It's 2015. We have wearable technology, hydrogen-powered cars, and a smartphone app that translates foreign languages in real time. Is our best solution for staying cool, looking good, and retaining dexterity really just "use less cotton"? Dozens of outdoor brands beg to differ.
As sundress season approaches climax, the line between "technical garment" and, well, "garment" blurs more with each passing day. The outdoor heritage of brands like Patagonia, Nau, and prAna was previously tapped for definitively lifestyle pieces like patterned sweaters and cotton tees. That same heritage has been called on once again to furnish each brand's respective Spring/Summer collection with complex technical pieces meant to keep their wearer cool, comfortable, and ready to move in their environment. Shockingly, I'm talking about a dress.
To the uninitiated, a dress has about as much utility as a graphic tee: it's for small, measured steps in heels, not rocky scrambles. A dress is an impotent fashion piece, end of discussion. As is the case with all innovation, all it took was a subtle change in perspective to completely shift the paradigm and create greatness.
Beginning in the early 2000's, this novel thought crept into the minds of activewear designers: all these sweat-wicking, breathable, sun protective fabrics would make for great outdoor summer wear of all sorts. Form and function need not only intersect in advanced mountaineering gear. Every part of someone's life, in fact, could be enhanced by the compounds and weaves reserved previously for life's uncommon extremes. Thus, the technical dress was born.
Technical, beautiful, and surprisingly affordable: the tech dress does it all. We grabbed our seven favorite tech dresses and hit the town on a sweltering 90 degree Ann Arbor afternoon all in the name of giving you the lowdown on these incredible dresses!
prAna Skye Dress: prAna's Skye Dress gives you all day comfort in an empire maxi dress - how much better can that get? It's organic cotton and touch of spandex give it a comfortable fit that will hug your body in all the right places while letting it move effortlessly all over. Pair it with any open-toed sandals (from leather to nylon) and get ready to soak up some rays!
(modeled by Mary H., Women's Technical Apparel)
Patagonia Kiawah Island Dress: While not every Patagonia piece features three-layer membranes and waterproof fabric, their philosophy of designing products for the active consumer is upheld in the Kiawah Island dress, a perfect summer choice. Its blend of 100% organic cotton and Tencel lyocell (think: super-soft upcycled plant matter that's woven like a synthetic fiber) means the Kiawah Island dress is breathable, soft, and stretchy. An extra bonus? The Kiawah Island features a built-in bra for effortless casual wear, but can be easily removed to accommodate more active uses.
(modeled by Karen B., Women's Technical Apparel)
Lole Buena Tunic: Although the Buena Tunic’s technical aspects (chlorine-resistant, UPF 50+) indicate that it’s main use is a coverup, use at the beach or pool is definitely not the end all be all for this piece. Add a pair of leggings, strappy sandals, and a necklace to compliment the scoop neckline to instantly take this timeless tunic from sun to city. The nylon blend fabric provides a four-way stretch that maximizes comfort as it moves with you wherever you go for meetings, errands, or wherever life takes you.
(modeled by Megan D., Women's Fashion)
Patagonia Spright Dress: This thin-strapped, racerback dress incorporates Patagonia’s organic cotton and Tencel blend fabric to allow for maximum movement and breathability. The fabric drapes fabulously as the piece transitions from a more fitted bodice to a relaxed fit below the waist. The built in bra ensures that the Spright Dress is a worry-free, easy to throw on piece that can serve as both comfortable and cute for everyday errands or travel.
(modeled by Lauren H., Women's Fashion)
Patagonia Kamala Twist: The Kamala Twist is made of the same lightweight, flowing blend of organic cotton and tencel that Patagonia knows and loves. It makes for a superb travel piece that seamlessly transitions from a tour or hike to doing some shopping or getting a bite to eat. It’s all in the details: the slight ruching at the waist makes for an irresistible slimming and flattering fit.
(modeled by Anna A., Women's Fashion)
Patagonia Kamala Skirt: Who can say no to BOGO? The Kamala Skirt is more than its name says, it also doubles as a bandeau style dress with a behind-the-neck halter tie. If you’re not in the dress mood, it can also be worn as a skirt with an asymmetrical hem or a high-low style that hits around the knee. This piece’s versatility allows it to be a beach day staple that could also be worn as part of a date night outfit.
(modeled by Jacque P., Women's Fashion)
Stylus Dress by Nau: The Nau Styulus dress is something you will never want to take off your body. It's a stylish mixture of soft and sustainable organic cotton and breathable Tencel, making it perfect for the warm summer commute to work or outdoor wedding. Nau places more emphasis on contemporary fashion detailing than any other tech dress brand we carry - if you're a city mouse looking to up your dress game, you can't go wrong with the Stylus.
(modeled by Beniece L., Women's Technical Apparel)
Words by: Liz L., Women's Technical Apparel and Hannah C., Women's Technical Apparel
Edited by: Alex R., Men's Fashion
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Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion