Bring me sunshine: the standout summer dresses of the season

Looking for the perfect summer dress? These female-founded, independent labels are raising the bar in the feminine, warm weather dressing, from easy-breezy day styles to glamorous, floor-sweeping hemlines

As temperatures rise, swap loungewear for ruffles, riotous patterns and slinky silk fabrics – guaranteed to lift your mood in an instant

6 May 2020

Dôen

Hailing from Santa Barbara, Dôen’s wistful silhouettes and dainty floral prints are imbued with a laidback, Californian dreamer aesthetic. Margaret Kleveland and her sister Katherine founded the label in 2016, shortly after having children and while not a maternity label, the loose shapes and smocked waists certainly lend themselves to expectant mothers, while the button-front designs are also perfectly suited to post-natal dressing. Tactile, cotton-corduroy blouses and whispery silk crepe de chine dresses are beautifully accented by playful ruffles, puffed sleeves and embroidery, bringing “a country spirit from the seaside to the plains”.

Ceres dress, $214
Antoinette dress, $268

shopdoen.com

Valle & Vik 

Norweigan-born model and artist Silje Vallevik founded Valle & Vik in 2016 after growing frustrated at the mediocre quality of what was available to buy in London. Her feather-weight silk staples couple easy glamour with jewel tones and abstract prints, reminiscent of Talitha Getty-style retro glamour. Vallevik designs outfits that fit her own lifestyle, whether up late in Ibiza or brunching on Portobello Road. Bestsellers include backless, fluid jumpsuits, slippery champagne slips and the ultimate going-out top, with slinky off the shoulder straps. 

The Long Flirt dress, £311; The Muse jumpsuit, £167 
The City slip, £227

valleandvik.com

De La Vali

De La Vali’s party-starting dresses capture the carefree spirit of Ibiza, where founders Jana Sacha Haveman and Laura Castro were born. The brand is your go-to for fun, flirty, body-hugging dresses, slinky skirts and wrap silhouettes in acid-neon prints and playful polka dots. The label's signature cheongsam dresses come in sequin, satin and velvet, and have been worn by Clara Paget and Mary Charteris. The dancefloor-ready brand initially took off when the original party girl, Kate Moss, bought a few of the early disco designs.

Juliette dress, £550, Frisco dress, £295

delavali.com

Rixo 

Rixo needs no introduction. Founded by best friends Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey from their living room in 2015, the label now shows at London Fashion Week and boasts a two-storey flagship boutique on the King’s Road. The brand's floaty silk dresses are a mainstay of wedding season, lauded for their flattering, easy silhouettes and vintage-inspired prints. During summer, you will spot riotous Rixo patterns wafting all across London, spanning psychedelic blooms, abstract leopard spots, playful swirls and patchwork florals. Rixo has also launched a 'Stay at Home' charity T-shirt, supporting NHS Charities and Carers Trust during the COVID-19 pandemic

Josie blouse, £155 and Tina skirt, £195; Gemma dress, £265

rixo.co.uk

The Vampire's Wife

Susie Bick, wife of Nick Cave, started designing dresses for herself in 2014, when she couldn’t find anything she wanted to wear, particularly in the evening. Her label, The Vampire's Wife - so-called after an unfinished novel by Cave - has since amassed a fanbase including Karen Elson, Alexa Chung, Jennifer Anniston and the Duchess of Cambridge. No less than three guests chose to wear the brand at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.

High necks, puffed shoulders and ruffled hems are Bick's signatures, crafted in velvet, printed cotton and shimmering lamé fabric. Bick's designs are feminine, slightly gothic and cut an air of irrefutable retro glamour. The long sleeves and nipped-in waists are incredibly flattering, while proving that covered up can definitely still mean sexy. 

Frill Seeker dress, £2,250
Sky Rocket Dress, £2,500

thevampireswife.com