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Updated September 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best women’s summer dresses

Summer means backyard barbecues and garden parties in the sunshine — what better excuse do you need to break out your prettiest summer dress? Summer dresses are a great choice for warmer weather and are designed to be light, breathable, and pleasing to the eye.

The styles available to you when searching for your perfect summer dress may seem overwhelming. There are a plethora of variations in dress lengths, sleeve types, necklines, and back designs, creating thousands of summer dresses to choose from.

The good news is the volume of choices makes it easy to fill your closet with a unique dress for each summer event that comes your way. Once you have an understanding of the various summer dresses in each price range, you’ll be dressed to the nines in your new favorite dress.

a woman in summer dress by the beach
Your summer dress doesn’t have to be a loud, busy pattern. Try a solid-colored dress mixed with bright shoes or a floral kimono for a unique look that still says “summer.”

Considerations for women’s summer dresses

Material

Women’s summer dresses are made from a wide range of materials, the most common being cotton, polyester, rayon, or a blend. Cotton is by far the most popular as it’s inexpensive, breathable, and easy to care for. Cotton performs well in hotter climates and allows body heat to escape easily, making it a top choice for warm weather garments.

Summer dresses are also made using silk, nylon, denim, chambray, and linen.

Styles

The style of your summer dress refers to the combination of its various features, including the sleeves, bodice, and length. These are the most popular summer dress styles:

  • A-line or babydoll: A-line/babydoll dresses are shorter, featuring a form-fitting design at the waist and breast areas, and a loose, flared fit at the hips and thighs.
  • Wrap dress: Wrap dresses can vary in length and the way they fall on your body, but they always boast an adjustable waistline with ties that slip through a loop in the dress material. They’re known to be very comfortable.
  • Cami dress: Cami dresses are basic, simple dresses with thin sleeves. They’re crafted to be worn with layers and accessories or to be standalone outfit pieces.
  • Maxi dress: Maxi dresses are long, flowy dresses that have a number of different sleeve designs. Because they have more material, they’re enjoyed for their frequent bursts in color and bright, expressive patterns.

With the exception of maxi dresses, these summer dress styles are designed to show more leg and allow more airflow in higher temperatures.

Length

The length of your summer dress plays a large role in the overall look, and each length features different advantages that make them ideal for certain events or circumstances.

  • Mini: Mini dresses boast the shortest dress length, and while they vary in the specific measurements, they’re always cut over the knee, about halfway up the thigh. Mini dresses can be flowy or tight and form-fitting.
  • Midi: Midi dresses are of medium length, cut just under the knee and extending as far as halfway down the calf. Midi dresses are typically more form-fitting but can be loose and flowy as well.
  • Maxi: Maxi dresses are of the longest dress length, cut either just higher or lower than the ankle. Almost all maxi dresses are loose in fit, with a small number being form-fitting.
a woman in summer dress
DID YOU KNOW?
There are a number of cute, simple ways to combine accessories with your summer dress for a complete look. When wearing a floral or patterned summer dress, add simple pieces in solid colors. For example, a small clutch, trendy hat, or thin belt around the waist can easily elevate your look.
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Features of women’s summer dresses

Sleeves

Sleeves are part of your summer dress design that add a simple, creative accent to the overall style. Summer dress sleeves are shorter in order to give the wearer more airflow and comfort in warm temperatures. Summer dress sleeve types include spaghetti straps, short sleeves, off-the-shoulder sleeves, strapless, ruffled sleeves, or tie-string sleeves.

Due to their warmer nature, long-sleeve dresses aren’t a common summer dress choice. However, this doesn’t mean your summer dress can’t have longer sleeves. If the material is light enough, you can still wear a long-sleeve summer dress and be comfortable, especially if you choose to wear it at night.

Patterns & colors

Women’s summer dresses often feature bright colors and busy, loud patterns. Popular summer dress colors are yellow, red, orange, green, blue, pink, and white. These can be either single-color dresses or multicolored. Typical summer dress patterns include floral, stripes, polka dots, and geometric.

Summer dresses are also frequently sheer or shimmery and may feature more intricate design work like lace or beads. Floral is one of the favorite choices for summer dresses because the floral embellishments match the plants of the season.

Neckline

The neckline of your summer dress refers to the cut of the hem near the neck, chest, and breasts. This determines the look and breathability of the front of your summer dress. Common necklines include V-neck, scoop neck, plunging or deep V-neck, square neck, high-neck, and halter or halter strap.

Most women prefer more breathable necklines such as scoop, square, halter strap, and V-necks for their summer dress picks. While high-neck and halter necklines are stylish choices for summer dresses, perspiration from your breast and chest area can accumulate here and may soak through the material.

Back design

Because of the warm weather that summer dresses are designed to be worn in, they’re likely to have creative back designs that show a bit more skin.

  • Backless: Backless dresses boast a bare or deep swooping design that exposes the wearer’s back. These are considered to be appealing to the eye.
  • Strappy: Strappy backs are a number of strings or straps that are interconnected or crossed to create a back pattern. While they’re stylish, they can be difficult to put on and take off.
  • Cutout: Cutout back designs feature simple cuts in the material of the dress that add a “peek-a-boo” effect to the style. They can be geometric or circular and act as a small accent.
  • Tie-back: Tie-back dresses are equipped with two straps, strings, or long pieces of fabric that are designed to be tied together in a ribbon or knot. They’re simple and add a cute touch to the back of otherwise simple dresses.

Dress lining

Some summer dresses feature a lining along their interior. This is generally placed there to serve as a layer between the dress material and any undergarments so they’re less visible to the public. Because of the extra material used, summer dresses with a lining cost slightly more but are better quality and more durable. An inner lining can also help to absorb any sweat from warmer weather and prevent it from soaking through to the visible dress material.

a woman in summer dress
DID YOU KNOW?
Use a steamer to remove any wrinkles from your summer dress before wearing it. If you don’t have a steamer on hand, you can try hanging your dress in your bathroom while showering — the natural steam from your shower may help diminish the wrinkles.
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How much do women’s summer dresses cost?

Inexpensive

The most affordable women’s summer dresses are found between $8 and $25. These are thin, short dresses made from cheaper materials like cotton/polyester blends. They’re simpler in design, like cami dresses or square neck spaghetti strap dresses. Their colors and patterns vary.

Mid-range

Mid-range women’s summer dresses cost $30 to $70. These are made from cotton, silk, denim, and polyester and can vary in length from mini to maxi. They may be equipped with an inner lining to increase their durability. Summer dresses in this price range have more details and designs than those that are less expensive.

Expensive

The most expensive women’s summer dresses cost as much as $75 to $150. These are made from high-quality materials like silk with reliable stitching and more intricate, beautiful patterns. They’re often found in boutiques and are handcrafted. Lace or beaded summer dresses fall within this price range.

a woman in summer dress
DID YOU KNOW?
Read the instructions for care on the tag of your summer dress to ensure that you’re washing it properly. Some materials are best washed in cold water or by hand.
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Tips

  • Choose your bra carefully. Depending on the style, material, and cut of your summer dress, you’ll want to choose a bra that not only offers support but stays out of sight. Nude bras or bralettes with adjustable and removable straps are an excellent choice to wear under your summer dress.
  • Air dry your summer dress after washing. Because of their lightweight, breathable design, many summer dresses are quite delicate. Avoid drying your summer dress in the dryer after laundering it. The heat from the dryer can cause your summer dress to shrink and might also damage the sleeves or straps. Instead, hang your summer dress to air dry in a well-ventilated area.
  • Get creative with your footwear. Most women opt to wear sandals or flip-flops, but you can wear almost any kind of shoe with your sundress as long as the colors work and you’re comfortable. Mix it up with different sandals, heels, wedges, and stylish sneakers.
a woman in summer dress
In colder months when your summer dresses aren’t getting as much use, hang them in a cool, dry place that isn’t cluttered by other garments. This keeps your summer dresses wrinkle-free and prevents any mold growth.

FAQ

Q. What underwear should I wear with my summer dress?

A. Depending on the color, material, and your personal preference, the type of underwear you choose varies. Seamless varieties of underwear with less material are typically the best, but this may not be as comfortable for some. When wearing a thin, lighter-colored summer dress, a nude or white panty is best. For darker-colored materials, darker underwear is usually undetectable.

Q. Are summer dresses appropriate to wear at work?

A. The answer to this relies on your company’s specific dress code or culture, but some summer dresses are certainly business casual. If you’re set on wearing your summer dress to the office, try pairing it with a set of low heels, a waist belt, and a blazer for a more formal look.

Q. Can I wear my summer dress in winter?

A. Yes. To style your summer dress for colder weather, incorporate some layering and warm footwear. For example, you can wear a long-sleeve shirt underneath your sundress to keep your arms warm, and a pair of boots with thick socks will insulate your feet. You can finish the look with a scarf, jacket, or long coat.

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