The Perfect Casual Summer Dress

I love the idea of a casual summer dress as an alternative to shorts, but I rarely find one that checks all my boxes… until now.

This dress is the perfect knee-length, it’s fitted without being clingy, it has a flattering v-neckline and wide straps that are bra-friendly, it’s made of a breathable cotton/modal blend, and it even has pockets!

Consider all boxes checked. Boden for the win!

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that it’s not a maxi. I like a maxi dress, but sometimes I just don’t want to deal with all that fabric, ya know?

Knee-length dresses are much more practical, but they’re hard to find in the casual category. When you do find one, it’s usually a shift style or a swing dress — and those do nothing for me. Then you have the other end of the spectrum with dresses that are super short and body-con.

This dress is described as semi-fitted, which sums it up nicely. It’s like the Goldilocks of dresses — it’s just right!

If you’re one of those women who needs structure but doesn’t want anything too form-fitting, this is the dress for you!

I actually found this dress at Nordstrom, but sizes are starting to get depleted. Fortunately Boden is fully stocked, and even better, they have this dress in a bunch of other prints and solid colors.

I love the cheerful scattered fruit print on chalky pink for a touch of whimsy, but I also think this dress would be really nice to have in the solid navy or black. It runs true to size; the 8 fits me perfectly.

If you prefer a sleeve, Boden makes a similar style with short sleeves that also comes in a variety of prints and solid colors. In fact, they have a large selection of summer dresses in all shapes and styles.

Shop More Boden Dresses:

If you’re not familiar with ordering from Boden, they offer free shipping on orders over $49, and they have a no-quibble returns policy if you return an item within 90 days of receipt for a $7 return shipping fee.

I styled this dress with both flats and heels for this post. First, I’m wearing these blush espadrille wedges.

The dolce color works in perfectly with the background of the dress, plus I just like an espadrille with a casual spring dress.

These shoes are absolutely gorgeous and amazingly comfortable, but spendy. They do go on sale from time to time; I got mine during the Shopbop spring event, but I don’t see them anywhere on sale right now.

They run slightly big for Stuart; I sized down to a 7.5, and I’m almost always an 8 in his shoes.

There are certainly less expensive options out there. In fact, Caslon makes a similar style for under $100 that also comes in a pretty shade of blush. I’ve tried them as well, and they’re not quite as easy to walk in, but still quite comfortable. They’re just made for a wider foot, so keep that in mind if ordering.

I also styled this dress with flats, and I added… wait for it… a denim jacket.

I know, I’m nothing if not predictable.

But seriously, this dress looks SO good with a denim jacket because it has a lot of blue in the print, and the styles also complement each other nicely.

I’ve shared this jacket a lot, but for anyone just tuning in, it has a really nice fitted shape and it’s a good mid-weight for year-round wear. It’s soft and stretchy and very comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

It’s also the perfect versatile mid-indigo wash, and it’s a classic style you’ll have it for years. It runs TTS, or if in between, size down. I have it in the small.

FYI, my sunnies are old, but I found them at Dillard’s and Zappo’s. Mine are the Dove Grey.

These sandals are by Sam Edelman, and I like how they play into the side trend without looking like a guy’s shower shoe. (That’s what slides usually make me think of!)

Mine are the jute leather, but they come in a lot of other colors as well. They’re quite comfortable, very soft against the foot, and they have a padded footbed. They have like 230 reviews with a 4.5 rating so that says a lot!

They run true to size (I have my usual 8) and they fit my flat foot fairly well. If you have super narrow feet, they may not work for you, but they’re worth a try.

I carried my ivory hobo with both looks. It doesn’t necessarily coordinate with the outfit, but it doesn’t clash either. That’s why I like a white or ivory bag for summer; it really does go with almost everything.

For accessories, I kept it simple with a cuff bracelet, gold hoops and a layered disc necklace. Accessories can make or break an outfit, and in this case, the printed dress is the focal point, so I tried to choose accessories that complement the look without taking over.

Either way you wear it — with flats or with heels, with a jacket or without — this dress is a great way to level up your casual daytime look without sacrificing comfort.

Outfit Details:

Boden Melinda Dress (also at Nordstrom) // Stuart Weitzman wedges (similar for less) // Sam Edelman slides (also at Zappo’s) // Vince Camuto denim jacket // Tory Burch hobo (similar for less) // bracelet // earrings // necklace // sunnies

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photos: Alison Cornell