There’s nothing worse than scrambling to find a specific type of dress for an event at the last minute, can I get an amen? So even though I don’t wear dresses very often, there are three types of dresses that I try to always have in my closet.
The 3 Summer Dresses Every Woman Should Own
I might tweak these a bit for fall-winter, but if you have these three dresses in your spring-summer closet, you should be covered for just about any but the most formal occasions.
#1. LBD (Little Black Dress)
A classic black dress is a year-round wardrobe essential, and it’s a highly versatile piece that you can layer and accessorize in different ways to fit a myriad of occasions.
black sheath // black pumps // similar shoulder bag // earrings // necklace // bracelet
I always gravitate to a sheath, but it can be whatever style is flattering and comfortable for you. This black sheath is from Ann Taylor. I love the scoop neckline, the seaming details, and the cap sleeves. It’s fully lined, with a tailored fit, and it has just enough stretch to be comfortable. It runs true to size; I have the 6. It also happens to be on sale for $75!
Be sure to think through all the details and make sure you have the shoes, bag, and accessories you might need for the various events that might crop up unexpectedly and without much notice.
This is how I usually style a LBD for a funeral or visitation — I seem to have more and more of those these days. It would also probably work for the office, if you work in a more conservative corporate environment.
These Sam Edelman pumps have a tapered square toe, for an updated look, and I love the croc embossed leather for added texture and interest.
My black shoulder bag is an older Kate Spade style. I chose it for this look because it’s simple and conservative, and the chain strap is pretty — it’s almost like adding another piece of jewelry. It’s also a just-right size for most events.
I actually wore this dress to my father-in-law’s memorial service last fall, and I found myself without a bag that I thought was appropriate. Everything I had was either too large or too casual, or too much like date night.
Afterwards, I grabbed this bag on sale, and it has come in very handy. I often carry it to church, or take it when going out to dinner and I want something bigger than a crossbody. This one is similar, and this one is a bit smaller but just as appropriate.
And don’t forget your jewelry. I chose a couple of Kendra Scott pieces to complete the look. This silver tone multi strand necklace is a recent addition to my accessory wardrobe. It’s a nice neckline filler — it adds some shine without overpowering this classic look. And her filigree hoops are often my go-to when I want something simple and classic, but large enough to be visible under my dark hair.
Shop The Look:
#2. Casual T-Shirt/Jersey Dress
Summer is the only time of year when I keep more than one casual dress in my closet. The ease and comfort of a one-and-done outfit is hard to beat, and dresses are a lot cooler on a hot day than shorts and crop pants.
dress // sandals // earrings // bracelet // similar crossbody // sunnies
This striped tank midi dress is from LOFT, and it’s currently 50% off and fully stocked! It is such soft fabric, and it really feels nice on. It has side slits for easy walkability, and they also just add a nice detail to the casual look.
I wore flat studded slide sandals to keep this look casual and comfortable. Pairing a beige or skin-colored shoe with a midi dress is a good way to elongate the line of the leg and keep the dress length from looking awkward, and I love how the studs add a bit of bling to the casual look.
These sandals run a little small, you may need to size up half. They’ve also been restocked at Nordstrom!
I carried a beige crossbody and wore the same silver filigree hoops and Yurman link bracelet as in the look above to complete this simple look.
My sunnies are Coach — actually, these are C’s. I grabbed them as I was running out of the house because I couldn’t fine mine, lol. They’re an older style, but I did find them in black at Sunglass Hut, and these are polarized.
Shop The Look:
#3. Dressy Floral/Special Occasion Dress
Finally, a dressier style is important to have on hand for weddings, graduations, church events, or anything where the t-shirt dress is too casual and the LBD is too serious. I recommend a floral, or a solid bold or pastel color.
floral dress // woven slides // metallic clutch // earrings // necklace // bracelet
Florals are very much on trend right now, and I picked up this handkerchief hem tank dress a few weeks back because I didn’t have anything that fit this criteria in my closet. I haven’t worn it yet, but I’m sure it will come in handy eventually.
I love how the lettuce edge on the skirt helps define the asymmetrical handkerchief hem. This dress is filmy and flowy and romantic — perfect for a summer wedding! I would wear this to a daytime wedding, or an evening wedding if the dress code isn’t listed as cocktail or formal attire. The price is right, too, at just $69.
This dress runs big, and rather long. I am wearing the 6, and I plan to have the straps taken up just a smidge. Nordstrom does alternations for free for card holders, so I just need to remember to take it in the next time I go to the mall.
For shoes, I went with a woven block heel slide sandal. I was styling this dress for how I might wear it to a wedding or graduation, and often those events require some walking on grass or turf, so the 2″ block heel is perfect for that.
Also, if you will be standing all day or dancing all night, high heels can take a toll on these aging feet. I love this 2″ heel — it offers just enough height to be dressy but not enough to cause me a lot of pain and discomfort the next day. Also, they’re easy to kick off under the table and slip on when you need to get up, haha! We all do that, right???
And just like I mentioned above for the LBD, be sure you think through all of the components of your outfit. Sometimes we focus on having the right dress and forget to make sure we have an appropriate bag or accessories to complete the look.
I keep several clutches in various neutral and metallic shades in my closet at all times, so I always have something appropriate for a special occasion. Bonus points if they have a removable chain strap, so you can have your hands free to hold food and a drink.
This metallic ruched clutch is right on trend, but it does not have a chain strap, which is kind of limiting. Still, I love how it looks with this dress so I carried it. It also comes in black and two really fun, bold colors that would add a nice pop to a neutral outfit.
Shop The Look:
As I mentioned above, I would tweak these choices a bit for fall-winter. For instance, I would definitely add a sweater dress to this line-up, but if you have these three dresses in your spring-summer closet, you should be covered for just about any but the most formal occasions. Would you add anything else to this list?
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photos: Alison Cornell
12 thoughts on “The 3 Summer Dresses Every Woman Should Own”
How to you choose between neutral shoes or black (or another color). For example, you chose to wear neutral sandals with the floral dress instead of black. I’m pretty sure I would have chosen black by default. Is there a formula? Thank you!
There are no rules or formulas, it is mostly personal preference. I tried strappy black sandals and they still looked too heavy to my eye. Since there are a lot of lighter colors in the dress, I decided to pull from one of those. 🙂
Great idea for a post and so true – who want to be hunting for a dress when you need one? Do you have any updates for cocktail wedding dresses? I have a nighttime wedding in August at a hotel in the city. The black one is a great black dress but I feel like it’s too serious (as you said) The floral too casual. I know you’ve done posts before on this topic. I’ve looked but haven’t found anything that hits me yet. The one dress I liked was $500 and that’s out of my price range. 🙂
Yeah, it seems like the black tie optional weddings are getting more and more common these days. I can do a roundup sometime soon.
I have the black dress from Ann Taylor and love it. It has saved me several times. Highly recommend! Please do a post about black tie weddings. Got one coming up in August, I am struggling. I’m even considering using Rent the Runway, which scares me. What if it doesn’t fit, then what??? Begging for help, you are my “ go to girl”! Great post!
I’ve heard that they send you a few options… but I’ve never tried it.
My thought is that the neutral shoes keep the look more spring/summer, whereas black shoes with the floral dress would lean more towards late summer/early fall.
When I ordered the Ross-Simmons bracelet the price was $ 89.00 not the $69.00.
By the way you are my favorite blogger. I can depend on you to show quality recommendations on everything.
Thank you for all the extra time that you put into your work. Thanks for introducing me to the Vuori clothing brand. My husband loves his new shorts and t-shirts. So soft!!
You look great in all three dresses!
I wore the black Zella dress today that you had featured last weekend. I love it! So soft and comfortable. I wish they had the Loft dress from today’s blog in my size, small. I would definitely buy it.
So glad it worked out for you!
I love the floral dress on you. I wore a mid-length dark navy blue dress with a blush pink and cream floral print for my wedding last month. As a “mature” bride of 50 (my husband and I had been together for 21 years and finally decided to get married), I knew I wouldn’t be wearing white. The dress I finally decided on cost just $70, a lot less than many brides spend, I realize, but it was just the perfect dress for me. The shoes I got were more expensive than the dress! And I also carried a clutch that I’d used for my brother’s wedding a few years before. It wasn’t easy to shop for my wedding during covid times and with shops closed in Austria, but I think it turned out well and looking at the pictures always makes me happy.