekman. "It's so comfortable, supportive and flattering. All the little thought-out details, like the built-in shorts and hidden pockets, make this my favorite exercise dress."

Outdoor Voices The Exercise Dress

Garcia says this dress "started it all," and credits Outdoor Voices for kicking off the exercise dress trend. It has over 4,500 rave reviews from shoppers who love its comfortable features such as the adjustable straps, biker shorts underneath that have pockets and the moisture-wicking material. She recommends pairing it with a white sneaker and a chic belt bag.

Multiple members of the Shop TODAY team are also fans of Outdoor Voice's Exercise Dress (myself included). "My exercise dress is a summer staple because you can really dress it up or down," says production coordinator Camryn Privette. "While I've worn it a few times to workout in, it's honestly perfect for running errands or hanging out in the park. Plus, the liner keeps me from chafing, which is priceless."

"This dress is soft, airy and amazing quality," adds commerce partnerships coordinator Sydney Weber. "The fabric is light, comfortable, absorbs any sweat or water quickly to maximize comfort and is breathable. The inside of the shorts even have gripping inserts that keep them from riding up! This is my favorite feature because it allows me to feel comfortable and be active all while wearing one piece."

More exercise dresses to shop

All in Motion Asymmetrical Dress

This one-shoulder one-and-done dress might have been made for participating in outdoor activities, according to the brand, but there's nothing wrong with adding a pair of cool kicks to your look and donning this to your next brunch.

HDE Exercise Workout Dress

This option is not only affordable, but it is also available in over 20 colors and prints. Underneath the polyester outer, there is a built-in biker short lining that has pockets to hold your credit cards or phone while you're on the go.

Aerie OFFLINE Dress

Aerie is another TikTok-favorite brand, and its exercise dress has gotten some love on the app. It's made from a super-soft nylon material and has adjustable straps and a stylish open-back design.

Cugoao Tennis Dress

With a popping collar and bright zipper, this tennis dress is classy and stylish for events on and off the court. It has two different-sized pockets — the left is said to be big enough for tennis balls and the right is perfect to tuck your phone into, according to the brand.

Quince Ultra-Soft Active Dress

If you tend to be super active during summer, you'll want to add this workout dress to your fitness collection. It features built-in shorts for no-worry coverage and four-way stretch material for some feel-good stretch.

Athleta Conscious Dress

According to the brand, the Powervita fabric is so soft, that it "feels like a gentle hug." Do you need to know anything else? (Actually, you should really know that some shades, including this Barbiecore pink color, are almost $60 off right now.)

Halara Round Neck Sleeveless Backless Dress

This exercise dress stands out due to its bow, which serves a dual purpose: size adjustment and style. Available in six pastel and neutral colors, this backless dress will make heads turn everywhere — from the ballet studio to the grocery store.

Columbia PFG Freezer III Dress

"If athleisure and cocktail attire had a baby, it would be this dress," wrote one Shop TODAY writer. The brand says that this stylish piece of activewear is made with advanced cooling technology and sweat-wicking material, so you stay cool and dry all day long.

Abercrombie & Fitch Traveler Mini Dress

Abercrombie & Fitch has been making a big comeback recently, and the brand's Traveler dress seems like the perfect choice for walks and errands. It features built-in shorts with a hidden cellphone pocket and adjustable straps.

Girlfriend Collective Naomi Workout Dress

For a sustainable and fashionable take on the trend, look no further than Girlfriend Collective’s Workout Dress. Complete with a built-in bra, flouncy skirt and compressive inner shorts, it's designed to be both flattering and comfortable. Plus, you would never guess that the dress is made from 90% recycled plastic bottles.

Best accessories to pair with an exercise dress

To style, Levine suggests throwing on a light jacket, like a white or classic blue denim option or a sporty zip-up. To complete the simple yet chic look, she recommends slipping on a pair of slides, like Birkenstocks or even those pillow sandals that are everywhere right now.

Funky Monkey Women's Comfort Slides

Old Navy Loose StretchTech Cinched-Waist Jacket

Lee Legendary Regular Fit Denim Jacket

Nomatic Access Sling Bag

J.Crew Factory Road Trip Sneakers

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