Dressed up for summer: Classic sundress is playful piece of wardrobe

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, July 12, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

The sundress is a summer staple.

“It is, because it is easy to wear, and it is the whole outfit,” says Marissa Rubin, senior marketing editor for People Style Watch. “It's lightweight, and comes in many fabrics. It's breathable, and a way to show some skin without showing too much skin.”

Shoppers can find them in every style from mini to maxi, to right above the knee — and in every color, print and pattern. This summer, anything goes, Rubin says.

Floral prints made of light, airy fabrics are ready for a hot summer day, and that's a perfect way to describe why we love the sundress in warm weather, says Alicia Estrada, designer of Stop Staring clothing.

“Summer brings out the best in us,” Estrada says. “Sundresses are more playful and more ladylike. The new calf-length skirts are so classy, yet so sexy. The 1950s styles are making a huge statement in fashion. They are timeless and classic.”

Sundresses look great with vintage accessories, Estrada says. Also, try a big floppy straw hat with a floral-print dress. She says she loves to pair a sundress with 1950s and 1940s accessories, whether they are vintage or vintage-inspired.

Sundresses are a practical option when the temperature rises.

“It can be a challenge to look pretty while staying cool in the heat of summer,” says Stephen Cirona, senior vice president of Tommy Bahama Women's Division. “Sundresses are the perfect way to achieve both. The sundress, whether in linen, silk or cotton is easy, feminine and versatile, because it can go from day to evening when paired with the right accessories. It works for many different body types, as well, because the styling is not form-fitting. They have a romantic, casual, feminine sensibility that has an ageless appeal.”

Choosing the correct shoes and accessories to complement the sundress is important, Cirona says.

Flat, leather sandals with leather uppers and gladiator styles look great for day, while taller cork-wrapped wedges and wedge espadrilles are great for evening.

The footwear should always be more relaxed.

A pop of color in the sandal or shoe is an important trend, especially for neutral sundresses, he says.

A shrunken cardigan in a sheer cotton or linen knit is the perfect layering piece for day.

The key is lightweight, almost sheer, so there is coverage without weight. A wrap is a cozy and chic layering accessory especially good for cool evenings.

“Color and pattern are the big trends this summer,” Cirona says. ”White is a classic statement and always looks fresh, especially in linen, but for those looking for something more directional, graphic prints in bold stripes or delicate florals are the way to go.”

For the woman who wants an update without making a big fashion statement, color is a great option.

Some of Cirona's favorites are coral, soft orange and teal.

These colors always look great with sun-kissed skin, he says.

For a bolder color statement, a bright red is a great option for the woman who wants to stand out, he says.

Sundresses are perfect for travel because they pack well and can be worn as a swim cover-up and out in the evening, Rubin says.

Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine, says she just came back from the beach, and sundresses were everywhere.

“The sundress is a classic,” Huggins says. “What is really fresh and new are sundresses with asymmetrical hems, short in front about the knee and flowing and long in the back. Sundresses say summer, and I love them, because I will pair them with a little sock and booties, and then, knee-high boots and a cardigan for fall. You can so transition these dresses.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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