Summertime heralds the onslaught of sundresses and sandals that quickly become something of a uniform for twelve-year-old girls as they wander through rose gardens and beaches. Here’s are popular questions from our Facebook page:
- But what’s the best way for full-grown women to approach this playful combination without looking childish?
- How can the city sophisticate take this classic look beyond the garden party and make it suitable for work and evening?
Begin by finding the right store with the right prices to fit your budget. Target carries lovely summer dresses, in both basic and flirty designs, at affordable prices. Check out Merona’s Black/White Floral Dress for $27.99 and Proenza Schouler Aloha’s Floral Print Gauze Dress in Avalon Sea for $34.99 at target.com. Anthropologie, the romantic clothes boutique inspired by French ingenue fashion, boasts an exquisite collection of airy summer dresses in a wide variety of cuts, patterns, and colors—but is also quite expensive. Check out Green-eyed for $88, Savannah for $228, and Goodbye Kiss for $128 at anthropologie.com. Other stores to try are Wal-mart (see their George line), Ross, and J. Crew.
Now that you’ve found the right store, start by choosing the right color sundress for you. A color that already matches several items in your wardrobe (jewelry, cardigans, shoes, hats, etc.) is your best choice, both fashionably and economically—unless you feel like buying new accessories today. White is lovely on olive and darker skin tones, while black is always becoming on blondes.
Red suits all skin tones, depending on the shade, but in general, olive and darker skin tones should try bright, tropical reds and fairer beauties should wear more subtle reds and pinks.
Try yellow for pizzazz—just be weary of paler shades if you have somewhat sallow skin. Blue is an almost universally flattering color and is always a hot summer choice. Search for fun, festive colors that mimic nature’s palette, or choose more subdued colors to use as a backdrop for fabulous jewelry or shoes.
After you’ve selected your perfect color, make sure that the dress is well-tailored. Stitches should be even; patterns should match up at the seams; and shoulder straps should not be too long, too short, or too loose.
The dress should fit well, with closer fitting around the bust and looser tailoring below the waist (unless the dress has an empire waist, in which case it should start flowing out directly below the bust.) The hem should also be flattering—if you’re self-conscious about your thighs, avoid buying a short dress!
Once you’ve checked the tailoring, you can finally find a matching jacket or shrug, and a pair of shoes to match. Your jacket or shrug should be fitted without being tight, and should be made out of a lightweight material so you can comfortably wear it outside in the warmer weather.
Some contrast with your dress is usually a wonderful choice: a black dress with a white shrug (or vice-a-versa) is always a winning combination. Choose non-chunky or clunky shoes, like metallic thongs, jelly sandals, or casual flip-flops, in a color that matches your shrug or jacket well.
Now that you’ve bought your dress with a cute cover-up and pair of shoes to match, remember this: The hardest part about wearing a sundress is making it work outside a picnic or beach setting. But don’t worry—there are ways to do this. For the office, wear light, cropped blazers with sundresses and structured sandals. If your office doesn’t allow open-toe shoes, espradillas and cute heels in neutral colors are great alternatives to sandals. Get gorgeous for evening by pairing a sundress with metallic sandals and glamorous jewelry. Bring a simple cropped shrug (maybe with metallic threads or rhinestone buttons) that doesn’t compete with the sundress. For church and similar institutions, wear a plain cardigan and more conservative shoes with your sundress.
Just remember—be a garden flower, not a wallflower. Be bold and you’ll be beautiful.