How to Pick the Best Summer Dresses

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summer dresses put you in a vacation mood, whether you’re headed out for your next trip or just gearing up for summer events and beach days. Whether you want a slinky slip dress to wear with strappy heels or a laid-back wrap dress for your next beach day, peak summer dressing is here and there’s plenty of cute and airy options to choose from.

The key to a good summer dress is in the details, like fun puffed sleeves or a halter neck. And of course, the hemline matters too. Minis are great for showing off your legs and grazing the ground, while midi dresses fall mid-way up the calf, a length that’s perfect for daytime activities or casual cocktail parties. For more formal occasions, try a long summer dress in silk or satin for a touch of luxe.

A summer dress should be as comfortable as possible, which means a soft and stretchy fabric that moves with you. Look for styles made from breathable materials like cotton blends or linen that offer moisture wicking properties and a cool, lightweight feel. A smocked surplice dress from Free People, for instance, offers a flattering nip in the waist that works on every body type and shape, while a billowy tiered maxi dress from Grecerelle is easy to throw on and go—it even comes with built-in shorts for a little extra coverage.

For an instant summer glam, add some sparkle with a dress featuring shimmering metallic details. A sparkly maxi dress from Forever 21 is a great choice, as is a simple sheath dress from Ann Taylor that’s available in pretty jewel tones and a variety of silhouettes.

Some of the best summer dresses come in an array of colors and trends, including pastel pinks, blues and greens as well as florals and striped prints. Other standout shades include navy, lavender and black. And if you’re traveling this summer, look for lightweight linen and other wrinkle-resistant fabrics to get the most use out of your dresses, especially in hot weather.

The ultimate summer dress is one that can be worn anywhere, so opt for a style that features some sort of sleeve or shoulder detail for added versatility. For instance, a tiered dress can be layered with a light jacket or worn with a blazer to create a smart business look. You can also layer a fitted button-up blouse under a relaxed linen dress and tie it around your waist for a smarter, more formal look that can be adapted for the heat. For a lighter layer, reach for a lightweight cardigan or pullover sweater in a complementary color to enhance your summer dress.

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