Over the last year, one piece of workout gear has firmly inserted itself into my closet– the Nuu-Muu exercise dress. I use them for commuting, running, and even ran a marathon in one earlier this spring.
A Nuu-Muu is a USA-made sleeveless running dress– or tunic, if you’re 5 feet, 8 inches like me– designed for active pursuits. I first learned about Nuu-Muu at a Marine Corps Marathon expo several years ago, as they were one of the exhibitors there.
The women staffing the Nuu-Muu booth took an interest in me upon seeing my pannier and helmet. Also active cyclists, the women of Nuu-Muu asked me about my cycling and we ended up talking more bikes than running. I appreciated their curiosity and interest in bicycling, and that interaction stuck with me.
I bought a dress at that time, but I rarely wore it. Years later and a few pounds lighter, I sold that dress and purchased another one to see how I might use it.
I had begun run commuting and disliked how regular length shirts rode up and under my running pack. I tried running to work in a Nuu-Muu. It stayed comfortably in place under my pack, and did not ride up like the shirts I had been wearing.
Initially I felt conspicuous running in a dress, although truth be told nobody is paying much attention to anyone else on the D.C. commute, especially in the morning hours. It seemed like overkill for a commute.
But as I wore Nuu-Muus with more frequency, I realized that they not only addressed my run commuting needs, but I also felt feminine and athletic while wearing them. I liked looking down and seeing the skirt flare above my legs as I ran. Generally a neutrals and solids person, Nuu-Muu’s multi-colored prints brightened my day. Hey, whatever gets you out for a run, right?
I began using them for summer bike commuting. I’m convinced that drivers are nicer to me on the road, and more people open doors for me when I’m coming and going from the office in a Nuu-Muu compared to days when I’m in shorts and a t-shirt. This could all be in my mind, but…
Made of 83 percent polyester and 17 percent spandex, Nuu-Muus move easily with the body, and I’ve experienced no chafing when running or riding in them (this sometimes happens to me when running with sleeveless tops). I pair my Nuu-Muu with the compression shorts I usually wear for running.
Nuu-Muu also offers a version called a Ruu, which features two rear pockets. Ruus are my preferred style, as the pockets easily store my phone, keys, ID, and lip balm for my long runs.
Unlike a fuel belt, the placement of the pocket has not irritated my back, likely because the pockets sit slightly higher than a fuel belt would. The pockets are covered (see photos) so I never worry about any items falling out.
I recently used a Nuu-Muu on our two-week bike tour as my off-the-bike outfit of choice. It was receptive to spot-cleaning and easy to wash and wear. I could hang it dry in our hotel room and it was perfectly dry in the morning.
I would likely wear a Ruu for longer bike rides, but my shoulders cannot tolerate the all-day sun exposure of summer. Also, while the fabric covering for the pocket is perfect for the jostling that comes with running, I prefer an open rear pocket when I’m cycling.
With the exception of the pocket versus no-pocket option, Nuu-Muu dresses are the same basic pattern– sleeveless, keyhole neckline, a short slit on both sides of the skirt.
Every year Nuu-Muu introduces new prints for their dresses and phases out others. Nuu-Muu has a Facebook group that avidly follows the introduction of prints and showcases how women wear and use their dresses.
The retail price for a Nuu-Muu is $75, and the two-pocket Ruu is priced at $85. This price point compares well to a good cycling jersey, and I think it’s an additional plus that Nuu-Muu is a women-owned business that makes all their dresses in the United States.
The quality of the Nuu-Muu dresses I own has also been solid, and they have held their shape over time (time being around a year). A few show wear on the areas where my commute pack waist strap fastens, but I would expect this type of wear and it happened over some months of using the dress.
I’m not much of a gear reviewer, but I surprised myself with how much I enjoy running in a Nuu-Muu dress so I had to write about it. Now if only the act of wearing one would make me go faster.