Are you reluctant to wear a strappy sundress? Do you think sundresses aren’t always appropriate—even during the sweltering heat of the summer season? I was just talking to a friend about how women our age can best wear sundresses and whether a sundress actually can be professional or dressy if necessary. How do you wear as little as possible, in the form of a dress, and make it work at business events or evening venues?
A sundress, by definition, is something you wear in the sun, maybe while you want to get sun, or maybe not. Perhaps it has camisole straps; possibly it’s short; maybe it’s long and in a natural fabric. But in any case, you’re going to have more skin in this dressing game. That’s what may make some of us hesitant to wear them. We’ve done stories about arm insecurity, but a light wrap or even a featherweight jean jacket can take care of that.
The other reason many women our age resist the sundress look is that with most designs, it seems impossible to wear a regular bra. Yes, a strapless or razorback bra is needed for many designs, but Title Nine—for one—has created many styles that they call “bra friendly.” The wide straps mean your bra won’t be peeking out and interrupting a clean, polished look. (See section below for help picking a bra.)
Definitely we all need a summer dress that is chic, sophisticated, and ready and able to move from car to conference room, sidewalk to boardwalk, early daylight hours to relaxing happy hours. Especially with the right accessories—a lovely scarf to cover up some of the chest bareness, a lightweight jacket for cozy arms, or necklaces layered down the front to add panache, for instance—we think the easy shape of a sundress can go far.
Here, eight summer sundress styles that you can rock in an easy, breezy way.
1. Linen A-Line
Find elegant French linen that dresses up the relaxed fit of an A-line shape sundress like this one. The fabric will keep you summery, the shape will keep you cool, and the fringed hem will mark you as ready for fun in the sun. And there are even pockets, our fave styling point.
2. A Pop of Color
Drop a pop of color on your body and dare to compare the wattage of your outfit with the sunshine of the day. We’re all in for red! This hue makes you feel bold, beautiful, and bright, especially when the dress is made from cool linen, has spaghetti straps and a semi-fitted shape that’ll show off your summer figure and is all tied up with a pretty bow in the front. Bonus Points: machine washable linen!
3. The Slip Dress
This pick is made of a fabric that looks and feels like silk but doesn’t wrinkle or show underarm or under boob sweat stains or, hell, under-belly sweat stains. Props for being sustainably and responsibly produced; in the hands of eco-friendly designer Eileen Fisher, that would be Tencel, a recycled polyester. Wear this cami-strapped silhouette as a layering piece that moves wonderfully under a jacket for office or official meetings. Strip off the jacket when you’re out of said meeting and be deliciously dressed for any warm-weather whereabouts.
4. The Shift
This simple sundress silhouette is blinged out with embroidered embellishment. When you add linen to a Tencel blend, like this pretty little thing, be assured this pullover piece will keep you cool and crisp looking in the most heated situations. Bonus: This style comes in plus sizes—how cool is it that a hip brand like Anthropologie is recognizing that not all of its customers (or even most of them) are twig-thin?
5. Go for a Print
Be bra-friendly but print obsessed. This sleeveless dress is a cinch to slip into. The shape flatters your form, and the fabric (trademark name: Buttah) drapes gently, washes up quickly, and shirks wrinkles wonderfully (read: great for packing for a summer on-the-go).
6. Be Breezy
Throw caution to the wind and the waves. Don a cotton maxi designed with ribbon straps and a raw-edge hem that’s as easy to throw in the washing machine as it is to wear walking on the beach. Add a cropped khaki or jean jacket, moderately heeled sandals, and some pendants and be dressed for success (and any other official kind of event).
7. Black Linen
Black linen for dressing in the sun? Well, yeah. Because … black! This is the dressy day dress. In linen, this goes EVERYWHERE.
When the sun goes down and the invitation calls for a party, throw this dress on. Perfect for scintillating summer nights sipping aperol aperitifs or eating dinner al fresco on le terrace. Add a silk wrap if a chill sets in … or dance the night away to keep your inner temperature rising.
The Bra Solution
Baffled by the best sundress-friendly bra? Look for strapless versions (size the fit so the band is snug) with silicone lined edges on top and bottom to ensure that your bra stays instead of strays. Try convertible styles that will give you more bang for your buck, allowing for strapless when you need but also straps when you want. Or go for the win with a racer back or halter style. If all else fails, you might opt for nipple hiders! Just note, they really only work for those of us who need coverage more than support.