The Essential Summer Dress (And Why You Need One)

The essential summer dress (or jumpsuit or two-piece set, as the case may be) is one of the most useful items of clothing to have in your closet during the hot summer months. After all, nothing is easier to throw on and go than a single piece that is lightweight, breathable, in a neutral color or pattern that’s easy to dress up or down (or a bolder color that fits into your personal color palette).

The Essential Summer Dress

In fact, while we hate to be overly prescriptive when it comes to items that everyone needs in their wardrobe, we do think that an essential dress is, well, essential for warmer seasons. Here are some of our favorites.

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Banana Republic Colette Linen Mini Dress, now $129.99

Linen Blends

We love the look of linen in the summer, but not the maintenance or the wrinkles and creases that come from sitting or even simply existing in a linen piece. However, modern linen blends take the struggle out of looking pulled together in linen. Try something like this Banana Republic mini-dress with its lantern sleeves that are perfectly airy but still offer some coverage.


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J.Crew Button-Front Shift Dress in Linen, $148


A simple sheath dress works in every season, and one in a summer weight material can work for lots of occasions. For instance, this button-front shift dress style from J.Crew is right on-trend but classic enough to wear for years (and you could always swap out the buttons for a different look). 

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Patagonia Women’s Fleetwith Dress, $85

Essential Summer Dress: Athleisure

You might be surprised to see that many athletic brands do casual dresses — and some of them do them quite well. Most of the time, these dresses will be made from tech fabric of some kind that wicks away sweat and doesn’t wrinkle or crease, like this Patagonia style.

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Athleta Elation V-Neck Hybrid Dress, $129

They may even have built-in bras or shorts, making them true one-piece wonders like this Athleta v-neck dress

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By Anthropologie Striped Kaftan, $150


You may want to go for a full-on caftan look (and we certainly approve of that) but sometimes something that evokes the feeling of a glamorous caftan but has a bit more structure is more suitable for your lifestyle, like this striped caftan dress from Anthropologie. It has a tie at the waist for some definition but it’s otherwise loose and flowy.

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COS Pleated Knit Trapeze Dress, $135

Trapeze Styles

There is almost nothing more comfortable than an airy, weightless trapeze dress when the mercury rises. This floaty silhouette means that nothing is too constricting around the waist or mid-section, and it’ll still look good after an indulgent meal. We love this pleated number from COS — it is a perfect example of comfortable elegance.

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R.Vivimos Women’s Short Sleeve V Neck Cotton Midi Dress, $35.99

The Sundress

Perhaps the most common essential summer dress is the classic sundress. Made of a light cotton, linen, or similar fabric in a breezy silhouette, these dresses are usually sleeveless or strappy, a-line, and knee-length or midi-length, like this versatile printed style from R.Vivimos via Amazon

Shop The Essential Summer Dress

Do you tend to gravitate towards single easy pieces in hot weather? Do you have a favorite summer dress or jumpsuit that you get tons of use out of? Or are you looking for one? Do you prefer to stick to neutrals for your essential dresses, or do patterns or distinctive solid colors work for your wardrobe? Let us know in the comments or in our Growing Younger Facebook group!

–Jacqueline Zenn

You may also like to read Color Theory 101: How to Liven Up Your Wardrobe for Summer and Lace Tops for Summer: Your New Favorite Layering Piece.

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