Sports dresses are the versatile piece of kit you didn’t know you needed - 7 top picks, from the pros

Tried and tested by team MC UK.

Samantha wearing one of the best sports dresses
(Image credit: Future)

With the rise in popularity of tenniscore dressing, we’ve seen the trend seep not only into our everyday fashion choices (hello tennis skirts and varsity sweaters), but also into our day-to-day workout kit. So naturally, that means that we have our eye on the best sports dresses to buy. 

From running and long walks to (of course) tennis, the sports dress is a surprisingly versatile piece of exercise clothing. While it’s essential to invest in the right gym wear - I'm talking sports bras, leggings, trainers and workout tops - for your chosen workout, sometimes you just want a piece of kit that does it all, you know?

Similar to unitards, the all-in-one aspect of sports dresses makes them incredibly easy to wear - you can essentially throw it on and go about your day. They also add an effortlessly chic element to your kit - easily styled with your favourite ankle socks and trainers. And the best thing? You don't even have to think about whether it goes with the rest of your workout outfit (although we do love a matching gym set).

Thanks to built-in support elements like padding, shorts and pockets, they are also probably the most convenient piece of workout kit you can find. Our key takeaway: don’t sleep on sports dresses - they’re not just for tennis, after all. 

Meet your testing team: I’m Valeza Bakolli, MCUK’s Junior Shopping Editor. My exercise of choice usually falls under the ‘low-impact’ variety - I’m a huge fan of Pilates, yoga and barre - so when it comes to getting a sweat on, I depend on a chic workout outfit to get me motivated. Sports dresses definitely fall under this category, and as such are my go-to choice for tennis and other summer workouts. Plus, as a design-obsessed Shopping Editor, I can appreciate the multipurpose elements sports dresses offer.

I also enlisted the help of MC’s Senior Health Editor Ally Head, Fashion Writer Sofia Piza, health contributor Grace Lindsay, and runner Samantha Nicks. All four contributors are huge fans of sports dresses, so rest assured, they were thoroughly trialled. Ally is a multi-marathon runner who literally tests fit kit for a living, while Sofia likes to switch things up between long-distance runs and strength training. As a Fashion Writer, you can be sure that her fitness clothing is always chic and flattering, too. Grace enjoys a Pilates class as much as HIIT and has trialled tons of athleisure in her time. Finally, Sammy has been paving the way (and the pounding pavements) with her cute running fits for a while now, which is why we couldn't wait to include her top picks in this article. 

TLDR: We ensure to thoroughly test every piece of fitness clothing and equipment that we review, trying it out for at least a few workouts before giving it our seal of approval.

What did we look for when testing the best sports dresses? 

  • Material: was it sweat-wicking, lightweight and breathable? Did it stretch with us as we moved? Was it comfortable to wear during long, sweaty workouts? 
  • Convenience: was it easy to put on and take off? Would it go with the rest of our kit? Did they have built-in shorts and pockets (the cornerstone of all great sports dresses, in our opinion)? 
  • Support: did it hold us in and make us feel supported? Did the shorts provide enough coverage? 
  • Price: would we get our cost per wear? 

7 best sports dresses: as tested by team MC UK 

1. Best affordable sports dress

DryMove Tennis dress

(Image credit: H&M)

H&M DryMove™ Tennis dress

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Comfy
+
Sweat-wicking

Reasons to avoid

-
Comes up a little large

"This was the first tennis dress I ever tried and I still use it to this day - not just for outdoor workouts but also running errands, going to the park and everything in between. The concealed pockets on the shorts can be used for tennis balls or your phone and card holder, meaning I can wear it as a casual (yet super practical) dress. The material is sweat-wicking and super comfortable - I’d just say, if you’re keen on a more fitted style, I’d size down as it can come up a little big." - Valeza Bakolli, Junior Shopping Editor

2. Most fashion-forward sports dress

Alo Yoga Alosoft Backspin Dress

(Image credit: Alo)

Alo Yoga Alosoft Backspin Dress

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish
+
Supportive
+
Breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher price point

"The Alo Yoga design team know a thing or two about designing fit kit that not only looks cute, but feels cute, too. Case in point - this mini dress sweat wicks well, is highly breathable, and supports you without leaving you feel cut in half while also looking stylish. I'm a fan." - Ally Head, Senior Health Editor

3. Most versatile sports dress

Traveler Mini Dress

(Image credit: Abercrombie)

Abercrombie & Fitch Traveler Mini Dress

Reasons to buy

+
Comfy and versatile
+
Stylish design
+
Discreet shorts prevent chafing

Reasons to avoid

-
Comes up a bit big

"This dress is equally as comfortable as it is stylish. It’s buttery soft for everyday use, and stretchy enough to be used as activewear. The shorts underneath have discreet pockets for any essentials. I wore this dress out for a day in Disneyland and did not notice the shorts riding up throughout the day and they helped me avoid any chafing." - Sofia Piza, Fashion Writer

4. Best luxury sports dress

One Shot Tennis Dress

(Image credit: Vuori)

Vuori One Shot Tennis Dress

Reasons to buy

+
In built bra and shorts
+
Spaghetti strap design
+
Sweat wicking but also stylish

Reasons to avoid

-
Runs a little long.

"This was the first ever sports dress I owned and I've worn it at least once a week since. It's great for days in the park, long hikes, and also cardio workouts like running, if that's the look you're going for. While the in built shorts are a dream and don't ride up or sag, the bra isn't the most supportive for high intensity exercise, so I'd advise wearing another bra underneath it." - Ally Head, Senior Health Editor

5. Most comfortable sports dress

Strappy Tennis Dress

(Image credit: Adanola)

Adanola Strappy Tennis Dress

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile design
+
Super comfy
+
Breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
The shorts ride up a little during vigorous workouts

"I'm a huge fan of Adanola, so was excited to try out their tennis kit. My first impressions on trying this dress out on the court was just how how breathable it was. No sweaty mess over here - I was blown away. I also felt really comfortable moving around thanks to the built-in shorts (although I must say, they did ride up a little bit during the match). Apart from that, this outfit was a winner, and I would definitely style this up with a pair of New Balance trainers and a blazer to go and get brunch with the girls." - Grace Lindsay, Health Writer

6. Most supportive sports dress

Vuori Set Dress

(Image credit: Vuori)

Vuori Set Dress

Reasons to buy

+
Offers great support
+
Easy to get in and out of
+
Unique design elements

Reasons to avoid

-
It's quite pricey

"Considering this sports dress has quite a low scoop neckline, I was surprised at how supportive it was. It’s easy to get in and out of, thanks to the zip-up back and I love the design elements like the pleated skirt and open back which make it feel a little different from other sports dresses. The material of this dress is a little thicker than other sports dresses I’ve tried, so I’d avoid wearing it on super hot days, but overall, it’s flattering, supportive and chic. I’m a huge fan." - Valeza Bakolli, Junior Shopping Editor

7. Best sports dress for running

lululemon Align™ Dress

(Image credit: lululemon)

lululemon Align™ Dress

Reasons to buy

+
Buttery soft material
+
Built-in shorts with pocket
+
Built-in bra support

Reasons to avoid

-
It's quite expensive

"I recently tried the Lululemon Fast and Free Dress, and it's a fantastic addition to their running range. Made with super lightweight fabric, it feels incredibly comfortable and breezy. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of loose shorts since they tend to ride up, so this dress is the perfect alternative.

I love that it brings out my feminine side while running, offering something girlie and cute in a sport often dominated by male attire. The dress comes with Lululemon's popular Fast and Free shorts underneath, which even have pockets. And let's be honest, a girl needs her pockets!

The high neck design is another great feature, preventing any wardrobe malfunctions and giving extra support for those of us with a bigger bust. Plus, the beautiful open back panel is not only flattering but also adds a nice touch.

If tennis players can wear a dress, why can't we runners do the same? The Lululemon Fast and Free Dress combines functionality and style, making it a new favourite in my running wardrobe." - Samantha Nicks, Runner

While the Fast and Free dress is sadly no longer available on the lululemon website, we've linked out to a similar design above.

What is a tennis dress?

I asked Sue Humberstone-Smith, Product Merchandiser at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, for her expert insight into what a tennis dress actually is.

"When you’re playing sport, like tennis, you want to feel as comfortable as possible, so wearing the right clothes is very important" she told me, "you’ll want to wear clothes that allow for a range of movement so you don’t feel restricted and the classic tennis dress is a great option. The tennis dress is a silhouetted, sleeveless dress which allows quick, extended movements, and importantly for tennis, it doesn’t restrict your arms. The original women’s tennis look actually used to consist of a floor length dress with long sleeves and a high neckline, however after the First World War, practicality became more of a priority and hemlines started to shorten, allowing a player to dive for a ball. My personal favourite is the Womens Polo Dress from the Wimbledon collection – not only is made from recycled polyester, but the lightweight material makes running around both on and off the court even easier."

What should I look for in a tennis dress?

According to Humberstone-Smith, tennis dresses should have a few key elements:

  • It should be made from stretch fabric for easy movement and comfort and to ensure it also retains its shape. A typical example would be lightweight polyester with a small % of elastane.
  • Ideally and often requested is to have a ‘racer back‘ which basically means the dress is cut away in a curved shape from the shoulders allowing much more freedom of movement when playing tennis.
  • The fabric should have ‘wicking‘ quality, which means when a sports person becomes hot, the moisture will pull away from the body onto the fabric and therefore be more comfortable.
  • It's often useful to have extra ventilation, either through air holes punched into the fabric or areas of the dress scooped out and cut away – i.e. at the back.
  • Usually the dress will be slightly flared , again for ease of movement and allowing the wearer to wear separate tennis shorts underneath, if not already included in the design.

Do sports dresses always have shorts?

Short answer: no. Some sports dresses don’t have shorts to allow for a more streamlined design. However, in our opinion, the best ones do. Shorts allow you to move freely in your workout without the fear of flashing your pants. If you’re wearing your sports dress more casually, shorts also add some extra support and prevent friction or rubbing of the thighs which can lead to chafing. If you’ve already experienced chafing, you’ll know it’s not something you want to try again, so check our our roundup of the best chafing creams

Valeza Bakolli
Junior Shopping Editor

Valeza Bakolli is Marie Claire’s Junior Shopping Editor. She previously worked at BuzzFeed, where she honed her skills in all things shopping - from gift guide curation to being first on the scene to feature the latest fashion and beauty drops. She’s made it her mission to encourage people to shop mindfully and with purpose. That’s why she dedicates hours of her time every day to finding the best products online so you don’t have to - from small and sustainable businesses wherever possible, of course.