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Sundresses take on new casual styles

| Thursday, June 3, 2010

The sundress you wore as a little girl is all grown up.

"Femininity is back and so is the sundress," says Cynthia L. Washburn, JCPenney women's trend expert. "We have watched the sundress go from 'Sunday Best' to an every day 'go-to' silhouette due to the versatility and ease of the sundress.

"Over the past three years, we have seen dresses become less of a special-occasion choice and more of a modern-wardrobe choice," she says.

"Sundresses have taken on a whole new style," says Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine. "They aren't just A-line with a full skirt and thin straps. They are more fun and flirty, yet not too super-sexy, so a lot of women can wear them. They are perfect for the hot weather because they are comfortable. Most are made out of cotton, and that's exactly what we need in the heat."

The sundress always feels comfortable because of lightweight fabrics, says Jennifer O'Neil, assistant dress buyer for Anthropologie.

"We love cottons, gauze and knits for the summertime," O'Neil says.

This season sundresses are found in florals, geometric prints, eyelet, lace, animal prints, sheer fabrics, polka dots and gingham.

"Colors range from muted neutrals (and) nudes to the opposite side of the spectrum with super graphic, intense color combos," say stylists from "You will see a lot of saturated corals and reds as well. Sundresses are so comfortable because they don't cling to the body, which keeps the person wearing them cool."

They are an easy summer staple -- you put one on and you are automatically dressed.

"It is easy to see why the sundress is in style every year, and a reason for us gents to be jealous," says Michael Carl, Allure magazine fashion director. "It's an easy way to feel cool and comfortable during the summer. If can be for the office, the weekend, the beach and even for a night out, depending on the style and the accessories. They also are available in every price range.

"There are so many accessories that go with a sundress and that's what makes sundresses so much fun," Carl says. "It's like a Barbie. Half the fun of a Barbie is accessorizing her."

How you accessorize will determine where you wear the sundress.

"You can wear a sundress with a jacket or cardigan in the summer and your favorite shoes for the office," says Joanne Stoner, CEO and founder of "You can look polished and chic in moments with the choice of a sundress. Sundresses can also be dressed up or down, making them a perfect staple for a summer wardrobe.

"A sundress is appropriate for work, a summer wedding, a barbecue or other events if accessorized appropriately," she says. "The key is pairing the dress with accessories that dress it up or down as the occasion calls for."

A good length is right above the knee, but ankle-length is popular as well.

"I like to call the sundress all-occasion dressing," Huggins says. "You won't ever feel underdressed or overdressed and you don't have to spend a lot of money. They are perfect for many occasions from girls' night out to a baby or wedding shower. They are also usually easy to care for."

How to choose a sundress that flatters your figure

The sundress is a fun and versatile summer piece. Play it up with heels and accessories or keep it simple with flat sandals. Choosing a silhouette that flatters your figure will let you step out with confidence. Here's how:

• Show off well-toned legs with a side slit or two in a column tank dress. Conceal heavier legs under a long dress with a flowing skirt.

• Hide heavier hips under an A-line dress, or opt for a knee-length number that has a little flare around the edges.

• Create the illusion of a larger bust with an empire-waist dress. You can also downplay a small chest by wearing a ruffled or gathered bodice.

• Play up your well-toned shoulders and upper back with a halter sundress. An open collar or V-neckline will help minimize a well-endowed chest.

• Choose a slip dress with darts positioned near the waist to give the illusion of curves. This works well for those with a thicker waist or gals with a boyish, not so curvy figure.

• Go strapless or choose delicate spaghetti straps to reveal a long neck and sexy decolletage. Camouflage heavy upper arms by draping them in a delicate chiffon scarf.

• Consider a mini-dress if you're petite. The shorter skirt length will create the illusion of longer legs.


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