Summer dresses: 15 best designs to stay cool in style

Summer dresses are a no-brainer. You simply pop one on and then you’re cool and chic all day – no need to sweat deciding what top and bottom to match. And if you choose a floaty number, there’s no sweat when you put them on neither. I mean, we all have a dress that needs a little extra wriggle to get into, don’t we? Please say yes. Please…

They’re also great when you’re packing for a holiday – something on my mind as we look at how Brexit is impacting the pound before we head off to Europe for a couple of weeks. Flights are no longer the cheap deal they once were and every penny helps, so we’re packing light to avoid forking out silly money for a suitcase. Plus I hate carting big suitcases around. They make the travel to and from the airport a nightmare and I try to do without them where possible.

Many years ago, I went to Aruba for a few days and a woman on our trip had everything she needed in a small carry-on. She looked amazing the entire trip and then happily wished us goodbye off the plane and headed off, while we waited 45 minutes for the baggage to arrive. I’ve tried to travel light ever since.

Speaking of holidays, the right summer dresses will also cover a multitude of cocktails, ice creams, beers on the beach, desserts, brunches – oh, I need this break! Seriously, it is much easier finding a dress that matches your body than it is a pair of jeans. And that means they’re also safer to order online as you’re pretty sure to get the right fit.

With all that in mind, here are my picks of the best summer dresses for this year. They’re all extremely versatile – wear them with white trainers during the day for sightseeing and then a pair of sandals or heels and you’re ready to hit the strip at night – and guaranteed to make you a beach babe. Yes, I said it…

Most importantly, they’ll make you feel a million dollars and some will even work to keep you cool.


I’m on a mission to keep Debenhams on the high street – I only wish the stores were, too. Debenhams may seem old and fuddy-duddy when you go into one, but look online and you can find some gorgeous summer dresses.

Tie-dye is a big trend this summer and I’ve had a sneak preview of what’ll be in the shops come autumn and it doesn’t look as if it’s going away anytime soon. I like this one because it is a more sophisticated take on tie-dye, so you can wear it at the office and not look as if you’ve just stumbled out of Glastonbury.


I love Red Herring and this dress makes me smile. I can imagine it wafting elegantly around a European boulevard. Love it.

Bardot necks are one of my favourite necklines. They hide my bingo wings and show off my collarbones, my favourite part of my body (what?) Normally, mullet hems – I mean, asymmetrical hemlines are not my thing, but this is so slight that it’s very flattering.

Free People

If you’re after boho-chic with the emphasis on chic, Free People is the shop for you. The only thing I don’t like about it is its spiel about the Free People woman. She is:

a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic. A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between. Who loves Donovan as much as she loves The Dears, and can’t resist petting any dog that passes her by on the street.

No, mate, believe me, that’s not your typical 26-year-old. Try a couple of decades older.

Despite this, I think their dresses are beautiful and can be worn by any age.

I love the little details on this – the tie sleeves and the sheared waist really make it. I think it could also be a great dress for layering, left open over skinny jeans and a tee-shirt (which never works on 5ft women like me, but I can dream.)

If you love your legs, get this. It’s so soft and floaty that it is a dream. It would also be excellent as a throw-on over your bikini or swimsuit to take you to and from the beach in style.

What do I have to say? Pop on a large floppie hat or wear your hair up and get some oversized sunnies and you’re ready for a day’s sightseeing in the chicest of resorts.


Seasalt is that shop you probably walk by without thinking about it, but you should stop and go inside. It’s filled with stylish, classic pieces that will last many summers. I have a strappy dress from here that I bought last summer and I always get compliments on it when I go out. It’ll be good for many years.

Now is this a print to make you happy or what? I love the 1940s feel of this but it could work well glammed up for dinner.

You can’t beat gingham for summer. It makes me think of sea straight away. Casual shift dresses like this are great for just popping on and going. And it has pockets!!!!

Fit and flare dresses can be so flattering and this looks so soft and floaty. Best of all, it comes in a petite size for us shorties. Necklines like this can be a real pain when you’re small.

Marks & Spencer

Like Debenhams, M&S does a really good job of hiding its gorgeous clothes among mounds of froth and ruffles and Werther’s Originals trousers. I have two summer dresses from them for this year, one I wore for the Comedy Women in Print prize and received so many compliments (followed by: “Marksies? Really?” and…

… this one. It costs £15 and I have never taken it off. Well, I have, but you know what I mean. It is comfy, casual and yet smart for the office, too. I’m thinking of getting a wee belt for it, but it looks great without one too. (It’s the one I wore for the first KnowYourMenopause posterselfie.)

Yes, it’s a Holly Loves… summer dress which would usually put me off (star collabs never make me want to buy something. Quite the opposite, to be honest.) However, this dress looks beautiful for a summer’s day out or a nice lunch on a verandah.

This is another one that will work well for layering, giving you lots of options for holidays. I love the simplicity of the print, which makes it feel fresh and light, and sleeves are always good when you’re having a bingo-wing day.

Cucumber Clothing

I’ve talked about Cucumber Clothing before and their outfits. They’re stylish, timeless and – hold on to your hats – perfect for menopausal women because the fabric wicks moisture, so it keeps you cool when a hot flush hits.

I’m not sure what I love most – the ruffles or the colour. They’re both so casually chic. This is the dress that if I saw someone else wearing it, I’d instantly think: “Why do I look like I’ve tried so hard and she’s just popped on that dress and bam?” It’s a dress to make others jealous!

Soft, elegant, sexy – summer dresses to take you from the beach to bed. Or should that be the other way round…? 🙂

Another for the woman who doesn’t have to try too hard. I’d dress this up with bracelets and a big, chunky statement necklace. Love it.

What’s your favourite? What are you wearing to get through the summer? I’d love to know. Please leave me a comment below.

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