The summer season is prime dress time. Whether minimal and super skin-baring or a tad more polished and professional, there’s a perfect frock waiting to be worn when the temps really soar. We bring together the sweetest and sultriest dress styles for all your sun days.
The Maxi Dress: Floor Model
A long, cool pour of body-skimming fabric creates the hottest look for summer. Whether you choose one of these supremely comfortable gowns in a statement-making tribal print, vibrant watercolor floral or calming pastel
Sexier versions feature spaghetti straps and V-necks, while more demure blouson bodices, kimono sleeves and one-shoulder models skew more elegant. We think silk and silk blends provide a beautiful drape, but more casual and easy-care materials like jersey knit, modal rayon and polyester georgette will also get you through the sultriest days in lanky-chic style. If your style is more sporty than sumptuous, try a cotton racer-back maxi in a trendy stripe print.
Spaghetti-strap maxi dresses
V-neck maxi dresses
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Silk maxi dresses
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Cotton maxi dresses
The Halter Dress: Soft Shoulders Ahead
There’s a good reason the halter dress remains a staple of our summer wardrobes: it’s flattering. The bodice and straps appear both casual and flirty, creating the look of broader shoulders and enhancing the bustline. A classic halter dress will remind you of Marilyn Monroe, with wide straps that tie behind the neck, a defined waistline and a knee-length skirt that gently flows out. These uber-femme frocks show off multicolored florals, abstract prints and sporty stripes and are usually made from cotton lawn, linen blends or other structured medium-weight fabrics.
More modern versions echo the ’70s trend with slinky straps that rise from a center bodice ring, empire waists, and body-conscious cuts in light jersey, shiny satin, mesh and other sleek materials. Halter dresses come in all lengths, from micro-mini to maxi, and most are made for sunny-day revels. Look for darker colors, silk georgette fabric and high keyhole bodices with cut-away shoulders when you want to spice up your night.
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Floral halter dresses
“Striped halter dresses” halter dresses”
Striped halter dresses
“Empire waist halter dresses”
Empire waist halter dresses
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Jersey halter dresses
“Mini halter dresses”
Mini halter dresses
The Shirtdress: Classic Cool
Want a frock to get you through those triple-digit days, but prefer something a little less sexy than a sundress? Consider the shirtdress. They’re office-appropriate, polished yet pretty and usually made from airy easy-care fabrics that’ll keep you happy when it’s hot. A shirtdress also complements any figure—the classic full-length button front lets you personalize the fit at the chest and the knees, while the waist is neither too tight nor shapeless so you can belt it or leave it loose. Most shirtdresses are collared, show pocket details and feature roll-tab sleeves for even more configurability.
Safari and cargo styles in khaki and tan hues skew trendy, while some dresses are fancied up with ruffle plackets, silk fabrication or couture-inspired patterns. Traditional shirtdresses are usually found in crisp stretch-cotton poplin and stretch linen, but on the casual end of the spectrum are T-shirt dresses and tank dresses in light knits and bright colors that just beg to be worn on a beach boardwalk.
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The Strapless Dress: Bare Essential
The ultimate in femme frock freedom has to be the strapless dress. This alluring, shoulder-baring cut shows up on every mood of dress imaginable—from sheer beach cover-ups to the fanciest wedding gowns, but we’ll focus on the best bets for summer. First, look for something bright and beautiful in trendy hues like citrus yellow and green, sky blue and big blooming floral mixes. Most strapless dresses are short, hitting at the knee or mid-thigh, and many flaunt ruched, ruffled and smocked bodices with gentle waist definition. We think the prettiest shapes sport empire waists and asymmetrical hems that sway when you stride.
And while we love all those fun-loving loud colors, there’s something summery about a bright white cotton-eyelet strapless frock. Add a cute pair of flats, oversized sunglasses and a floppy big-brimmed hat and you are . Other super-cool fabrications include stretch canvas, chambray, ultra-casual terry, light washable silk and even lace or hammered satin for an enchanted evening.