The Critics Agree: 18 Dresses You Can Live In All Summer

Throughout our intrepid summer-shopping research, we’ve discovered that right now, all we want to wear is dresses. With a new normal that dictates sticking close to home, a breathable dress is our go-to uniform for everything — including (but not limited to) lounging around the house, running errands, meeting friends in the park, and looking cute on Zoom.

So, we crafted a guide to the easiest and breeziest styles worth living in for the rest of this hot-hot season. In order to suss out the styles that everyone is currently carting, we headed straight for the review sections of our favorite sites. Ahead, click through everything from an extra-long lightweight gown (that seemingly flatters all shapes and sizes) to a sunny gingham mini (that's worthy of the chicest socially distant picnic) — or, just to peep what made the reviewers' cut in Summer's Best-Frocked List.

Welcome to Hype Machine, our hit-list of the top reviewed products across the web — according to a crowd of die-hard shoppers. Call this your 4-star & up only club, with entry granted by our devoted-to-the-goods shop editors.

We’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. 

FP One Adella Slip

The Most Magical (Again, Literally)

This isn’t the first time that Free People’s “Adella” silhouette has made it into a Hype Machine — the bodice-only iteration of this top-selling dress can be found in our roundup of comfortable cotton bras. (We were skeptical, but the reviews don’t lie.) For such a delicate-looking confection, reviewers from size XS to XL claim the Adella Slip well-fitting, and supportive creation — clearly there’s some magic at play. (And don’t forget about the maxi version of this style — at 4.6 stars and 190 reviews, it’s hot on its predecessor’s heels.)

The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars; 270 reviews

What They’re Saying: “I bought this dress late last fall; I wish I’d bought the maxi as well. Since then this beautiful number and I have adventured, laughed, cried, slayed, over shared, and all the while she is just as luxurious as the day we met. The lace the adorns her bodice was at first something I thought I’d have to overcome. I can say with certainty that the lace isn't simply lace, but somehow armor as protective as it is sexy. Amazingly enough, the skirt is fit for a queen, soft and somehow workable. <3” — LunaAnthony, reviewer

FP One Adella Slip, $, available at Free People

FP One Adella Maxi Slip, $, available at Free People

Madewell Button Front Tiered Mini Dress

The Easiest and Breeziest
“Light” and “airy” are words frequently bandied about by fans of this swingy, summer-y frock. More than one satisfied customer pledged to wear it all season long.

The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars; 30 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “This dress exceeded my expectations. I bought it on sale thinking it would be ok, comfy, but maybe a little flimsy. I took it out of the package and was immediately impressed at its quality. The fabric is lined and the top is fitted well. It flares out as a tiered dress should. It is summer in a garment, so cute and flowy and light and flattering. I have to stop myself from wearing it every single day. And it has pockets!! It may be worth noting that I'm 4 months postpartum, happy with my body (even a little sad to hide it, after it has achieved great things), but appreciate that this dress is functional with buttons for nursing and an easygoing, forgiving shape.” — mmgn, reviewer

Madewell Button-Front Tiered Mini Dress, $, available at Madewell

H&M Ruffle-trimmed Dress

The Most Re-stocked

We’ve been keeping an eye on this easy-wearing dress all summer long, and have watch it sell out again and again — only to be restocked by the powers that be at the Swedish fast-fashion giant. Clearly, there’s something about this frock.

The Hype: 4.1 out of 5 stars, 350 reviews on

What They’re Saying: This time, the praise comes from within the (digital) walls of R29: our Associate Creative Director Sue Tran owns this dress in three colors, and was the one who hipped us to its constantly fluctuating inventory status. “I literally LIVE in it,” she told us. “Sleep in it. Work in it. Went to the beach in it.”

H&M Ruffle-trimmed Dress, $, available at H&M

Eloquii Maxi Wrap Dress, $, available at Eloquii

Eloquii Wrap Maxi Dress

The Showstopper

Women size 12 and up sing the praises of Eloquii’s classic and perfectly calibrated wrap dress, citing a fabric weight suited for year-round wear and expert, flattering tailoring.

The Hype: 4.5 out of 5 stars; 497 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I have been on the hunt for a beautiful long dress that I could wear with my platform combat boots or dressy shoes. These mock wrap dresses are no-fuss: no-slip needed and the belt is easy to tie. The material hangs nicely without emphasizing anything about my figure that I don't like. I ended up getting the dress in three patterns. I was wearing the leopard print for the first time when a man stopped me at the store, raised his hands up and down at me and said, ‘This is excellent!’ I had been concerned that head to toe leopard would be too much, but the feedback I've received has been a resounding Yes to This Dress!”

Eloquii Wrap Maxi Dress, $, available at Eloquii

Linen Fox Nida Dress

The Freewheelin’ Frock
The forgiving silhouette and convertible belt of this easy linen dress means it can be styled to the wearer’s specifications. Reviewers love that it could be tight or loose, depending on their mood.

The Hype: 5 out of 5 stars; 87 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “The fabric is gorgeous, with a beautiful drape. It’s a very simple shape with a lot of fabric; the belt is what gives it shape and you can fuss with the fabric to make it lay right so it flatters your particular shape. This means it will be comfortable on bloaty days or if you gain a few pounds. The quality is excellent and I’m sure it will last a very long time. I have a feeling I’m going to be living in this dress for a while. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase.” — Gavagirl, reviewer

Linenfox Nida Dress, $, available at Etsy

Lululemon All Aligned A-line Dress

The Chameleon
Lululemon brings its soft, stretchy, lightweight Nulu fabric to an a-line summer dress with almost unanimously positive reviews. (“Just like the Align pants, which I love so much!” stated a reviewer.) Customers loved how this athletic style could go from the gym to brunch with a wave of its forgiving hem.

The Hype: 4.8 out of 5 stars; 30 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Bought this in Chianti after seeing a photo of someone wearing it. The dress is even better than it looks online. The fabric is wonderful — lightweight and cool for summer. It is loose and flow-y and does not seem to wrinkle. Can be dressed up or down — looks cute with a sweatshirt tied around the waist too! I was able to size down one — shoulders are the driver of top sizes for me — with no sleeves I was able to go down one size and it fits perfectly. Definitely not a super-short dress either!” — Case135, reviewer

lululemon All Aligned A-line Dress, $, available at lululemon

Urban Outfitters Sparkler Chiffon Midi Dress

The Queen Bee
More than one reviewer praised this ruffled frock’s “flow-y” properties, and mentioned feeling regal AF thanks to its flattering, feminine lines. “Made me feel like a queen!” praised one customer who wore it on Mother’s Day.

The Hype: 4.8 out of 5 stars; 29 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Perfection.
This dress made me feel like a literal princess when I first tried it on. The XL fits like a glove and surprisingly isn’t too tight on my chest like most UO dresses tend to be. I can’t wait to get it in another color!” — aala, reviewer

Urban Outfitters Sparklers Chiffon Midi Dress, $, available at Urban Outfitters

Love Stitch Gauze Racerback Maxi Dress

The Coolest (Literally)
Reviewers praised the elegant silhouette and floor-skimming length of this lightweight maxi, deeming it the perfect frock for looking and feeling cool.

The Hype: 4.1 out of 5 stars; 46 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Wonderful breezy maxi dress perfect for poolside or dining out. Exceptional quality, not see through which some dresses that are made of this fabric are. I love the added pockets, they’re just deep enough for my phone or wallet too. I bought the red one and now I’m getting one in every color! Perfect summer dress!” — Specialkmix, reviewer

Love Stitch Gauze Neck V-Neck Racerback Maxi Dress, $, available at Nordstrom Rack

Love Stitch Gauze Maxi Dress

The Coolest (Literally)
Reviewers praised the elegant silhouette and floor-skimming length of this lightweight maxi, deeming it the perfect frock for looking and feeling cool.

The Hype: 4.2 out of 5 stars; 2,648 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I am 5'8 and 160 lbs with 34C bust and the S/M is a great fit. Straps are adjustable and not gaping. Length is great — I'm on the taller side and finally having a dress with a little drag is nice and elegant. I live in Southern CA, and with the summer heat while having to telecommute from home due to COVID I can wear this, add a necklace and sweater be ready for Zoom conference call, or then take that off and be poolside with my kids and not feel like a slob. And a dress with pockets? What's not to love! I got these on sale and bought one in every color due to the high reviews. I will likely live in these dresses all summer. Highly recommended.” — Lumeza, reviewer

Update: This dress is now sold out. Shop a similar Love Stitch dress, here.

Love Stitch Gauze Maxi Dress, $, available at Nordstrom Rack

Aerie Floral Print Midi Slip Dress

The Perfect 10

Reviewers were evangelical in their praise for this ditsy-floral Aerie creation. It gets straight As in all subjects, from from pattern and fit to price and curb appeal.

The Hype: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 29 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “10-star dress, cut and style. Just beautiful. AE just nailed everything about this dress. Fit perfect, love the color and cut, and the price was right. Can’t wait to wear it with sneakers all summer. Need more vibrant colors.” — Jewel, reviewer

AE Floral Print Midi Slip Dress, $, available at American Eagle Outfitters

Aerie One-Shoulder Shift Dress

The Offbeat

This loosely-fitted, swingy Aerie frock has all the comfort of a house dress — but, thanks to a unique, asymmetrical hemline, still feels fresh and elegant.

The Hype: 4.5 stars; 39 reviews on
What They’re Saying: “I love this dress!! So comfortable. I wore it without a bra and it kept everything in place due to the multilayer lining. You can really wear it casual or dress up with heels. I usually wear a medium, but bought a large and it did not slip down.” — Mari2122, reviewer

AE One Shoulder Shift Dress, $, available at American Eagle Outfitters

Universal Standard Geneva Dress

The Sleeper
Universal Standard’s now-iconic Geneva Dress may look simple, but it’s engineered to provide both comfort and supreme elegance. Listen to the reviewers: don’t underestimate the power of tailored, expertly-draped Peruvian cotton.

The Hype: 5 out of 5 stars; 59 reviews on

“I felt silly after buying this dress on a bit of an impulse, because I was worried I just spent over $100 on a long t-shirt, but after having it for a couple of weeks now I have no regrets. It’s comfortable like a t-shirt or pajamas, but the tailoring and fabric quality are exceptional. I have worn it with tights and flats for the office, and I’ve worn it around the house on a day when I was feeling under the weather. It's easy to care for and the color is beautiful. I’m a size 22 and I bought the large, which fits perfectly.” — Maggie S., reviewer

Universal Standard Geneva Dress, $, available at Universal Standard

Toad&Co Sunkissed Maxi Dress

The Adventurer
With UPF properties that provide excellent sun protection, a quick-drying, anti-wrinkle nylon fabrication, this durable and flattering dress is a stylish option for outdoor activity.

The Hype: 4.8 out of 5 stars, 30 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Love this dress. The fabric is so lightweight and comfortable. I have worn it on vacation at the beach as well as traveling on the plane and walking around in NOLA when it was 100 degrees. At first, I thought it was going to be very wrinkly based on how it looked when I received it, but after hanging up for a few hours the wrinkles were gone which also makes it a perfect travel dress. Always receive compliments when I wear it.” — Linsay S., reviewer

Toad&Co Sunkissed Maxi Dress, $, available at Zappos

Scoop Printed Midi Dress

The Staycation

You may not be headed to the tropics this summer, but you can still conjure up a white-sand beach and turquoise water with the right frock. Customers love the leisurely, perma-vacation vibes of this sun-kissed midi.

The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars; 7 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Fun ladies who lunch dress! This is a beautiful dress. Quality better than expected. Fits nice and love the neckline. I would buy another.” — Heather, reviewer

Scoop Printed Midi Dress with Side Slits, $, available at Walmart

Kemi Telford Modupe Garden Dress

The Optimist

This unanimously top-rated cocoon dress had customers lighting up at its festive floral print — it brings a much-needed dose of joy, along with a chic and forgiving silhouette and a cool cotton weight that’s perfect for summer.

The Hype: 5 out of 5 stars; 4 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “When the sun is really shining I love wearing this dress as its cool cotton and colorful flowers really remind me of the joy of life and I’m comfortable all day long. When it gets a little chilly I throw on some leggings under and a cardigan on top. The wider neckline if flattering and I don’t worry about my feminine lumps and bumps as it’s roomy in all the right places.” — Nicci, reviewer

Kemi Telford Modupe Garden Dress, $, available at Kemi Telford

ModCloth Fabulous Fit and Flare Shirtdress

The Throwback

Vintage enthusiasts, rejoice — this nostalgic frock has reviewers raving over its picture-perfect 1950s tailoring and candy-colored hue.

The Hype: 4 out of 5 stars; 56 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I call this my Sandra Dee dress, and I feel like a fabulous lemon cupcake in it! I purchased this on a whim just to try on, and as soon as I did I knew I was keeping it. The color is the perfect springtime yellow. It's not neon, not sunshine, not mustard. It's a soft yellow, closer to pastel yellow but just a teensy bit brighter. It's a happy color, and I felt fantastic wearing it and received tons of compliments!” — Barbarella, reviewer

ModCloth Fabulous Fit and Flare Shirt Dress, $, available at ModCloth

Lunya Washable Silk Slipdress

The Barely-There

Enthusiasts of ’90s minimalism should add this restrained silk slip dress to their carts ASAP. Loose and forgiving while still possessing an impossible chic, this is the perfect dress for rolling out of bed and hitting the streets on a sweltering Saturday morning. (We choose to show you the back because we’re especially obsessed with the adjustable “T” strap detail.)

The Hype: 4.7 out of 5 stars; 191 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I received my silk slip dress and it was more lovely than I could have hoped. It fits like a dream and feels amazing. I am also delighted with the pockets, that not only fit my phone, but are hidden in the flow of the dress, so the silhouette is not ruined when you stuff them full. It’s my new go-to for an easy and sophisticated outfit.” — Shelby D., reviewer

Lunya Washable Silk Slip Dress, $, available at Lunya

French Connection Whisper Sweetheart Line A-Line Dress

The Party Girl
You may want to file this under “post-quarantine purchases”, but when those wedding invitations start rolling in again, you’ll be grateful you bought this dress. (Don’t worry, it also comes in black and a pretty periwinkle.) Customers love the flattering fit and substantial fabric that, according to one customer, “holds everything in.” Don’t let its dressy silhouette deter you, either — we were inspired by a reviewer’s suggestion to pair it “with a jean jacket and Nike Cortez sneakers.” Cute!

The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars, 19 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I bought this dress in white for my upcoming college graduation, and I love it so much. At 5’1”, it's difficult to find dresses (especially for summer) that aren't too long, but this dress is the ideal length and hits mid-thigh on me. The size 4 fits me perfectly — for reference I am 115 lb and normally wear a size 2 dress and 32D bra. The material is thick and sturdy, and does a good job of holding everything in. Once I adjusted the straps to make them shorter, my bust felt well supported, and I would feel confident going braless in this dress. Overall, I’m thrilled with this find and am excited to wear it to my graduation.” — mpeters, reviewer

French Connection Whisper Sweetheart Light A-Line Dress, $, available at Bloomingdale's

Pact Fit and Flare Midi Dress

The Environmentalist

For those looking for the best eco-friendly summer dress out there, Pact has your best bet in earth-friendly organic cotton. It doesn’t hurt that this universally flattering style has a built-in bra and pocket for extra comfort and utility.

The Hype: 4.5 out of 5 stars; 491 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “Built-in bra, pockets, four-way stretch — it's my favorite dress. I have it in black and blue with a pink one on the way. Dear Pact, please make this dress in red and yellow and navy. I will absolutely buy one of each. I consider this my uniform.” — cdmf, reviewer

PACT Fit and Flare Midi Dress, $, available at PACT

Auselily Short Sleeve Maxi Dress with Pockets

The Comfiest
The soft fabrication and accommodating silhouette of this pajama-like Amazon number earned it glowing reviews from comfort-seeking customers.

The Hype: 4.4 out of 5 stars; 6,482 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I waited to purchase this dress because I have pretty high standards for super-soft jersey cotton clothing, but I’m VERY happy I moved forward with this piece! The material is incredibly soft! The M fits perfectly for my size 6/8 frame that typically wears a M in most clothing. The elastic sits comfortably around my 30” waist. I’m 5’4” and the length skims the floor. I can wear small heels to pull it off the floor or simply tie the bottom of the skirt in a stylish knot. Perfect dress for looking professional at work but feeling like you’re wearing sweatpants!” — LNF, reviewer

AUSELILY Short Sleeve Maxi Dress with Pockets, $, available at Amazon

Leith Ruched Tank Dress

The Why-Not-Get-Two
You know a dress is good when someone admits to owning it in more than one colorway. Leith’s universally-flattering, figure-hugging sheath dress seems to take the cake in that arena, with numerous purchasers adding multiples to their carts.

The Hype: 4.5 out of 5 stars; 3,446 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “I'm really happy with this dress! I got it in the orange color and the blue. They are comfortable cotton, with some stretch, and are lightweight for summer. They're also really easy to dress up or down and are flattering on my figure. I got the XL size, and it fits great! I have a large bust and hips, and this is very flattering.” — Kay, reviewer

Leith Ruched Tank Dress, $, available at Nordstrom

Everlane Long Weekend Tank Dress

The Afterthought (In A Good Way)
Reviewers paid this dress the highest of garmento compliments: once it’s on, it’s so comfortable that it almost disappears.

The Hype: 4.76 out of 5 stars; 181 reviews on

What They’re Saying: “This dress is comfortable, doesn't stretch out, and is the easiest decision when I’m getting dressed. I throw it on and then don't think about adjusting it in any way for the rest of the day. No tugging, pulling down, re-covering my bra straps, nothing. It's so easy and comfortable. Definitely buying in another color. It runs big. Size down for a fitted-but still super comfy fit. It doesn’t cling to my midsection. It’s flattering.” — StephBat, reviewer

Everlane The Long Weekend Tank Dress, $, available at Everlane

from refinery29
The Critics Agree: 18 Dresses You Can Live In All Summer The Critics Agree: 18 Dresses You Can Live In All Summer Reviewed by streakoggi on August 27, 2020 Rating: 5
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