Summer Dresses: The Best of the High Street

I never look, or feel, quite right in a dress. Some people (people who tend to have the lithe limbs of Gisele or who are French) can float about in them with nonchalance. I have to think carefully about cut, length and style before I even consider one. Even then, I feel like I’m dressing up in a costume. I’m a jeans girl. Dresses do not come naturally.

Sometimes, however, the occasion calls for it or it’s simply too hot to wear anything else. In theory, a dress should be the easiest thing in the world to chuck on and go. In reality, though, looking effortless takes a bit of effort. Or at least a bit of thought about what does and doesn’t suit you.

I have a few stipulations if I want to look and feel at ease in a dress. I’m yer classic pear shape, so my criteria are: midi, hip-skimming and nipped in at the waist. Yours might be: sleeves, wrap, V-neck, halterneck, bum-skimmingly short, etc, etc. Whatever your needs, the sun has got his hat on in the UK (FINALLY) so whether you’re doing general lounging or garden partying, it’s definitely dress season. Below is a collection of every style you could possibly need or want to get you through the summer.

The Mini

I know we’re all meant to be body positive these days, but I’m just never going to be totally comfortable in a mini dress. Here are some nice ones for you.

Mango , £49.99. The ideal city dress?

Peasant Smock Dress with Tiered Trim, Neon Rose, £32. Perfect for summer meadow frolicking.

Keepsake Floral Frill Mini Dress, ASOS, £155. A mini for a formal occasion.

Everyone and their dog was wearing this Realisation Par dress last year (so maybe avoid for a wedding), but it’s still a beaut. Not cheap but 100% silk. Comes in a midi length, too.

Wear this dress with the sleeves pulled up over the shoulders into puffballs. I’m well into these mutton leg/puffball/gloriously eighties sleeves at the moment.

The Midi

The term ‘midi’ only came into being a few years ago. Before that it was a strange in-between length which mothers across the land considered a sartorial faux pas. Now, it’s a category I always tick on the filters when searching for dresses online.

My Mango obsession continues with this Hawaiian inspired linen number. It’s crying out to be taken on holiday, maybe to Italy. It wants you to wear it while drinking an aperitivo in an old square, accessorised with giant retro sunnies and no cares in the world. Buy it and book the flights.

That French-girl nonchalance I mentioned earlier? It’s epitomised by the Gabin dress from Rouje, a French brand (évidemment). It comes in eight different colours/patterns and is one of many staple pieces on their website which cover pretty much all bases and occasions.

The Gabin is annoyingly difficult to get your hands on now that Rouje has become a bit of a cult brand but there’s a new drop happening at the end of the month… (Side note: follow the impossibly chic founder of the brand on Instagram and bemoan your lack of French genes.)

Onto another casual day midi. I bought this floral linen number without trying it on and thought it might be my ‘chuck it on and hope for the best on a hot day’ dress 2018.

The fabric is light and breezy. The print is pretty without being saccharine (I’m highly attuned to the line between pretty and saccharine. As a short person, dresses can easily veer into pageant territory on me). The cap sleeves are flattering.

However, one of my ‘short girl problems’ is that V-necks (especially those from Zara) tend to go down to my naval. This dress exposed an indecent amount of decolletage and, as I’m not going for a ‘J-Lo in Versace at the Oscars circa 2000’ look, I returned it. But it’s lovely and might work for those with a longer torso and bigger boobs.

Visual aid.

Luckily there are plenty of petite sections to choose from. Reformation Petites do some exceptionally cute mini dresses and also this midi in on-trend green.

The Backless/Low back

I like a backless dress. I appreciate that for women who can’t not wear a bra they aren’t an option, but if you can get away with it there’s nothing cooler on a hot day. Over 28 degrees Celsius, I always put on something backless. In that kind of heat I’ve stopped caring about my dishevelled,  crumpled, sweaty appearance anyway. Let it all hang out.

I bought this last year at full price and now it’s only a tenner! Comes in black and red, is made of linen and looks good on. It’s quite fitted, though, so don’t do what I did and wear it to an all-inclusive buffet.

ASOS Tie Back Mini Sundress in Linen, £17.50 in red or £10 in black.

The Bardot

It was a sad time when the bardot became so basic as to be almost unwearable. Only almost, though, because there are some which remain irresistible. It’s universally flattering to whip out a bit of shoulder whilst hiding a multitude of upper arm sins.

I saw Dolly Alderton wearing this one on Instagram and had to find it. There’s also a cobalt blue version but yellow is the thing this year.

I love the ‘limonada’ print available on some of Reformation’s dresses, especially on this bardot ‘Butterfly’ dress. I asked a wise friend of mine if she thought a ditsy floral print on a white background was acceptable at a wedding. She said she wouldn’t risk going anywhere near anything remotely white, and I tend to agree, but this would be perfect for almost every other fancy summer do. 

In the next instalment: what can you wear to a wedding? That’s right, yet more dresses! (Because this post would have gone on and on if I didn’t split it up.) Coming soon!

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