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Summer dresses
By Lori Harlan

For this season of parties and outdoor weddings, a sundress is a functional and fashionable wardrobe essential.

Because of their flattering fit, sundresses generally work for everyone from twenty something college to middle-aged moms, according to Laura Davis, co-owner of Apricot Lane.

"They're very forgiving dresses. They hang nicely and aren't super fitted. They're good for almost any body type. It's a perfectly acceptable look for any age and shape. As long as you're comfortable, anything goes," Davis says.

Sundress styles are all across the board this year: strapless, sleeveless, spaghetti-strapped or cap-sleeved with lengths ranging from barely-there minis to brushing-the-ground maxis. The season's most popular styles at Apricot Lane feature bold colors, designs and graphics. Several designers have incorporated tie-dye for a funky, modern take on a vintage look.

"We went to a fashion show in Las Vegas and saw really neat prints. Sundresses are definitely more popular than shorts or capris this year," Davis says.  

Kim Dixon, owner of The Wardrobe, agrees that casual summer dresses are in high demand.

"Everyone wants a dress this year. The best sellers right now are shift dresses with simple lines and colors and flowing, Bohemian styles in earth tones," Dixon says. "A sundress is meant to be comfortable and casual - something you can throw on and go. It's a great pulled-together look for summer, perfect for dinner outdoors or relaxing on vacation."

It's that versatility that makes the sundress a popular choice. Dress it up for special occasions and evening events; dress it down for casual outings like shopping. Davis says sundresses are even appropriate for work if you pick a suitable style and length. She suggests shrugs or sweaters for extra coverage at the office.

Accessories can also change up the look of a sundress.

Bangle bracelets and pretty necklaces can spruce up a casual dress, according to Davis.

Scarves are another popular choice this year and can make a bare dress feel a little less revealing. Legg-ings worn under a sundress also provide more coverage for those less inclined to show a lot of skin.

Cute shoes provide an additional opportunity to dress the look up or down. Colorful flip-flops, chunky wedges or strappy sandals can mean the difference between a casual, comfortable look or a stylish, sophisticated one.

"When you think of sundresses, you think of sandals," says Amy Hathaway, co-owner of Shoetopia. "It's fun to get a lot of color. That's the best part of spring and summer is moving away from all the browns and blacks we wear in the winter."

Flip-flops and flat sandals pair well with sundresses, according to Hathaway. For a more polished look, she recommends a sandal with a higher heel. Wedge heels give height while providing more stability than a skinny heel.

Summer shoes with "toe bling" are a fun way to accessorize sundresses as well. Turquoise stones, chunky crystals and colorful bows at the toes add a playful element to a casual dress.

Dixon says that while the length of the dress generally dictates the height of the heel, there are no hard and fast rules in fashion any more.

"You should consider individual body type and what length is flattering when choosing a dress," Dixon says. "I'm happy to see that women are starting to show a little more of their legs. It means that they feel good about how they look."

The resurgence of the sundress this year is likely due to the combination of comfort and style, according to Davis.

Most of the dresses are a cotton-modal blend. Modal adds softness and stretch to the cotton and "feels broken in without looking worn out," she says.

"Sundresses are a good alternative to regular dresses or pants when it's hot. They're also more flattering and forgiving than shorts," she says.


Story published Friday, July 3, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 4 )

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