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Best summer dresses 2021 - from floral to office-ready

Ellie Davis
·12-min read
 (Summer dresses)
(Summer dresses)

In the times BC (before Covid), summer dressing was and always has been a minefield.

First you have to think about the ever-changing British weather. Just because the day starts off with beautiful sunshine does not for one minute suggest that it will end the same way.

Next, consider breathability with not showing too much skin - particularly when dressing for work and navigating a heaving commute. This is a fine balance that can go seriously wrong.

In today’s “new normal”, summer dressing is only compounded by our unfamiliarity with regular clothing. Our wardrobes have been made up of loungewear and pyjamas for the best part of the year and so anything to the contrary throws its own element of uncertainty.

We believe that there’s one foolproof item you need in your warm weather arsenal to see you through your social and work commitments. A summer dress.

Going to the pub? Tick. Returning to the office? Tick. Picnicking with friends? Tick. Restaurant outside? Tick - but remember tights and/or layers.

See our pick of the best floaty frocks to see you through the summer and beyond.

ASOS DESIGN button through lace insert tiered midi dress

This frothy frock from ASOS just ticks so many boxes. The versatile ivory colourway will see you through your summer plans (bar any nuptials, of course), while adhering to the neutral palette for colourphobes everywhere. It has pretty ruffle detailing for intrigue.

ASOS
ASOS

£42 | ASOS

Arket Tiered Cotton Dress

Arket nails the basics as is shown very clearly by this high-volume cotton dress. While it looks sophisticated and put together, it has a throw-on-and-go quality that is the perfect sartorial stepping stone from the PJs that have dominated our ensembles of late. It is also available in purple.

Arket
Arket

£89 | Arket

Zara Dress with Cutwork Embroidery

Whether you are Greek island hopping or staycationing this summer, Zara’s midi brings the holiday feels home. It has a puff sleeve detail and cutwork embroidery design. The dress is elasticated in all the right places for a flattering look.

Zara
Zara

£49.99 | Zara

Ganni Floral-print georgette dress

If we had to fill our wardrobes with just one brand, Ganni makes an extremely strong case. This feminine floral number hits that sweet spot between subtle and statement. Go minimalistic and let the dress do the talking for a chic look guaranteed or pair with new accessories to completely transform it.

Ganni
Ganni

£125 | Net-A-Porter

Reformation Nikita Dress

LA-import Reformation has got your wedding guest dressing covered with the Nikita. It has a fitted bodice but relaxed shirt and sits at a midi length for the right combination of sultry yet sophisticated. It is available in a range of patterns and we just think you’ll find it hard to choose just one.

Reformation
Reformation

£255 | Reformation

M&S X GHOST Floral V-Neck Button Through Mini Tea Dress

The collaboration that keeps on giving, M&S has partnered up with Ghost once again for a line of summer frocks that are as covetable as the first. This pretty in pink number has a ditsy floral design set on a 50s inspired tea dress silhouette.

M&S
M&S

£59 | M&S

De La Vali Bandana Ruffled Mini Dress

Ruffle the house down with this mini dress from boutique label De La Vali. The brand takes inspiration from Ibiza fashion and this frock could certainly be sported in the Spanish party island or homebound at any summer soiree.

De La Vali
De La Vali

£340 | Browns

Rixo Lolita cutout floral-print cotton mini dress

The perfect piece to counteract the dreariness of lockdown life, this mini dress takes inspiration from 60s mods with a bright and bold colour palette. It has a qipao-like silhouette with a mandarin collar and keyhole design.

Rixo
Rixo

£195 | Net-A-Porter

Mango Belt shirt dress

Returning to the office will be a shock to the system so be prepared sartorially with an army of shirt dresses that can take you from boardroom to bar like this sleeveless number from Mango. It has a tie belt detail and has been crafted from sustainable fibres using eco-conscious methods.

Mango
Mango

£35.99 | Mango

Printed Square Neck Puff Sleeve Dress

The return of our social lives requires a sartorial booster and this green floral dress will be the perfect antidote to clothing-related woes. It has a universally flattering square neck design and subtle puff sleeves.

Warehouse
Warehouse

£39.20 | Warehouse

Maje Asymmetric dress in printed crêpe

Dreaming of warmer climes? Dress the part with this jungle print piece from Maje. While the print is bold, you’ll be surprised at its versatility. From beer gardens to wedding guest wardrobes - this is an all-occasions statement dress.

Maje
Maje

£329 | Maje

House of Sunny Good Vibrations Dress

Elevate your summer wardrobe with House of Sunny and its selection of easy, breezy nylon dresses that are the poolside (paddling or otherwise) staple that we all need. The ‘Good Vibrations’ dress has a joy-inducing multi-coloured design and oval cut-outs at the back.

House of Sunny
House of Sunny

£98 | House of Sunny

Leopard Slit Flowy Maxi Dress

Leopard is the new neutral and no summer wardrobe is complete without a touch of the fierce print. It is set on this maxi that features a sultry side slit that brings the risqué into the realms of the everyday.

Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal

£30 | Nasty Gal

Beulah London Cynthia Red Dallia Floral High Neck Dress

Break away from the basics with this high neck, halter-style frock from Beulah. It has been crafted in London with a joyful floral design and embellished with elegant self-tie draping that you can use to switch up the style.

Beulah
Beulah

£495 | Beulah London

Zara Floral Draped Dress

In line with the changing weather, heat up your wardrobe with this high hemline dress from Zara with a ditsy floral print. It has a flattering ruched design at the front and is crafted from sustainably sourced fabric.

Zara
Zara

£27.99 | Zara

Warehouse Printed Tie Back Midi Dress

Escape from the monotony of your lockdown clothing rotation with a mood-boosting outfit like this midi from Warehouse. The dress has a suitably summery floral design and a tie-back design.

Warehouse
Warehouse

£44 | Warehouse

Mango Button crochet dress

This button front crochet dress from Mango is a no brainer. It’s low key, feminine and flattering to suit all tastes. Minimalistic, yes, but in the very best way.

Mango
Mango

£35.99 | Mango

ASOS DESIGN cami midi sundress with raw edges

White is a default summer colour and there’s good reason for that. Practicality-wise, it’s far more lightweight and breathable than heat-absorbing dark shades. But more so, in the fashion realm, it’s a clean canvas for you to style as you wish. This sundress has a shirred bodice and relaxed skater style skirt.

ASOS
ASOS

£28 | ASOS

Arket Rib Knitted Merino Dress

You may see the word knitted and wonder why we included this option in a summer dress roundup. It may be crafted from merino wool with long-sleeves but for brisk evenings or air-conditioned offices, you may be looking for something slightly more covered up and this style will work a treat. The silhouette is slim-fit and fairly minimalist but the sleeves have a chic slit opening that steals the show.

Arket
Arket

£89 | Arket

Mango Gingham check cottoned dress

After the dreariness of the last year - Mango may have just released the most mood-boosting, feel-good frock that we’ve been crying out for. The sartorial embodiment of summer, it is offering in a sunny yellow hue and with a gingham print. Sold.

Mango
Mango

£59.99 | Mango

Zara Printed satin dress

We are looking to fill our wardrobes with cheery prints and high hemlines and Zara has got us covered with this dress that combines the two in a contemporary take on the 90s favourite slip. It has adjustable straps and a tie detail at the chest.

Zara
Zara

£25.99 | Zara

ASOS DESIGN shirred bodycon mini sundress

Gingham will always be synonymous with summer and you’ll find the print on this shirred dress from ASOS. It is embellished with ruffled trims and a square neck. Wear alone when the heatwave hits or layer over a t-shirt for a more work appropriate style.

ASOS
ASOS

£25 | ASOS

Heather Green Floral Dress

We can’t decide what we love most about this dress - the pine green hue, the peony pattern or the sumptuous fabric. Special mention should also go to the silhouette - the tiered skirt and puff sleeves embellished with a bow detail.

Kitri
Kitri

£165 | Kitri

& Other Stories Puff Sleeve Jacquard Mini Dress

This is one of those dresses that will form the basis of your summer wardrobe for years to come. It has a perennially chic white jacquard print, puff sleeves and a cut out back - adorned with self-tie details and a slight elastication.

& Other Stories
& Other Stories

£95 | & Other Stories

Nasty Gal Floral Shirred Tiered Ruffle Mini Dress

Fill your wardrobe with mini dresses like this floral number from Nasty Gal and you’ll never experience the panic of a last minute rendezvous. It has a shirred construction and tiered design that will be sure to ruffle some feathers.

Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal

£17.50 | Nasty Gal

M&S X GHOST Floral V-Neck Puff Sleeve Midi Tea Dress

Too good to just choose one, here is another piece from M&S’ latest collaboration with Ghost. This tea dress will certainly put the spring in your step with a feel-good warm weather look no matter what the British summer throws at us.

M&S
M&S

£69 | M&S

Paloma Blue Tiffany Dress

Our new optimistic outlook requires the outfit to match. The Tiffany dress from Paloma Blue has a feminine flourish and mood-boosting colour palette that will have you pushing your loungewear to the back of your wardrobe. It has a flattering ruched design and ruffle trims.

Paloma Blue
Paloma Blue

£295 | Khoeo

Zara Satin Camisole Dress

Slip this on (sorry, not sorry) and you have an effortless wardrobe win - no accessories required. That said, it can be layered with gold jewellery for elegant evening attire or otherwise layered over a t-shirt for a more casual styling.

Zara
Zara

£29.99 | Zara

ASOS Linen High Neck Tab Side Mini Dress

If there was ever a fabric synonymous with summer, it would be linen. The breathability alone makes it ideal for those heatwave days or sauna commutes. Pair in with a gingham print and now all you have to do is sit pretty until the warmer weather arrives.

ASOS
ASOS

£22 | ASOS

H&M Chiffon dress

This chiffon dress from H&M is simply a classic. It’s ideal for those who prefer a more neutral colour palette even when the warmer weather comes, but it has a touch of playfulness with a butterfly design.

H&M
H&M

£14.99 | H&M

ASOS DESIGN ultimate midi tea dress in polka dot

With a polka dot pattern comes a level of sophistication that few other prints can pull off. This dress gives us vintage vibes with a tea silhouette and will prove itself a saviour when office life returns.

ASOS
ASOS

£25 | ASOS

ASOS DESIGN mini slip dress in rust spot print

Putting a more playful twist on the pattern, you’ll find a larger spot design on this mini that is less SFW than the iteration above. That is not to say it can’t be worn for more covered up occasions, style with layers underneath and a pair of tights and you’re in the money. It has a tie back design and a cowl neckline.

ASOS
ASOS

£22 | ASOS

Taj Floral Mesh Ruched Drawstring Bodycon Dress

Our hunt for dresses that break away from the norm has taken us to Tobi and this ruched bodycon that will bring an understated elegance to beer garden and BBQ season. It comes in sage and blue.

Tobi
Tobi

£44 | Tobi

Tierny 2-In-1 Coni Dress

One of the beauties of AllSaints’ two-in-one items is that you’re not only purchasing the dress itself, but also a way to mix it up. With this satin-look slip, you are investing in a timeless staple and a piece that will never go out of style. It comes with the Coni tank - a padded shoulder tee that has been a huge trend with the fashion set. The two are available in a whole host of colours.

AllSaints
AllSaints

£139 | AllSaints

H&M Tie-back dress

Sure to be a summer favourite for years to come, this H&M dress appears all business in the front but has a playful twist at the back with a cut out, tie detail.

H&M
H&M

£19.99 | H&M

ASOS DESIGN tiered ruffle midi dress with tie back

Heat up your summer rotation with this midi dress. Formal occasion? Wear gold or silver jewellery, strappy sandals or heels. Casual? No problem - flats and colourful beaded pieces will do the trick.

ASOS
ASOS

£32.30 | ASOS

Tie-front shirt dress

If each morning, your clothing rejects end up in a floordrobe pile that becomes increasingly larger by the day, you need this shirt dress. It’s an easy win. Sophisticated, formal but also suitable for sunnier weekends with a tie front.

H&M
H&M

£19.99 | H&M

ASOS DESIGN broderie v neck button through mini dress

When all else fails, a white dress with broderie detail is a failsafe option sure to soothe any sartorial panics. This mini from ASOS nails the trend with aplomb - cut out detail, ruffle trim, and lightweight construction.

ASOS
ASOS

£28 | ASOS

Bonita Drape V-neck maxi dress

Bring glamour to the al fresco dining experience with the ‘Bonita’ dress that certainly lives up to its name. The fabulous fuchsia colourway is adorned with a ditsy yellow print, while the silhouette is floaty, effortless yet elegant with a well-placed sultry slit.

French Connection
French Connection

£110 | French Connection

ASOS DESIGN ruched bust cami midi sundress

Easy and effortless, you’ll find this gingham shirred dress to be a hard-working summer staple that you’ll rely on as soon as the sun rears its head. It nails the often contrasting elements of being figure-hugging but relaxed.

ASOS
ASOS

£30 | ASOS

Fashion Union cami mini dress with cowl neck

Get date night ready with this cami mini dress that has a chic cowl neck construction. Dare to flash your pins with this high hemline piece.

Fashion Union
Fashion Union

£25 | ASOS

Zara Floral Print Dress

No matter the dress code, Zara is on hand with this midi dress to bring the elegance with this vibrant piece that can be whipped out for all occasions.

Zara
Zara

£29.99 | Zara

ASOS DESIGN denim pinny with frill sleeves

Up the ante with this voluminous frock from ASOS. Proving that bigger is in fact better, the pinny has goldilocks appeal - wear with dad trainers for casual, strappy sandals for al fresco dining.

ASOS
ASOS

£35 | ASOS

Reiss Halterneck Midi Dress Orla in yellow

It’s the colour of the season - mood-boosting yellow - and it comes as a halter neck dress that is summer occasion wear-ready.

Reiss
Reiss

£185 | Reiss

French Connection Ekeze Crepe Strappy Dress

Not your basic mini, this is summer dressing made easy. Throw it on at a moment’s notice for effortless styling and glamour guaranteed. It has a charming floral print, a flattering smocked panel and square neckline.

French Connection
French Connection

£85 | French Connection

Maje maxi dress with all-over embroidery

Constructed from a linen-like cotton voile, this is a deliciously boho dress that is lightweight enough to be worn throughout the summer, even at more formal occasions. It comes as no surprise that this is part of a collection to celebrate the first anniversary of its Ibiza store and its brimming with Mediterranean charm.

Maje
Maje

£349 | Maje

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