Secure these summer staples, stat.
We’ll never say no to a great dress, and that's sort of the problem. Our closets tend to get overfilled, when we really just need a few staple styles to wear on repeat. After all, there’s a reason wardrobe essentials are, well, essential. Having the right pieces — summer dresses included — makes life so much easier. So the guesswork out of getting dressed this summer with our definitive list of must-have summer dresses.
Related: How to Style a Maxidress for Summer
What makes a summer dress essential, in our humble opinion? First and foremost, it needs to have the range, baby. In other words, it should transition from day to night or the office to happy hour and beyond with just a few styling switches. And for summer, it also should keep you cool. Synthetic fabrics that leave you sweaty, or worse, swampy, can see themselves out until the temperatures drop. Last, but not least, must-have summer dresses should look just as stylish on their own as they do fully accessorized. They don’t always have to be effortless to put on, but they should look effortless while you’re out and about, as these 12 chic and essential summer dresses prove.
A Crochet Maxi Dress
Shop Similar: Maje Long Openwork Knit Dress, $348 (Originally $535.)
Toeing the line between elevated and truly sexy, a crochet max dress manages to be both sophisticated and a bit coquettish, depending on how wide the weave or knit is.
A Denim Dress
Shop Similar: Free People Picture Perfect Midi, $168.
A maxi dress with spaghetti straps goes the extra mile in an unexpected fabric like denim. Look for denim that's mostly cotton so you won't have to worry about overheating, and add denim accessories for a street-style edge or a cardigan for a more formal feel.
A Nap Dress
Shop Similar: Hill House Naia Nap Dress, $150.
No matter where this summer takes you, trust us when we say you'll want to bring a nap dress along. Comfortable and versatile, it's stylish enough to pass vacay muster, but works just as well for a comfy day at home.
Related: 12 Ways to Wear a Nap Dress IRL
A Floral Midi Dress
Shop Similar: Sofia the Label Mila Babydoll Midi Dress, $370.
For a dress that works as well in the office as it does at brunch, look no further than the floral midi dress. Whether you prefer to dress it up with vibrant pumps or down with sneakers, a floral midi goes the distance.
A Romantic Maxi Dress
Shop Similar: Christine Alcalay Teresa Dress in Floral Silk Organza, $675.
As in life, romance is up for interpretation when it comes to this style of summer dress. Romance could mean ruffles, a darling print, or a gauzy chiffon fabric.
A Sultry Mini Dress
Shop Similar: Nana Jacqueline Airina Dress, $498.
A mini dress is a must-have for nighttime events in the summer. Offset a sky-high hemline with romantic details like crystal embellishments or ruffled embroidery.
A Sporty Dress
Shop Similar: Savage x Fenty Xssential Baby Tee Dress, $65.
If you love to be active, but are bored with bike shorts and separates, you'll definitely want to add a sporty dress to your summer 'fit rotation. We love an over-the-knee hemline in a casual cut that looks great with your fave sneakers.
A Slip Dress
Shop Similar: Reformation Provence Slip Dress, $278.
Whether you lean into lingerie-inspired details or keep things as minimalist and streamlined as possible, a slip dress is a must for summer. Contrary to popular belief, a slip dress doesn’t have to feature the thinnest of spaghetti straps. Instead, the main element of this essential summer dress is how it falls and moves.
A Shirt Dress
Shop Similar: Baum Und Pferdgarten Alessi Dress, $259.
Don’t let the collar fool you. Summer shirt dresses in silk, linen, or cotton are among the most comfortable styles out there, but the neckline delivers an elevated edge, so the look means business even if you feel barely buttoned up.
A Flouncy Mini Dress
Shop Similar: Peony Smocked Floral Dress, $290.
For days when you're feeling whimsical, a flouncy mini is the way to go. We love a flirty print and fitted bodice, especially for days off. Slip on an oversized button-down and you'll be perfectly comfortable on sweltering sidewalks and in air-conditioned indoor spaces.
A Striped Dress
Shop Similar: Hunter Bell Maxwell Dress, $495.
Perfectly attuned to the coastal aesthetics running rampant on TikTok, a striped cotton dress in shades of cream and blue is well suited for summer holidays, from long weekends to the Fourth of July.
A Linen Dress
Shop Similar: Eliza Faulkner Tessa Dress in Lilac Linen, $370.
Silhouettes aside, a linen dress is a must-have for any summer wardrobe. We suggest abandoning the notion you can wear linen without it creasing and embracing a softly rumpled look. If you're a wrinkle stickler, try a full, long skirt that's naturally a bit undone.
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