Beautiful summer dresses to buy now

Zoe Gunn

30 March 2021

Long, sunny days are on the horizon – it’s time you invested in a wardrobe to match

30 March 2021 | Zoe Gunn

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It may only be the end of March but the UK is already experiencing its first heat wave and, with the promise of a summer spent out of lockdown just around the corner, it’s high time our wardrobes reflected this optimistic mood. It seems designers are feeling positive too, with the SS21 collections bursting with bright colour palettes and cheery prints that are lightyears away from the leggings and loungewear that have been mainstays of the past year.

From floaty maxi dresses perfect for summer picnics to chic tailored numbers ideal for weddings and work days, here are the best summer dresses to buy now.

The best mini dresses for summer

Three Graces Skye linen dress, £480,; Maje voile dress with ruffles, £279,; Rejina Pyo Scout dress, £495,

If the term ‘mini dress’ brings to mind the kind of thigh-skimming skirt you haven’t considered wearing since your teens, it’s time to reframe your thinking. The new mini rises just a few inches above the knee and is best worn loose, oversized and, ideally, with a pleat or two for good measure. Three Graces’ tennis-inspired design is the perfect match for smart sneakers and a denim jacket while Maje and Rejina Pyo offer versatile styles that work for everything from dress down Friday (remember those?) to Sunday lunch.

The best midi dresses for summer

Roksanda Athena colour-block dress, £850,; Alexander McQueen draped cotton-faille midi dress, £1,760,; Theory draped midi dress, £325,

Once considered dowdy and unflattering, the midi dress – which typically hits at mid-calf – has been gaining momentum over the past decade to become one of the most stylish lengths around. If you’re heading to Ascot, the polo or a wedding this season, this should be your go-to. Roksanda and Alexander McQueen make a statement in bold block colours while Theory’s softer draped version makes for a sophisticated option for the office.

The best maxi dresses for summer

Peony Mandarin one-shoulder dress, £335,; Loretta Caponi Adriana embroidered dress, £714.54,; Oscar de la Renta leaf cutout silk dress, £3,080,

Maxi dresses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but, styled correctly, they needn’t be overwhelming or unwieldy to wear. Peony’s gingham one-shouldered design, for example, works with both heels and trainers, depending on the occasion, while Loretta Caponi’s embroidered shirt dress can be paired with sandals and a wide brimmed hat for a summer stroll. The exception to the rule is Oscar de la Renta’s vivid green silk gown. With voluminous sleeves, its oozes Elizabeth Taylor-style Sixties glamour and deserves to be worn at the most special of occasions.

The best floral dresses for summer

D’Ascoli Olga belted floral dress, £318,; Ulla Johnson Coretta cotton and silk dress, £775,; Borgo De Nor floral print dress, £795,

Florals for summer? We know. Groundbreaking. There is, however, no denying the appeal of a cascade of delicate petals as the weather warms. If all-over flowers aren’t your thing, this long-sleeved design from New Delhi-based brand D’Ascoli foregrounds a few bold blooms for an easy-to-wear option. Ulla Johnson’s uber-feminine painterly florals, meanwhile, offer vintage appeal while Borgo De Nor turns things up to 11 with an eye-popping midi style. Wear it with sandals now and knee high boots come autumn.

The best beach dresses for summer

Kori embroidered mini dress, £140,; Matteau maxi dress, £560,; Bogdar Carly one-shouldered dress, £360,

Okay, we may be being optimistic here, but even if you’re hitting the beach in Margate rather than the Maldives, there’s no excuse not to look your best. The best beach dresses are light, floaty and can be slipped on to take you straight to the bar. Kori’s graphic embroidered bracelet-sleeve dress, Matteau’s pleated maxi dress and Bogdar’s rope-belted one-shouldered sunshine yellow number tick all the boxes.

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