If any single wardrobe piece epitomizes summer, it has to be the dress. Maybe it’s the way a flirty skirt swirls around our bare ankles, the light fabric grazes our skin or the sun has its way with our tan.
Whatever the appeal, dresses have captured out hearts as a warm weather fashion staple. Here's how to find the best summer dress for your body.
Before you shop: Tune in to your confidence
Shopping can be intimidating at times, but a perfect summer dress is worth the effort. According to Joei McIntire, image consultant and visual director for Andrisen Morton, a luxury apparel store in Denver, Colorado, "The key to finding your ideal dress is to pick your best asset and accentuate it. Don't be afraid to try fun colors. My clients sometimes tell me that they can't 'pull off' an outfit, but if you have the confidence, you can pull anything off. Confidence is your best and strongest accessory."
Make a note
If only one summer dress worked for every body shape, our shopping time and stress would be cut in half. But, like all wardrobe choices, you need to take your body type into consideration when looking for that perfect dress.
Fluttery summer dresses are great on women with fuller hips. According to McIntire, "A pear-shaped woman looks beautiful in a dress with an empire waist. The higher waist helps accentuate a feminine shape and slims the lower body." Bring the eye upward with an embellished or asymmetric neckline.
Sometimes, dresses can make a woman with small breasts feel, well, even smaller. "A ruffled neckline will help a woman with a smaller chest feel more confident and feminine in a dress," says McIntire. Avoid a dress shape that compresses the bust, such as a high neckline. Cowls, v-necks or plunging necklines can help enhance cleavage (so does a swipe of bronzer). A belted waist helps balance the outfit, making you look shapely rather than straight up and down.
If you're tall, you're probably blessed with super-long legs, so flaunt them! Opt for knee- or calf-length versions. "Try adding a belt to visually break up the dress and create a balance between your upper and lower body," says McIntire. The maxi dress can be tricky for tall women. "If you are really comfortable with your height, a maxi dress will definitely show off your stature," she suggests. "But, if you are self-conscious about it, a shorter length will work better." Of course, cute flat shoes are comfy summer staples that will make any tall girl feel grounded.
A woman with a boyish or athletic figure has a less-defined waist and broader shoulders. Summer is the perfect time to wear a strapless, halter or one-shoulder dress to show off your collarbone and slim neck. "A belt that complements the dress can help create a curvier shape for a woman with a boyish figure, as well," says McIntire.
Short women usually want to elongate their appearance. To accomplish this, pick a dress that hits at or above the knee. "Wearing dresses or skirts that hit mid-calf will make the person appear even shorter," advises McIntire. "High-waisted skirts are good alternatives to dresses, too." Keep the palette monochromatic or the same pattern all over the dress. Having one color or pattern on top and another on the bottom will break up the look rather than keep it harmonious. Avoid wide belts in a contrasting color for the same reason.
More on dressing for your body type