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Best Sundress Styles for Summer

Sunshine. Lemonade. Watermelon. Ice cream. There’s a lot to appreciate in the summer months. Top among the gifts of summer? Sundresses, plain and simple. After three quarters of the year spent assembling complex layered looks—pants, top, sweater, blazer, jacket—summer unlocks the easiest outfits in your closet: summer dresses. 


A summer dress is a one-and-done way to stay cool, look polished and get out the door quickly—all the better to enjoy all the fun the season has to offer. Worn solo, and a breezy summer dress can look beach-party cool; add the right accessories, and suddenly you’re off to a black-tie-optional wedding. There are some rules that apply to all summer dresses, starting with color. Now’s the time to go all in with the brightest, flashiest tones. Citron yellow. Bubblegum pink. Blaze orange. Groovy turquoise. In the summer months, there’s no such thing as too vibrant. And the same goes for prints and patterns. Always wanted to try tropical florals? Get after it. Been thinking of dipping your toe into the colorblocking waters? Dive in, head first. Of course, your eye may need a cleanse after all the activity, so a stock of little black and white dresses will come in handy, too.


Ahead, our complete guide to summer dresses, plus how to wear them, plain and simple or spiffed-up and fancy.

Maxi Dresses


Let’s start with the basics. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly makes a maxi dress maxi, it’s pretty straightforward. A maxi dress is long, flowy and reaches all the way to the ankles. (If your maxi dress is dragging in the dirt, it’s too long. Enlist your go-to tailor for a trim.) But what happens head-to-toe is all up to you. Maxi dresses can be sleeved or strapless, halter or one-shoulder, floral or solid, frilly or unfettered. But they aren’t short, and in most cases, they aren’t tight either.


A tiered maxi dress—that is, one with multiple layers of fabric sewn horizontally along the dress to create texture and movement—tends to have a dressier vibe, so it might look nice with a low heeled sandal. Think a bridal or baby shower, or a celebratory birthday brunch. A high-low maxi dress that’s shorter in the front and longer in the back is a great way to show off a statement shoe, be it a stiletto or a great strappy sandal. 


When you’re choosing accessories, you’ll also want to consider the fabrication of your maxi dress. (Fabric also dictates formality.) Cotton or jersey knit dresses are slightly more breathable than some synthetic blends, which means they’re great for casual occasions. You could pair a cotton maxi with a flat sandal, flip flop or even a sneaker. Alternatively, satin, silk or chiffon are more appropriate at formal events, and excel paired with fittingly fancy shoes, too.


Express Womens Maxi Dresses
Express Womens Midi Dress

Midi Dresses


One thing about a maxi? It can be a little hot. (Even lightweight maxi dresses, to be honest.) If you’re still after some of the statement-making pizazz of flowing maxi dresses but want a little more breathability, consider a midi dress that reaches to your mid-calf. You’ll expose more of your leg, while still bringing a bit of drama.


In some ways a midi dress is the Goldilocks of dresses—not too short, not too long, but right in the middle. And happily, that middle length is relatively flattering for most people. Because the length is ubiquitous, that means you can have some fun with the overall style of your dress. Maybe you’ll opt for a mid-wrap dress that crisscrosses the front of the body and ties at the waist. Or maybe this is the season for a streamlined shift dress, with its straight lines and modest hem. A clean-cut sheath dress which skims the body and nips in along the waist has a vintage appeal. An asymmetrical midi dress—either with a one-shoulder neckline or an uneven hem that dips on one side—can be either romantic or edgy.


In addition to the formality of the event you’re attending, you’ll want to consider the length of your midi dress when selecting your shoes. If the hemline hits at the widest part of your calves, you’ll want a pump or sandal with a bit of heel to help elongate the leg. (A flat sneaker or sandal can drag the eye downwards.)

Mini Dresses



When they go long, you go high. With your hemline, that is. A mini dress is one that falls above the knee, the swishiest and coolest of the summer lengths. And because you’ll be exposing more of your legs, feeling good in what you wear is even more important. So pay attention to fit. You won’t want to wear a mini dress that’s too tight or too short, or one that rides up when you sit, lift your hands, dance or move.

If you’re attending a more elegant event, like a cocktail party or a gala, you’ll want to find a mini dress that’s more structured, tailored and in a solid tone. That doesn’t mean just black or cream, especially in the summer months. A canary yellow mini dress would be a welcome sunny statement. Still, though, add minimal accessories—dainty jewelry, a slim belt—and classic heels, no studs or stones. If you’re going to a barbeque or a clambake, you can get away with a loose-fitting, gauzy dress with an airy fit. And play with the pattern, too, before topping it off with sneakers, sandals and a jean jacket.



Express Womens Mini Dress