The dress has to be the most female and versatile of garments combining bodice and skirt into a single item, but would you think to go running in one? Indeed, it is deemed acceptable and practical to play tennis in a dress, which demonstrates the comfort factor of not wearing separates for sports. Yet, dresses designed for running seem to divide serious runners as to their functionality and sensibility. There is much opinion that a dress is “too girly” to run in… Really? What is the social apparel difference between a skort worn with a tank, which many trail runners sport, and a dress?
In effect, most sports dresses are pitched for tennis, with a rare few labelled for running, But as the Skyrunner World Series got out of its starting blocks at the end of April and gets into full high-season stride with the Mont-Blanc Marathon weekend of 24th to 26th June, which has been on the Series since 2014 – skyrunning being defined as mountain running above 2000m of altitude over extremely technical trails, the Chamonix Valley, the valley of trail running, is becoming overrun by trailers training in compression tights and running skorts, while the sports’ shop windows in town are hung with technical trailer fashions, including running dresses – as Chamonix Mont-Blanc becomes the trail running capital of the world.
This contemporary fever for trail running has confidently spread across the Channel to Blighty in recent years with the Centurion South Downs Way, 50 miles run in April and 100 miles in June, organised by the International Trail Running Association and the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline on the World Series this coming September.
So, how do such dresses wear? I have to admit, as a Chamonix Valley resident, that the Odlo Primaloft running dress, which won German Outdoor magazine’s editors’ choice award this February and is actually designed for running in winter with body-mapping thermal insulation and strategic breathe-ability, is a brilliant piece of sportswear. I don’t run, but I do swim wild in cold open water – the Mediterranean is only 16 degrees in May and high mountain lakes never get as warm as that – and this dress is perfect for pulling on quickly over jeggings or running tights to warm up after a bracing glacial dip. Not being in the current summer collection, this Odlo dress can be found on www.outletinn.com, an excellent website selling technical branded sportswear off-season.
Another great running specific dress that is no longer easy to find due to its popularity is the Salomon Mahakali dress designed by New Zealand champion trail runner Anna Frost, who very often runs in a dress or skort. An inspirational athlete, Anna takes a very humanistic approach to her ultra running, in which she has been competing professionally since 2004. Her latest short film Paradise Lost for Salomon Running TV Season 5 is a beautiful journey to Papua New Guinea in which she explains her passion for running.
In the photo at the top of the article Anna is showing what a great running garment the dress can be – note that she always wears running briefs or compression shorts underneath in summer and compression tights or Icebreaker leggings in winter.
Follow Anna’s example and always pair your running dresses with good knickers or short tights underneath. Odlo have excellent quality athletic briefs, running shorts and support bras in their collection year-round for this purpose.
Or you could try the organic British brand, conceived in the Chamonix Valley village of Argentière, Sueme’s Beech Shorties, which are spun from beech tree pulp thread and have carefully constructed and placed seams that do not chafe – environmentally positive and extremely comfortable sports underwear, €19.20 from www.sueme.com.
Another good British sporting brand is Runderwear, whose excellent Low-Rise Hipster running briefs will avoid an uncomfortable and unsightly waistline under a sports dress, £16 from www.runderwear.co.uk.
So, good rules for sporting running dresses correctly are:
- Always wear good sports knickers under your sports frock.
- A sports dress will always flatter more than short tights or long leggings with a top: it can also look action-sharp over tight jeans for non-sporting meets.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously that you couldn’t possibly be seen running in a dress.
Here are six of the best running dresses that combine style and functionality:
Have fun running! @ChamonixStylist www.belindabuckley.com