While there are several elements that go into a successful summer wardrobe, the one category that props up everything else is dresses. Unrivalled in both their versatility and ease (just add a pair of sandals and go), dresses are the sartorial hero of the sunshine months, and the right styles will take you effortlessly through the season.
The trick is to build a collection of hardworking pieces that play to any and every occasion. Whether heading to a work meeting, picnicking in the park or going to the beach, the goal is to open your closet and find the dress that looks and feels just right. We’ve pulled together the seven essentials that will enable you to do just that. Consider this your ultimate summer dress capsule.
The Everyday Dress
Packing plenty of wearability, the everyday dress is your summer alternative to jeans, and makes for a quick and chic daytime dressing solution. This piece majors on comfort, so look for easy silhouettes in casual fabrics such as cotton, chambray or linen. Choose a sleeved style and you can even wear it for low-key office days. Midi hem lengths will pair with every shoe in your collection; wear off-duty with white plimsolls or add polish with luxe clogs, and finish with a trophy bag.
The Little Summer Dress
Nothing completes a holiday suitcase more than a light and airy summer dress. Teamed with tan sandals and a basket bag, this is the piece that will take you from days at the beach to walks around the local market. Add a pair of espadrilles and gold jewellery for balmy dinners al-fresco. This style sings sunshine, so look for high-summer details such as crochet, cut-outs, scalloped edging, seersucker or broderie anglaise. Keep colours fresh and fabrics breathable and breezy.
The Floral Print
The one motif that belongs in every summer wardrobe is floral. They might not be groundbreaking, but timeless blooms evoke the optimism of the season like no other and effortlessly introduce print into the rest of your summer collection. The secret is to look for vintage-inspired patterns that won’t date easily: chintzy wallpaper, retro ’70s and ditsy florals in a muted colour palette have enduring appeal. These work especially well showcased on longer maxi and midi lengths.
The Shorter Length
While midi hems have long dominated the fashion landscape (and continually prove highly versatile in our wardrobes), a shorter-length dress offers a playful alternative when temperatures allow. Keep the shape wearable by opting for relaxed cuts; try an A-line or tiered skirt with a gathered waist for definition. Sleeves or a covered shoulder balance out the proportions of a shorter hem, as do voluminous cuts such as a puff or balloon. Add further summer spirit with ruffles.
The Subtle Colour-Block
The sunny months are the perfect time to add more colour into your wardrobe, and a single-tone dress is one of the easiest ways to do so. Soft, sun-washed shades speak to the laid-back attitude of the season and are easy to wear with summer neutrals: tan, white, chambray, cream, gold. Alternatively, they provide the perfect backdrop for a bright sandal or bag when seeking a more statement look.
If there’s one dress that can do it all, it’s the multi-tasker. This is a hardworking, goes-with-most style that can be easily dressed up or down with a switch of accessories. Think of this as your ultimate warm-weather foundation piece and look for classic silhouettes in day-to-evening colourways (navy, cream, black) and timeless motifs that work just as well on a work trip as they do at the weekend. Throw on with trainers for everyday errands, add statement earrings and sandals for dinner.
From weddings to special birthdays, every wardrobe needs one make-an-entrance dress to cater for summer occasions. Think red-carpet ready and go all out on dramatic silhouettes, luxurious fabrications and on-point detailing, which require nothing more than a sweep of lipstick to take centre stage. Forget outdated – and unsustainable – fashion rules and wear your statement dress to multiple events over the season, using transforming accessories to keep it looking fresh.
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