Pretty Summer Dresses

Many have asked me to share summer dress ideas before they all sell out. So, today I’m sharing some loose, comfortable dresses for hot weather at various price points — none in polyester. I look for styles with a somewhat defined waist, a bit of structure at the bust, and a longer length. If your bust is also full, look for the same type of dress or top to avoid the tent effect. An empire waist is very flattering if you have a bit of a tummy.

Let’s pretend that it is a warm summer day since it is most certainly not. This is one of my go-to hot, humid summer day looks. The cotton dress is here. The shoes are here. The bracelet is the necklace I showed you earlier. I wrapped it three times around my wrist. The earrings are here, and the necklace worn as a bracelet is here. (Use the code SAS10 for $10 off any one item at Beauty in Stone Jewelry.)

A knee-length style can be a good choice if you have great legs. A high V-neckline or Jonny collar is also flattering. If you have a small upper body, ballet necklines and gathered or pleated bodices will look best on you. Women below 5’4″ will benefit from shorter dresses that are more fitted to your frame. You can wear straight shift dresses with success if you have a thin rectangle shape. Wrap style and fit and flare dresses are lovely on women with curves.

Lighter color shoes in a fabric such as linen or canvas are more comfortable and look best with summer clothing. Straw, canvas, rattan, and light-colored leather bags are perfect with summer dresses. When I wear a summer dress, I reach for oversized, lightweight earrings, a good pair of sunglasses, and often a hat. My sunscreen is here. It isn’t too soon to get a pedicure and start using a self-tanner on your feet and legs. I’ve been using this one for years. It gives a subtle, natural-looking effect.

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  1. These are lovely, thank you!
    I’m just now spending my first winter as a snowbird, and it has been very challenging to find the correct style for myself in the heat.
    So many ladies wear sleeveless looks and above the knee shorts, so I decided to give it a try one more time…just to see if I felt differently about them in this climate.
    I found that I’m ok with sleeveless tops, but I am not comfortable at all in above the knee anything.
    I have decided that maxi dresses are the best answer for me. I like midi dresses, also, since I am just 5’3″. Also, I am in my early 60’s.
    In this climate, I prefer jersey for the fabric, I believe that is a tee-shirt type fabric, because the culture is so casual that anything else feels WAY overdressed for normal activities.
    I hope this helps someone else, because it has been fairly expensive to experiment with appropriate clothing, and now I have many items in the donation bin.
    Thanks, Susan!

  2. Hi Susan
    How do you feel about Maxi dresses on older women? It is hard to find pictures of mature models wearing them. Thanks, Dayna

  3. What lovely dresses, Susan! I wear dresses 3/4 of the year since I live in Central Texas. I find the blue and white dress with smocked bodice most appealing; however, when I click on the link, it goes to the same page as the lovely Madewell dress above it. Thank you for the lovely post!

  4. Love the espadrilles on you, Susan! So adorable. Warmer weather here in the south is prompting me to find “the holes” in my wardrobe and start shopping. I’ve learned so much from you and finding my colors that work for me. My wardrobe is taking shape now knowing what works on this body and what doesn’t. It seems that with a lot of the new cute outfits I’ve been able to put together, I don’t have the right shoes. And I’m not finding them online. Can you tell me when to expect the summer shoes to come out for purchase? Also seeing a lot of winter type clothes online still. One of my favorites for tees and sleeveless tanks is LL Bean and I can’t tell if what I’m seeing is last year’s clothes or if this is what they have this year for summer. Shopping online the last three days and buying nothing, makes me feel as defeated as when I actually go out to the store shopping. I feel behind after reading your post today about summer items.
    Thank you!

    1. LL Bean offers timeless rather than trend-driven garments, so they often have the same items each spring. Spring items are starting to show up now, but it seems much slower than in past years. So I usually check the only newest items if already familiar with the site to save time.

  5. Susan,
    You must have read my mind! I have been browsing for comfortable summer dresses. My only finds either are pretty enough for church but not comfortable, or comfortable but hang like a sack.
    Thank you for compiling this list and for recommending styles that accentuate our best qualities. (Thanks to you, capris are out for me, and more flattering gaucho pants and dresses are in.)

  6. Susan
    I absolutely love your style and personality and I know you don’t wear many dresses. I look at many dresses these days and see floral, ruffles, sleeveless, all of which I will not wear. They remind me of Prarie dresses. The one I think is beautiful and a I might wear is the Fry dress but wow $$$.
    Plus they really all look best on tall women, which I am not. I don’t believe I’ve worn a floral dress since high school. I wish I felt better about them. They look nice on someone else.
    Thanks for rounding them up.

  7. Some of these dresses are a little too “Little House on the Prairie” for my taste, but there are plenty of choices at a variety of price levels. I particularly like the shirt dress.
    Well done and classy as always!

  8. I love these dress options — we have hot summers and I don’t really enjoy wearing shorts or Capri pants.

  9. Hi Susan,
    I’m struggling here as I’m 70 and 5’ tall…am I too short for the Chico’s green dress? Love it! I do sew so possibly hem it to midi length?
    Most of my current casual dresses are knee length and I’m getting to the point where I feel the need to cover my knees.
    Thanks ahead of time for your advice!

    1. You could get that dressed hemmed to knee length to make it a better proportion for you. You might ask your tailor to look at it first to ensure it can be done. They might be able to remove the panel above the last one to keep the lines of the dress.

  10. I bought the Old Navy dress last weekend in a different print and love it. I’m curious though what you wear under a dress like that with such thin fabric.

    1. I wear a Shapeez Ultimate style bra and underwear in a nude color with a light color dress and black under dark colors. The floaty fabric distorts what is beneath.

  11. Beautiful dresses. Most of these dresses have a flounce or tiers, would they look good on a pear shape( 5’4”, 158#, slight pear) or would it just add unnecessary volume and accentuate the lower half? Thank you Susan

    1. The softer dresses are current and flattering for women. We were at dinner tonight, and there was a group of lovely thirty-something women celebrating a birthday. They were all wearing dresses similar to the first dress in the post, and they looked beautiful and feminine. Straight slim-fitting dresses look best on slender women with no tummy bulge. I am more comfortable in dresses that don’t showcase every curve. I believe the softer silhouette would look good on most women.

  12. These are all great but I’m always behind the curve on timing. I should know by now that Florida goes from winter to summer overnight. The new leaves have pushed the old ones to the ground. It was 91 here in Daytona. We’re in the midst of spring breakers but they don’t bother us. Thanks for the pictures as I see two that will work for a petite frame. Thanks for your research as it’s always fun and pertinent. Get tired of that weather we’ve got some good condos for your second home.

  13. Hi Susan, I was wondering for reference, is the dress you are wearing from Old Navy a M or L? I’m not sure about their sizes. Thank you!

  14. Thank you so much for the selection of pretty and comfortable summer dresses. I especially appreciate the affordable choices. I agree with your tips for petite women. At 5’3′, I’ve found that I look overwhelmed in a long, flowing dress. I saw several options that should work for me, and am so happy to have my shopping simplified for me.

    I’ve been following you for at least 5 years. Thanks for all your help.

  15. Susan, this dress looks elegant on you! Due to the band underneath the bust, I purchased it in a petite medium (for my hourglass frame) and it flows nicely. The blue print version wasn’t available in petite, but I purchased the same print in a long-sleeved blouse (doesn’t have underneath band) and really like it. Thank you!

  16. Hi Susan,
    I’d love to wear cute summer midi dresses. but when you’re 5’2″ tall, they look ridiculous on you…sort of like wearing your mother’s dresses. Do you have any style suggestions for us short ladies?
    Thanks, I love your blog.

  17. Susan what are the rules regard the neckline of a top worn underneath a jacket without a collar? Also, can you wear ivory with pure white?

  18. As I read through these comments, I see many women have the same problem I have…we are vertically challenged! At 5’2″… actually I think I have shrunk to 5’1″, but it’s so hard to admit to myself…so many beautiful dresses, like the ones you have featured, look like we borrowed them from a TALL relative. You are correct that shorter women look so much better in knee length and fit and flare. This is my new GO TO style dress style. We need to appear as though we have some length to our legs, especially if we are longer in the torso with short legs…ME!
    Thanks for all of your suggestions.

  19. Susan,
    Thank you for showing summer dresses at different price points. Some are at the high end of my budget and others are very affordable. The Fry button-down is what I am drawn to because I’m small framed and like a streamlined look. This is over my top-end budget so I will have to consider the pros/cons. It is a classic look and would cover my upper arms since they are thin and bother me to show.

    Thanks again.

  20. I always feel that the tiered dresses/skirts add to the hips. Or is this just me? I always find it so difficult to find maxi dresses in cotton, especially that are long enough for me (I’m 5’10”). Thank you for your summer dress post. In TX, that may be tomorrow! Never thought about lightening the look of my shoes or earrings. Great suggestions!

    Thank you!

    Gail McKelvey

    1. Tiered midi dresses can be flattering and comfortable if you have a tummy or hips that you aren’t fond of showing. The fabric should be a relaxed flowing woven material rather than a knit. The dresses featured are casual since that is the lifestyle many of us lead right now. Showing a few inches above the ankle in a midi-length rather than a full maxi to the floor-length is better for those of us who no longer want to show our legs.

      Style icon Susi Rejano from Barcelona, Spain wore a beautiful summer dress that inspired me. (Photo here.)

  21. Susi Rejano’s dress is gorgeous and Paisley. The material looks so beautiful. This one I would wear in a heartbeat. Like with so many foreign bloggers, I have a hard time tracking down their styles to purchase. Thanks for sharing that!!

  22. Saw you modeling blue mock wrapped dress on facebook that looks like it has some shirring on one side. Who sells it

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.