A simple sundress is the hero piece of every summer wardrobe. Airy, versatile and light, it suits every figure and age and you can easily wear it at the beach as well as for a party. All you have to do – once you found out the one you love- is to learn the multiple ways to wear it by simply dressing it up or down with the right accessories.
We owe it to Lilly Pulitzer for the invention of this lovely outfit that came into vogue during the 1960s. It all happened by accident when Lilly, a stylish Palm Beach hostess and socialite whose husband Peter Pulitzer owned several Florida citrus groves, needed a project of her own. She opened a juice stand in Palm Beach with Peter’s produce but squeezing oranges, lemons, limes, and pink grapefruit made a mess of her clothes. Realizing that she needed a uniform, she asked her dressmaker to design a dress that would camouflage the stains. The result? A comfortable sleeveless shift dress made of bright, colourful printed cotton in pink, green, yellow and orange. Soon Lilly was selling more shift dresses than juice, so she decided to stop squeezing and focus on designing and selling her “Lillys.”
Know your style
There is no right or wrong way to wear a sundress. But there are certain things to look for when choosing the perfect frock.
Strappy dresses will keep you cool but there are also plenty of sleeved designs if you’re looking for arm coverage. According to Vogue, trends like the puff sleeve, smocking, eyelet, and ruffles are still going strong and lend a lovely dimension to even the most casual silhouettes.
Whether it’s a maxi dress, a wrap dress, an A-line dress, or a T-shirt dress, the first criteria to consider when choosing your summer outfit is its length and fabric. Go for a midi/mini or maxi type depending on your body but also on the occasion (eg. the long ones would work even as a wedding attire if well-accessorized). Also, bypass a flimsy blend in favour of crisp cotton, summery linen or floaty silk. And make sure it’s lined. A lined dress will look far more sophisticated than one where you might be able to see your underwear.
In general, opt for bold colours, but don’t overuse patterns, combining too many bright shades and prints for just one piece. Also, think well when choosing the neckline: usually, a sexy halter is a great option if you want to emphasize your shoulders and draw attention to your face.
How to dress it down
Never underestimate the power of a brimmed hat: it will make any outfit look automatically cuter and it can be a useful addition for sun protection of your head, ears, face and neck. Second, a t-shirt under a sundress can make it casual instantly. Choose a pair of white sneakers, colourful flats or beige wedges and add a scarf (pick some light chiffon or silk). Regarding jewellery, a statement wooden bracelet and layered coral beaded necklaces will ring the changes.
It is also a good idea to match sundresses with outerwear pieces like denim or leather jackets for some truly bold looks during cooler nights (a great way to survive air conditioning in style, too). But you can also opt for a light long-sleeved shirt that matches your sundress in terms of colour and fabric to wear unbuttoned and tied well at the waist. A pair of fabulous diva-like sunglasses will do the rest.
How to dress it up
A few select pieces will transform a casual sundress into a flirty outfit for the evening out. Rock your style wearing multiple wide bangles and large hoop earrings to make a statement and swap your flip-flops for strappy sandals in nude or silver colours. Above all, don’t forget to add a belt: it can completely change the silhouette of a flowy day dress. Whether you prefer a thin or wide style, belts are a great addition and they cinch in your waist giving a dressier look. In the case you have to attend a more formal evening, a killer blazer will give a professional sophistication to an otherwise casual dress. Bags to avoid? Anything massive and clunky. A sundress is delicate and your purse should compliment it, not weigh it down.