Product Review: Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Despite my attempts to be on an “anything but wedding-related” shopping freeze, I used the excuse of my birthday, and a cash gift, to buy myself the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress, in the bright blue option.

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

I’ve written before about the REI Novara line, and how the garments I saw were close but not quite, and I have to say, I think this dress is pretty spot on. Unlike the reflective fabric mountain biking shorts (again, who is going to see that?!), this dress is designed to be a cute comfy dress, with some bike-friendly detailing. I wore it yesterday to run some errands, and then last night to a DC party The Mechanic and I went to, and was very pleased with it.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

The dress has a comfy elastic waist that was surprisingly flattering (my stomach looked so flat in this!), and the skin-cancer-phobic part of me really appreciated having my shoulders covered. One less body part to worry about reapplying sunscreen onto! You can’t see it unless you are up close, but there are some also flattering vertical tucks in the front bodice, which I like. There are two side seam pockets, which zip shut, and hide a drawstring that allows you to pull up the sides of the skirt, to make it shorter for biking.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I thought the dress was extremely comfy to bike in, even without the sides pulled up. Maybe on my bike I would gather it up, since I have a top tube that tends to interfere with skirts more than the CaBi step-thru frame. Or maybe not.

In action!

In action!

My favorite part of the dress, of course, is the reflective detailing. Reflective piping is stitched into the back yoke seam, exactly where it should be! I guess someone has been reading my blog and taking tips! ; )

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

I am quite pleased with this dress, and plan on taking it on the honeymoon to bike in. I do wish the color options had been a bit better – I sort of get making a solid black version, to have a bikey LBD (Little Black Dress, for those of you who don’t know, considered a sartorial staple by many women), but I disagree with anything all black for biking. Even with reflective trim, biking (or walking) in the dark in solid dark clothing is not the best idea. On the other hand, although I love the blue version, the print is not my first or second or even third go-to. A classic stripe with a solid yoke would be so perfectly nautical and summery, and be even more “normal.” But that’s really just being super picky about a dress I really love! Way to go REI!


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6 responses to this post.

  1. […] Steinhardt came to my attention when she commented on my review of the REI Novara Whittier Dress – she was the designer! How cool to get feedback! I looked her up on LinkedIn (I’m such […]


  2. Posted by Lauren S on September 13, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Hi there! I am actually the designer of this dress. I was doing a bit of googling for portfolio-related stuff when I came across this blog. How nice to read a review of it :) And I’m so glad to hear that all the bike-friendly features work as intended.

    As for the print, what can I say? I definitely hear you on that. For myself I would prefer a solid colorway (I thought red would be cool), but as designers we do our best to anticipate what will resonate with our customers. Maybe we missed the mark a bit with this one.


    • Hi Lauren! Thanks for leaving a comment – it’s so cool that you were the designer of this dress! I really love it, the cut, how flattering it is, how easy it is for so many occasions, not just biking. (Red would have been cool, maybe a nice burgundy or aubergine?) I’d love to ask you a million questions about your job – do you only design the bike stuff? Do you follow Fashion Week, seasonal trends, etc. when designing? Any hints about what we can expect from REI for the next season or two? ; ) But I’ll leave it at that. Unless you need someone to help test out designs… feel free to ask, anytime!

      Thanks again, and I look forward to future fashionable bike-friendly designs!


      • Posted by Lauren on September 14, 2014 at 5:03 am

        Well, sadly I’m not with Novara anymore, but I can attest that REI is a great company and they have amazing standards for quality and performance. But, I am still designing bike clothes, which is my favorite product to work on! I love your blog, you have a lot of excellent insights.

        But to answer some of your questions, designers in the outdoor industry do look at runway trends (although it may not always be apparent :)), mostly for color and silhouette. Part of the reason these clothes aren’t too “fashiony” is because they have performance features built in and people want them to last for a long time, and not feel like they are last season. Unfortunately women’s urban cycling is still considered niche and for a long time it was too small of a market for the biggies like Novara and Levi’s. But slowly that’s changing and I think Novara’s urban line is pretty rad.

  3. Thanks for the review. I think it’s a great idea for a dress but could see there might be problems. First and formost, that pattern. I was tempted by the black but there is less visibility. That print. Why can’t they just make a normal print? Get a fashion designer to design it? What’s with the 80’s fade triangles. Stripes, dots, regular triangles with no odd color fades, so many other choices. At least I can see the fit is great and it’s good to hear you can bike in it.


    • It’s true, the print is not ideal. What about a nice classic nautical navy yoke and stripes? But it’s not so awful that I dislike it – or I wouldn’t have bought it! : )


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