The 30 Best Summer Dresses to Wear for Casual and Formal Occasions

·22 min read

Summer dressing should be easy. You should spend your time planning outdoor activities and enjoying the warm weather, not fussing over an unduly complicated outfit. The best summer dresses are an easy solution that will take the guesswork out of getting dressed when the heat is scorching. 

When you’re picking out your ideal summer dress, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. First and foremost, material. Natural lightweight fabrics are best for the warmer weather,” explains Nikki Campbell and Sophie Coote, founders of Australian label Sir. “Particularly linen and cotton or our lightweight Aya knit, which is perfect for layering with swim, the sheer open weave is perfect for summer.” 

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Another factor worth considering is a dresses’ versatility. If ease is your goal, you’ll want to invest in a style that can easily be worn for a daytime beach visit, or a fancier occasion, simply depending on how you style it. “We always have in mind the versatility of a piece so that the dress alone can work both ways,” says Monica Paolini, the designer of Sea New York. “The right jewelry and shoe pairing can help shift the look into day or night.”

As temperatures rise, take stock of your current collection of summer dresses, and consider which of the season’s upcoming trends are worth mixing in with more standard silhouettes. 

Top Summer Dresses of 2022

Cute Summer Dress Trends for 2022

If you’re looking for the ideal summer dress to embrace, take the advice of Paolini, Campbell, and Coote and test out a few of the top trends about to take off in the months ahead.

– Artful details: At Sea, smocking and embroidery are key elements being incorporated into spring’s styles. If you’re looking for an eye-catching daytime dress, this is the look for you. Crafty designs have been a favorite for stars like Bella Hadid and Lorde, who style them with edgy accessories for a youthful twist. Since there’s so much variety in silhouette, it’s a trend that’s flattering and easy to embrace for all.

– Cutouts: “The cutout trend can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be,” say Campbell and Coote. “Look for pieces with cutouts that accentuate your best assets. Pieces with adjustability to allow you to control how open the cut out are also a great way to dip your toe in.” The cutout trend is an easy way to show some skin in a more formal setting. If you want to accentuate your waist, opt for cutouts at the sides. If your back is a favorite feature, try something that’s open across your shoulders and down your spine. And, if you’re hoping to accentuate your bust, look for something with cutouts along the neckline. 

– Minidress: Shorter silhouettes may seem intimidating at first, but with appearances on major runways from Dior to Miu Miu, this leg-baring silhouette is a must try. As for styling, for the minidress, I like a barely-there shoe such as a thin strap sandal so it’s like you’re running around barefoot,” says Paolini. Look for a style that hits mid-thigh to ensure you’ll have enough coverage. For casual events, try a cotton shift dress, for formal get-togethers, try a luxe silk slip dress. 

Read on to shop the best summer dresses that you won’t be able to stop wearing.

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Etro Asymmetric Dress

Best Handkerchief Summer Dress

  • Sizes: One size

  • Material: Silk twill

  • Color: Multi

  • Best for: Casual cocktail parties

Love it or hate it, asymmetric hemlines are here to stay. This paisley-print style from Italian label Etro is trendy without being too much so. Pair the style with strappy heels and a statement mini bag to pull off a look that’s a little bit Elle Woods and a little bit vacation-in-Capri.

Etro Asymmetric Dress
Etro Asymmetric Dress

Etro Asymmetric Dress

Price: $888.37

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Reformation Bryn Dress

Best ‘90s-Inspired Summer Dress

  • Sizes: 0-10

  • Material: Silk

  • Color: Aliso, artichoke

  • Best for: A first date

‘90s-inspired styles have come back in a major way, but you don’t want your look to be too nostalgic or retro. This cowl-neck dress toes that fine line perfectly. The midi length is ideal for dressy occasions. Plus, the silk a-line silhouette will hug you comfortably all night long.

Reformation Bryn Dress
Reformation Bryn Dress

Reformation Bryn Dress

Price: $328

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Ciao Lucia Gabriela Dress

Best Smocked Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Apricot

  • Best for: A trip to San Tropez

Still planning to head to somewhere with sparkly, clear water this summer? Then you’ll want to pack this light, floaty dress from Ciao Lucia along with you. The smocked elastic waist will keep you comfortable with a forgiving stretch, while the adjustable top closure can be tightened to your needs. As a bonus, the dress also has pockets, so you won’t need to carry a purse around if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Ciao Lucia Gabriela Dress
Ciao Lucia Gabriela Dress

Ciao Lucia Gabriela Dress

Price: $305

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Doen Anya Dress

Best Sheer Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Silk organza

  • Color: Magnolia

  • Best for: A swimsuit cover-up

While a sheer dress surely doesn’t fit all occasions, summer is the time to try experimenting with something see-through. This delicate silk organza dress from California label Doen is a dainty take on the swimsuit cover-up. Scalloped details along the neckline and the bottom hem add a touch of whimsy that make this dress feel extra special. Keep your accessories light to let the style shine.

Doen Anya Dress
Doen Anya Dress

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Price: $498

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Miaou x Paloma Elsesser Thais Dress

Best Mesh Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XXXXL

  • Material: Recycled polyester

  • Color: Multi

  • Best for: Dancing the night away

Get graphic! This paneled dress is from the collaboration between New York label Miaou and model Paloma Elsesser. The mesh material is made of recycled polyester and is designed to have a snug fit. The dress also has a zip closure to make it easy to put on and take off. Try this style for a hot night out when you want to be the center of attention.

Miaou x Paloma
Miaou x Paloma

Miaou x Paloma Elsesser Thais Dress

Price: $325

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Khaite Francine Dress

Best Jersey Slip Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Viscose

  • Color: Cream

  • Best for: Dressed up daytime activities

Sometimes, simple is best. This sleek dress from NYC label Khaite sticks to the basics, and does it well. The minimalist dress with a low-cut neckline and maxi length is ideal for those who prefer to keep things easy, even when dressing up. Try this throw-on-and-go dress for brunch with friends, or even a summer cocktail party. The swooping back and thin straps will show off your shoulders.

Khaite Francine dress
Khaite Francine dress

Khaite Francine dress

Price: $980

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Sea Tess Dress

Best Cotton Summer Dress

  • Sizes: 0-10

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Multi

  • Best for: Summer picnics

There’s no material like lightweight cotton for keeping you cool during summer. This playful printed dress from Sea is the ideal piece for keeping you refreshed when you still want to dress up a bit. The vintage floral motif can easily be worn with dainty accessories, or you can style it with a chunky boot for a less dressy look come fall. The midi length means you’ll be able to style it a range of ways.

Sea Tess Dress
Sea Tess Dress

Sea Tess Dress

Price: $395

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Johanna Ortiz Seagrass Dress

Best Versatile Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Multi

  • Best for: The beach

On the hunt for a dress that’s both beachy and dressy at the same time? This elegant cotton maxi dress from Johanna Ortiz has a laid-back vacation feel, but is nice enough to wear out to cocktails. The convertible halter neckline can also be worn strapless, so you can change up your look as desired. The maxi length offers a bit more coverage, and plays nicely with flat sandals or heels.

Johanna Ortiz
Johanna Ortiz

Johanna Ortiz Seagrass Dress

Price: $950

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Likely Driggs Dress

Best Strapless Summer Dress

  • Sizes: 00-14

  • Material: Polyester and rayon

  • Colors: White, scarlet, sachet pink, deep orchid, ruby, black, navy

  • Best for: A bachelorette weekend

If you’re on the hunt for a great strapless party dress, try this ruffled option from Likely. “Great dress! Color and style are true to the photos, and fit were as expected based on other reviews,” writes one reviewer of the style. Since the dress is form fitting, many reviewers suggested sizing up, so you may want to keep that in mind when ordering. But, the stretchy fabric and form fitting silhouette will hug your curves and will look great in photographs. The ruffle over the bust adds a playful touch.

Likely dress
Likely dress

Likely Driggs Dress

Price: $149

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Prettygarden Boho Dress

Best Boho Summer Dress

  • Sizes: S-XL

  • Material: Polyester and spandex

  • Colors: Apricot, black, black brown, blue, coffee, green, grey blue, pink, polka black, spotted red, wine red

  • Best for: A coffee date

If you’re a fan of the drapey, relaxed feel of bohemian-inspired dresses, try this affordable option from Amazon. This Prettygarden dress has amassed over 2,000 reviews, with many women calling out the compliments they received when they had it on. “It’s comfortable, cute and cool for summer. The only thing that could make it better would be pockets,” writes one reviewer. With a wide range of colors available, you can tailor your purchase to whatever occasion you may be shopping for.

Prettygarden dress
Prettygarden dress

Prettygarden Boho Dress

Price: $40

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The Drop Tent Dress

Best Affordable Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XXS-5X

  • Material: Tencel lyocell

  • Colors: Off-black, ginger, mushroom, navy

  • Best for: Keeping things simple

I bought this dress on a whim and I love it. The material is really great quality and has a good weight to it. Every time I wear it, I get compliments,” writes one reviewer of this simple tank dress. Not only does the floaty, simple silhouette offer a relaxed option for those in need of an everyday summer dress, it also happens to have pockets — a handy staple that allows you to go purse free. The shoulder straps are adjustable as well, allowing for additional versatility in terms of fit.

Drop Tent Dress
Drop Tent Dress

The Drop Tent Dress

Price: $35

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Relipop Summer Dress

Best Summer Dress on Amazon

  • Sizes: S-XXL

  • Material: Polyester

  • Colors: Red, black, navy blue

  • Best for: Surviving a heatwave

A sweet wrap minidress is an easy go-to during a heat spell. This dress from Relipop has over 30,000 reviews on Amazon, so you know it’s been tried and tested. Many reviewers suggest adding a button or safety pin to secure the bust if you are larger chested and in need of any additional support. Also, the short hemline is worth noting for taller women who may find it a bit too revealing. Still, it fits true to size and purchasers find it to be flattering and cute.

Relipop dress
Relipop dress

Relipop Summer Dress

Price: $20

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Exlura Dress

Best Long-Sleeve Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XXL

  • Colors: Black, white, black floral, blue, peacock blue, pink, purple, red, wine red, yellow floral, hot pink, polka dot peacock blue, yellow, blue, polka dot light green

  • Best for: Beach parties

Sometimes, no matter the weather you want a dress with longer sleeves. This pretty option from Exlura is romantic and floaty with ruffled long sleeves. The wrap waist helps to cinch your middle to keep the dress from appearing too baggy. The back bow detail adds an additional feminine touch ideal for girly dressers. If you’re one to dress up for daytime occasions, try this dress on for size. 

Exlura dress
Exlura dress

Exlura Dress

Price: $40

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Astr the Label Midi Dress

Best Affordable Lace Dress

  • Sizes: XS-L

  • Material: Polyester

  • Colors: Navy, periwinkle, pink mauve, white, buttercream, hunter green, vivid violet, black

  • Best for: A baby shower

Perhaps this summer you have a lineup of weddings and events to attend. You’ll want to make sure you have warm weather occasion dresses that will live up to all of your needs. This lace midi dress from Astr the Label is elegant for formal get togethers. “This dress is wonderful quality for the price and looks much more expensive than it is,” writes one reviewer. Try one of the brighter colors if you want to embrace a bit more playfulness this season. 

Astr the Label dress
Astr the Label dress

Astr the Label Midi Dress

Price: $88

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Jacquemus Bahia Dress

Best Draped Summer Dress

  • Sizes: FR 32-46

  • Material: Viscose

  • Color: Orange

  • Best for: Trendsetting

Parisian label Jacquemus is beloved for its sultry summer pieces and the Bahia dress is a core style that sells out season after season. For 2022, you’ll want to pick it up in a bold tangerine hue. The front has a low-cut neckline and is draped at the waist, so if you want to show some skin, but are still looking for something formal, this dress is it. The long sleeves are loose, so you won’t overheat or feel restricted. Style the look with a pair of strappy sandals and statement earrings to finish off the look.

Jacquemus
Jacquemus

Jacquemus Bahia Dress

Price: $740

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Johanna Ortiz Extravagant Vision Dress

Best Abstract Print Dress

  • Sizes: 0-12

  • Material: 100% silk

  • Color: Black

  • Best for: A sunset cruise

The cutout dress trend has been on the rise over the last few seasons, and don’t expect it’s popularity to slow down this summer. Johanna Ortiz’ take features an oversized floral print and slick silhouette that feel more sophisticated than past takes. With cutout sides and a small center cutout, you won’t feel too exposed. The silk material is light and soft to the touch, meaning you’ll stay comfortable. The dress also hits just above the ankles, meaning it was meant to be worn with a pair of statement shoes.

Johanna Ortiz dress
Johanna Ortiz dress

Johanna Ortiz Extravagant Vision Dress

Price: $1450

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Christy Dawn Brooklyn Dress

Best Plus-Size Summer Dress

  • Sizes: 1X-3X

  • Material: Organic cotton

  • Colors: Dandelion floral, lapis aster garden, black cosmos floral, lapis

  • Best for: Wine in the park

This playful floral dress is a best-seller from Los Angeles label Christy Dawn. The puff sleeves and ruched bodice lend themselves to the romantic, floaty aesthetic the brand is known for. This piece is also made from organic cotton and is digitally printed using organic dyes. The dress is made in India through a partnership the brand has with the Oshadi collective. So, consider this a thoughtful investment in addition to just something pretty. 

Christy Dawn dress
Christy Dawn dress

Christy Dawn Brooklyn Dress

Price: $298

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Isabel Marant Solenne Dress

Best One-Shoulder Summer Dress

  • Sizes: FR 34-44

  • Material: Viscose, silk and elastane

  • Color: Pink

  • Best for: Dinner at a trendy restaurant

The one-shoulder minidress is a summer party staple. French label Isabel Marant’s colorful iteration is just the look for your warm evenings out. The pink and orange floral pattern is eye-catching without being over-the-top. It’s made from a stretch crepe that will fit snugly but still allows for comfort. And, the shoulder drawstring detail allows for versatility in terms of fit.

Isabel Marant dress
Isabel Marant dress

Isabel Marant Solenne Dress

Price: $1340

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Rag & Bone Riley Dress

Best Casual Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XXS-XL

  • Material: Polyester and cotton

  • Colors: Sage green, ivory

  • Best for: Weekend errands

A sheer, knit maxi dress is an easy throw-on-and-go piece when you know you’ll be out and about all day. This simple silhouette from Rag & Bone is a no-brainer. Made of polyester and cotton, its light weave is breathable for the hottest summer days. The sleeveless silhouette is simple, so consider throwing a denim jacket on top as a classic styling combo. Finish with sneakers and you’re ready to tackle your to-do list.

Rag & Bone dress
Rag & Bone dress

Rag & Bone Riley Dress

Price: $450

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Rixo Sardinia Dress

Best Open Back Summer Dress

  • Sizes: UK6-20

  • Material: Linen and viscose

  • Color: Blue

  • Best for: An outdoor wedding

British brand Rixo has a sophisticated take on the crochet trend that you just might want to add to your Summer collection. This blue crepe dress has a light, summery feel, but the crocheted bust and sleeves give it an instant boost over other summer styles. Crochet has been a popular trend for the last few years among industry insiders, and this is a foolproof way to ease into it without feeling too homespun. To style the dress, try pairing with a pair of nude flats and a coordinating purse. Consider this your ideal brunch outfit.

Rixo dress
Rixo dress

Rixo Sardinia Dress

Price: $450

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A.L.C. Adelle Dress

Best Halter Dress for Summer

  • Sizes: 00-14

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Russet multi

  • Best for: A summer barbecue

A great beach dress is one that you can easily throw on over a suit and yet still look polished and put together. This cotton option from A.L.C. is laid-back but still plenty of fun thanks to the punchy print. The tiered skirt allows for breathability and plenty of swing as you move. The neckline can be tied as a halter, or you can choose to wear the dress strapless if you prefer. If you’re looking for beach-day versatility, look no further.

ALC dress
ALC dress

A.L.C. Adelle Dress

Price: $595

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Frame Smock Dress

Best White Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Ramie

  • Color: Blanc

  • Best for: Layering under a blazer

Summer is all about keeping things simple. Sometimes, that means the recipe calls for nothing more than a great white dress. Frame’s smocked style hits just below the knee, and is the ideal lightweight summer frock. It’s made of 100 percent ramie, a tough but breathable fabric that is similar to linen. The dresses adjustable straps allow for you to easily fix the bustline to your desired height. Add a pair of coordinated white sandals and your outfit will be set. 

Frame dress
Frame dress

Frame Smock Dress

Price: $478

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Miu Miu Smocked Dress

Best Mini Summer Dress

  • Sizes: IT36-40

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Yellow

  • Best for: A birthday in the park

Short silhouettes are on the rise this season, and no one has led the charge quite like Miu Miu. (The brand’s ultra-mini skirt has been an editorial favorite this season). This sweet yellow dress is made from cotton in a light yellow gingham. The smocked skirt clings to the body, flattering your figure without hugging too tight. The bust hangs a bit looser, allowing for breathability and comfort. So, if you’re ready to bring up the hemline, here’s your starting place. 

Miu Miu dress
Miu Miu dress

Miu Miu Smocked Dress

Price: $1830

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Farm Rio Ombré Bananas Dress

Best Summer Vacation Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Materials: Cotton and viscose

  • Color: Light pink

  • Best for: Dancing

The best vacation dresses are easy to pack, versatile, and don’t put you at risk of looking wrinkly. This playful banana print dress from Brazilian brand Farm Rio should top your packing list. The warm color palette is perfect for the season, and the silhouette is easy to dress up or down. Try a pair of lace-up heeled sandals for a fancier occasion, or try a suede slide for more casual events. Either way, this fruit-laden dress will make a splash.

Farm Rio dress
Farm Rio dress

Farm Rio Ombré Bananas Dress

Price: $265

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Faithfull Cairo Dress

Best Romantic Summer Dress 

  • Sizes: XS-XXL

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Cairo Floral Print

  • Best for: Working from home

If you’re on the hunt for a sweet minidress that could almost pass for a comfy nightdress, look no further than this white floral option from Faithfull. The label was founded in Indonesia in 2012, and since then has become best known for its mix of dresses, swimwear, and warm-weather coverups. This sweet dress is made from 100% cotton, so you know it will be comfy and breathable. The square neckline and puff sleeves add romantic touches that will make you feel so special when you put it on.

. - Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom
. - Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Courtesy of Nordstrom

Faithfull Cairo Dress

Price: $169

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Rosie Assoulin Knit-Paneled Dress

Best Puff Sleeve Dress for Summer

  • Sizes: 0-10

  • Materials: Cotton and polyester

  • Color: Yellow

  • Best for: Impressing your boss

Quirky-cool New York label Rosie Assoulin is known for designs that take a classic silhouette and take it to the next level. This puff-sleeved dress gets an instant infusion of cool thanks to the cable knit upper. The retro-inspired silhouette has a full skirt bottom that falls elegantly at the ankle. Consider it a playful take on formal dressing. Just add quirky heels to match. 

Rosie dress
Rosie dress

Rosie Assoulin Knit-Paneled Dress

Price: $2495

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Christopher Esber Maxi Dress

Best Black Summer Dress

  • Sizes: UK4-14

  • Materials: Cotton, lyocell and elastane

  • Color: Black

  • Best for: Feeling casually fancy

Australian label Christohper Esber has become a fashion girl favorite for its sexy, sophisticated cut-out designs. This may look like a sleek black dress from the front, but behind, the open back adds a touch of intrigue. The cotton blend material is soft, but still lends structure that creates an elegant line when wearing the dress. Pair with minimalist gold jewelry, and you’ll feel instantly confident in this look. Plus, the dress’ pockets mean that you can leave your purse at home if you so desire.

. - Credit: Courtesy of Net A Porter
. - Credit: Courtesy of Net A Porter

Courtesy of Net A Porter

Christopher Esber Maxi Dress

Price: $640

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Louisa Ballou Black Heatwave Dress

Best Sheer Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Materials: Polyester and elastane

  • Color: Black

  • Best for: A post-swim party

Dare to style a sheer dress over your favorite swimsuit this summer. Louisa Ballou is a favorite of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Dua Lipa, and it should be yours too. The bold prints and sheer fabric make for an electric combination to test out. The adjustable drawstring allows you to play with the skirt length based on the rest of your look, too. So, if you’re looking to participate in hot girl summer, here’s the dress to help you pull it off.

Louisa Ballou Black Heatwave Dress
Louisa Ballou Black Heatwave Dress

Louisa Ballou Black Heatwave Dress

Price: $455

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Jonathan Simkhai Selah Dress

Best Cozy Summer Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Materials: Cotton and wool

  • Color: Multi

  • Best for: Cool summer nights

L.A.-based designer Jonathan Simkhai has the pulse on fashion that’s equal parts sexy and easygoing. This cotton-wool midi dress is the ideal style for a night out when you know the temperatures might cool off a bit. The long sleeves and maxi silhouette will keep you cozy once the sun sets, but the striped print and side cutout add a trendiness that elevates the look overall. To dress up the piece, try a square toed block heel and chunky chain jewelry. It’s a Los Angeles-approved styling that will look chic no matter where you are.

Jonathan Simkhai Selah Dress
Jonathan Simkhai Selah Dress

Jonathan Simkhai Selah Dress

Price: $695

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Coco Shop Slip Dress

Best Colorful Slip Dress for Summer

  • Sizes: XS-XL

  • Material: Cotton

  • Color: Navy

  • Best for: A garden party

Coco Shop was first established on the island of Antigua in 1949, but was revived in 2019. The bold, colorful designs are perfect for packing on any impending vacations. This colorful cotton slip dress has a defined waist and structured neckline, offering a bit more formality than silkier slips. The bold checkerboard pattern is reminiscent of vintage tiles, and the color palette is ideal for warm summer sunsets. Pair this dress with your favorite slip-on kitten heels and hit the town.

Cocoshop dress
Cocoshop dress

Coco Shop Slip Dress

Price: $480

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Tips for Transitional Dressing: How to Wear Your Summer Dress in the Fall

As temperatures start to cool in September, don’t worry about putting away your favorite summer dress. In fact, many styles can easily be transitioned into cooler months. The key is styling. Loose fit summer dresses are great to wear with a chunky sweater worn over the top and a pair of boots. The addition of these fall-focused items will add warmth and texture to your look without feeling too off kilter.

For more fitted styles, contrast the dress with an oversized blazer or chunky coat up top. As for shoes, consider swapping sandals for sneakers, which will offer a bit more coverage without getting too toasty. Lastly, for any mini silhouette, you may want to consider a few options to help offer a little more leg coverage. Over-the-knee boots or a pair of sheer black tights can help to keep you just a bit warmer without having to give up your favorite minidress until next year.

Meet the Experts

Nikki Campbell & Sophie Coote are the founders of the Australian label, Sir.

Monica Paolini is the designer of Sea New York.

Meet The Author

Aemilia Madden is a writer, editor, and brand consultant who has worked in the fashion industry for over eight years. She’s an Oakland, California native and Brooklyn resident. When she’s not writing about the latest trends, Aemilia is running in prospect park, testing new recipes on her friends, and trying to keep up with her New Yorker subscription.

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