We’ve found the best dresses for spring, from shirt dresses to wrap dresses, midi to maxi – so you can see in the new season in style.
We’ve long believed that everyone should have at least one staple dress in their arsenal. But having a selection of go-to dresses that you can throw on for every type of occasion this spring? Now that will truly transform your closet.
Which is why we’ve searched high and low for the best of them – scouting out dresses from fashion-forward US names, iconic British clothing brands, luxury labels, and budget-friendly favorites – to ultimately find you the very best dresses that money can buy.
“Design has moved to a greater focus on timeless, forever pieces,” observes personal stylist Keren Beaumont. “People are shopping smarter and investment shopping rather than buying into trends.”
Though many of our best dresses naturally fall under 2021’s chicest clothing trends, we’ve consciously focused on styles that you’ll wear and love not just this spring/summer season, but for many years to come. Because much like a pair of the best jeans, a flattering dress is the backbone of any good capsule wardrobe.
But that doesn’t mean you have to opt for safe, lacklustre styles. This spring, some of our favorite dresses are colorful, patterned and 100% guaranteed to inject some much-needed joy back into your closet.
“After a year of loungewear, elasticated waistbands, and neutral tones, I think one of the biggest summer trends is going to be brights, ” says woman&home’s Style Editor Joely Chilcott.
“Embrace color! Think about your skin tone, and ask yourself what color suits me? Work out whether warm colors like reds and oranges suit you best or whether it’s cooler tones of blues. Either way, color can help boost your mood and your wardrobe.”
How we selected the best dresses
The term “best dresses” is a bit of a broad term. After all, there are so many different styles for so many different occasions. Not to mention, there’s our individual body type to take into account. What looks amazing on an apple body shape will undoubtedly look entirely different on an hourglass body shape.
Which is why we’ve rigorously researched the best dresses for every shape, size, and occasion this spring.
“Before buying any dress, it’s important to know your body,” says Joely. “Think about which parts you want to highlight or areas you’re more self-conscious about and then work from there.”
Here are a few things we based our selections on:
- The quality of the materials
- Whether the sizing is accurate
- Whether they’re a flattering fit
- And of course, how stylish they are
From dressier styles to pull-on t-shirt fits, we’re confident that our editor-approved pick of the very best dresses there are will make searching for the one to spend your money on all that bit easier.
Because, adds Joely, “A dress that makes you feel the most confident will always be the best.”
The best dresses to buy right now
Longer days, brighter mornings, and warmer weather can only mean one thing: it’s short dresses season. The midi might have been hogging the spotlight for the past few years, but the classic short dress has never failed to be fashionable – which is why we couldn’t be more excited about its renaissance for SS21.
But before you assume that short dresses are only for the young, it’s important to note that short doesn’t automatically equate to mini. There are plenty of shorter styles for women seeking a little more leg coverage this season, too. And we’ve scoped them out for you, so all you have to worry about is which shoes to pair them with.
Where to buy short dresses – quick links:
This leg-lengthening semi-formal dress is pretty as a picture. With a shirt-style buttoned high neck and gently puffed sleeves, it’s the quality cotton-silk composition of this one that makes it so special.
The front-tie at the waist gives the dress a flattering fit and flare silhouette, while the tiered skirt skims the hips and adds lovely length to the legs. If you’re searching for one of the best dresses to hide a tummy– that won’t shroud your figure in billowy fabric – this one is well worth an investment.
Accentuate your waist further (or dress it down for daywear) by adding a slim leather belt in a contrasting color. You can also toughen this look up with a leather biker jacket or sweeten it even more with a chunky pastel headband.
Not all short spring dresses are flouncy. This minimalist belted short-sleeved dress from Benetton is our top pick for everyday wear owing to its simple, fuss-free fit. The dress’s foldable 3/4 sleeves can be released from the shoulder by unbuttoning the snap button, while the belt can be detached for a loose, boxy silhouette.
The perfect pick for those who prefer to keep their shoulders and the tops of their arms covered, the hem falls just above the knee for a crisp, neat finish. Available in three colors, what we love about this utilitarian dress is that it’s as easily cared for as it is styled: machine wash it on a gentle cycle, and wear it and love it for many springs to come.
Cut from soft, louche cotton, this laidback Zara v-neck pick is a city break dress of dreams. With flattering ruching detail at the sides, front wrap closure, and interior button for added security, this one is guaranteed to keep you cool in the warmer weather.
Those with bigger boobs may find that the neckline is a little too relaxed, but that can be easily remedied by wearing a lace trim camisole underneath for extra coverage, as well as one of the best bras for large busts to ensure you feel secure.
Pair Zara’s Double Breasted mini with some simple canvas sneakers from the likes of Superga, Novesta, or Converse for roaming around galleries and tourist attractions on vacation, or some tan soft leather sandals for beach days.
A mini dress that will make a big style statement, Ganni’s pleated leopard print dress is a party piece worth saving your pennies for. Taking cues from military shirting for a wide, squarish fit, this super-sweet mini is a fresh take on the perennially popular leopard print trend.
Cut from olive-green and black jacquard, admittedly, this one is super short – so if you’re looking for styles that are a little more conservative in terms of length, this one probably (read: definitely) isn’t for you. But what we do love about this dress is how transitional it is – wear to a spring barbecue with a pair of bright white sneakers, or wear it to a festive cocktail party with a pair of tights and black biker boots.
There’s a reason why midi dresses are an enduring spring classic: they’re just so easy to style. The gentle fit and flare silhouette of most midi dresses will accentuate areas like the waist, while flattering areas you might be more self-conscious about, like the tops of the arms and the thighs.
After a year of loafing around in the best leggings, our tolerance for fussy, uncomfortable fashion has reached new lows – which is why the throw-on-and-go factor of the midi dress couldn’t be more appealing for spring 2021.
Where to shop for midi dresses – quick links:
Florals for spring may not be groundbreaking, but they are a surefire way of revamping your wardrobe for brighter days ahead. And this flouncy, Azure-blue midi dress is top of our wish list. With a subtle nod to SS21’s puff sleeve trend, this breezy cotton dress fits like a dream.
It’s incredibly comfortable thanks to its loose skirt, soft cotton material, and front button closure. And while we think that this one’s universally flattering, those with a more pear-shaped body (i.e., those with wider hips and a narrower torso) will find that this one balances their shoulders and skims the hips for a flattering, feminine look.
“Puff sleeves are a huge trend this season and are perfect for disguising upper arms,” says Joely. We’re styling Zara’s floral midi with a pair of crisp white sneakers for work (the dress’s lapel collar lends it an office-appropriate feel) and old-faithful Birkenstocks for the weekend.
Some Spring dresses are worth saving up a few paychecks for, and RIXO’s lightweight crepe Gwen dress is one of them. With a flattering empire line that cinches just below the bust, puffed sleeves, and ruffled crocheted lace trims, this unabashedly feminine frock is the joy our post-lockdown wardrobe is desperately seeking.
We really think that this one is an investment piece that will answer all of your wardrobe dilemmas – whether you’re grappling with the age-old what to wear to a wedding question or wondering what to wear to work in the summer months.
The fit of RIXO’s Gwen dress is true to size, but it is a very slim fit (particularly around the hips and tummy), so if you’re shopping for a special occasion, pairing it with the best shapewear underneath can help you feel more supported and secure.
Pair it with biker boots and a chunky knit scarf for the colder months, or a pair of mule sandals, a straw tote, and a cocktail come sunnier days.
Of all the spring midi dresses on our list, this pretty French Connection tea dress is our favorite “throw on and go” pick. With a flattering v neckline, short flowy sleeves, fitted waist, and breezy tiered skirt, if you’re looking for a dress that can be worn anywhere and with anything, this one’s well worth an investment – even if the event in question is via Zoom.
Anyone under 5’10 will probably find this to be more of a maxi dress than a midi, but the dress’s fitted torso and small, ditsy print means it won’t swamp more petite frames, either.
We’ll be pairing ours with a pair of white Superga trainers à la the Duchess of Cambridge and a staple leather jacket for the duration of the summer.
This fluid, 100% silk midi in contrasting gingham and floral print is a true closet trophy piece. Whether you’re planning a post-lockdown garden party or have a backlog of 2020 postponed weddings to attend, this pretty drop-waist dress is a special occasion buy you’ll treasure forever.
With flattering, fluted short sleeves, and a high-neck silhouette, what we love about this dress is how transitional it is. Sure, the print is distinctly spring-like, but imagine when dark January days roll around again, and you’ve got this to wear with a pair of ankle boots under your best winter coat.
This RIXO midi requires a little more care than your typical spring midi – its 100% silk composition means it’s dry clean only – but take care of it properly, and this is a wardrobe treasure you’ll keep forever.
Maxi dresses are ideal for spring days where there’s still that little bit of chill in the air. Floaty, relaxed, and capable of taking you from ‘just rolled out of bed’ to ‘just hand me my award already’ in all of three seconds, our favorite thing about them is that they can make you look completely pulled-together without restrictive waistbands or fiddly fastenings – making maxis the perfect option for easing you out of loungewear, and back into your stylish post-lockdown life.
Some of the chicest dresses for big busts are maxi length, thanks to the proportion-balancing power of a long, A-line flare skirt. If you’re on the petite end of the spectrum and are worried about a maxi dress swamping you, opt for a style with a tiered skirt or a split hem to add the illusion of extra height.
Where to shop for maxi dresses – quick links:
Designed in collaboration with Costa Rica-born boho brand Mare Mare, Anthropologie’s asymmetric tiered maxi is the vacation dress of dreams – whether you’re beach or city-bound.
A great choice for those with bigger boobs thanks to its billowing, frame-balancing tiered skirt, this pullover-style maxi also happens to be one of the prettiest dresses with pockets around.
It is hand wash only – so, unfortunately, it requires a little more care than just throwing it in the wash on a normal cycle – but come sunnier days, we have a feeling you’ll be wearing this one with just about everything – from trusty Converse, to chic sandals.
Part of Net-a-Porter’s NET SUSTAIN – a curated selection of consciously crafted fashion and beauty buys – Hannah Artwear’s latest capsule collection for the site draws inspiration from the ‘pink Indian sunrise’ and ‘luminescent colors’ of Jaipur.
This swoon-worthy pull-on Sunhara maxi is made from three tiers of airy cotton, woodblock-printed with a gorgeous botanical motif – and frankly, it requires every ounce of our self-control not to book a vacation when slipping it on.
The flattering empire waist ties at the dress’s open back for a relaxed, beachy feel, while roomy pockets allow you to easily store your essentials (read: SPF, car keys, and lip balm).
The downside of this tiered maxi is that it’s one-size only, having been designed to fit extra small to medium builds. The open back will also prove a bit of a pain to those who can’t go braless – so as pretty as it is, this one’s best suited to women with a more rectangle body shape.
All Saint’s louche, lightweight Karian Yermo Dress is the perfect easy-breezy option for baking hot summer days. (A girl can hope, right?) Crafted from a lightweight, eco-conscious fabric, this sleeveless pullover dress with a detachable belt can be cinched in at the waist for a more form-fitting silhouette or left loose and airy.
The subtle monochrome print of this pullover maxi is perfect for those wanting to inject a little print into their spring wardrobe, without straying into frou frou floral territory. It also has the added benefit of being crafted from Lenzing Ecovero™ – a fiber that generates up to 50% lower emissions and water impact compared to your typical viscose.
We get it: prints, patterns, and primary colors aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that avowed minimalists can’t shop the season’s chicest spring maxi dresses, too. This pleated sleeve Mango maxi dress in muted beige-brown manages to be distinctly summery without being frou-frou.
Its flowy polyester composition and gently flared skirt make it an easy, breezy ware perfect for hot summer days, while its rounded, high neck makes it workwear appropriate, too. But it’s the pleated shoulders that won our hearts with this one.
They lend the dress a feel that’s much more expensive than its $119.99/£69.99 price tag (we got lots of early Phoebe Philo Céline vibes) and add subtle interest to an otherwise modest dress.
Petite types beware, though: this maxi is best suited to taller women with a more rectangle body shape or those with a more boyish frame. Luxe it up with chunky gold necklaces from the likes of Missoma and some simple soft leather ballet flats.
Shopping for dresses online is a difficult task in and of itself. But shopping for dresses online as a plus-size woman can be near-impossible. Retailers often design dresses with smaller sizes in mind – leaving those who wear a size medium and up out in the cold, which is why we’ve put the best dresses for plus-size women through their paces, too, to help you find the most flattering, supportive and chic styles this spring has to offer.
Where to shop for plus-size dresses – quick links:
This stand-out gingham and floral print smock dress from ASOS Curve is cut from soft, drapey cotton for a flouncy, feminine look. Subtly tapping into this season’s puff sleeve trend, its plunge neckline, empire waist, and full skirt will flatter all figures.
The size of this one runs a little large – so if you were thinking of sizing up for a super loose, floaty fit, there’s no need. (In fact, it might be a good idea to size down if you’re looking for a more form-fitting silhouette.) We’re styling ours with sneakers and tube socks for a super-sweet, spring daytime look.
This soft denim shirt dress is perfect for spring days where you just want to throw something easy on but look like you’ve made an effort at the same time. The flowy material means that it will keep you comfortable all day, unlike some shirt dresses and denim pieces that are a bit more rigid and can make for some discomfort after a long wear.
We also love the fabric tie belt that you can use to create a flattering silhouette and as it uses a tie function you can tailor it to whatever feels comfortable and looks good for you.
If spring were a dress, this floaty, ultra-flattering midi would be it. With bold graphic zebra print, loose balloon-shaped sleeves, and a flowy ankle-length skirt, it’s the injection of joy our ‘sadwear’–laden closets are desperately seeking as we move into the spring.
Cut with a deep V-neckline to show just a hint of skin, this two-tiered flare dress has delicate ruffle detailing and a tie at the décolletage for a fun, feminine feel. Like most of the dresses on our list, this one can be dressed up or down depending on your choice of footwear. We’re opting for chunky sneakers in the daytime and heeled mules for our dream springtime evening outfit – with lots of layered gold jewelry to add polish.
Forget the best jeans for curvy women, we’re taking our denim in dress form this spring. Specifically in the form of Mango’s flared denim midi – the perfect transitional piece for these awkward in-between months. With a V-neck and long, puffed sleeves with elastic cuffs, this daytime pick is a polished workwear staple that can just as easily be worn with a pair of heeled boots as it can a pair of loafers or sneakers.
We’re pairing ours with an oversized leather tote, some simple gold hoops, and a swipe of red lipstick to help us feel more polished while working from home.
Whoever came up with the idea of marrying the polish of a shirt with the comfort and ease of a dress deserves a medal in our book. Shirt dresses are one of those rare wardrobe staples that have really stood the test of time.
Their versatility makes them an ideal transitional buy as we shed our lockdown layers and head into spring. Pair them with tights and a fine-knit polo underneath for chillier days, then go bare-legged with a pair of leather ballet flats or sandals when the sun decides to show its face. You can even layer a shirt dress (unbuttoned from the waist down) over a pair of tailored trousers for a chic workwear look or as a finishing flourish to an off-duty white jeans outfit.
A staple shirt dress with a feminine twist, Sandro’s sky-blue cotton style is a wardrobe staple you’ll treasure forever. With a stylish, fold-over button fastening, long, neat sleeves, and a pretty flared skirt with ruffles, this one is a desk-to-drinks winner – just switch out your leather penny loafers for some heeled mules and your everyday gold hoops for a pair of statement drop earrings.
Yes, this one is on the pricier end of the best dresses spectrum, but if we’re talking value per wear, then it’s practically a bargain. And if you want to score some extra style points, swot up on how to wear a trench coat for the ultimate spring Parisian look. Jane Birkin, who?
All Saints’ Ezra midi shirt dress is both stylish and sustainable: composed of cotton that uses 50% less water in washing and processing than conventional methods. Its two utility pockets and relaxed fit lend it an over shirt feel – meaning it can just as easily be worn alone with a pair of biker boots as an everyday dress, or open with a plain white tee and a pair of the best skinny jeans for a more utilitarian approach.
Machine washable and true to size, we’d advise sizing up with this one if you’re planning on layering it. We’re styling ours with tailored trousers and jeans while waiting for the weather to pick up, and bare legs, and a pair of strappy leather sandals as soon as the sun comes out.
As much as we love print and flounce, we’re firm believers that if you’re going to have one dress in your spring closet, let it be a throw-on, everyday shirt dress that can be worn with just about anything. Our favorite pick for this season? COS’ simple but stylish Gathered Shirt Dress in a striking shade of yellow.
With a dropped shoulder, stitched collar, a hemline that falls just above the knee, and slanted side darts for added shape, this timeless pick is perfect for both work and weekend – depending on what you style it with. For workwear (even if these days said work is taking place at your kitchen table), style it with a pair of polished, chunky loafers from the likes of Vagabond or G.H. Bass to help you feel more put together. While a pair of white leather sneakers should do the trick for the weekend.
Wrap dresses are a true springtime classic. Universally flattering and frequently found in breezy keep-cool fabrics like linen and lightweight cotton, the wrap dress will see you through any spring occasion. Whether you choose to opt for a short, midi, or maxi length, this is one of the rare dress styles that work for almost every shape and height – provided you find the right one. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Where to buy wrap dresses – quick links:
This simple navy wrap dress from Reformation has pretty puff sleeves and a high split to let your legs breathe in the warmer weather. With a thin tie around the waist to add shape and a classic v-neck, this is pretty much the wrap dress in its purest, chicest form. Bra friendly – meaning those with bigger boobs can wear and love it, too – it’s cut from form-flattering crepe fabric. Something tells us that this is going to be a popular style this Spring – so reserve yours while it’s still in stock!
Crafted from Italian-woven cotton and linen, Toast’s crisp navy mid-length wrap dress is a spring style buy you’ll wear year after year. Gathering at the waist into a full, swingy skirt, you can feel the quality and durability of the fabric of this pretty dress in its weight – though it still manages to be breezy and breathable, despite its sturdiness. Style it with a straw tote and a pair of leather chunky sandals to keep cool on sunnier days.
Thought to be the progenitor of the modern wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg has been a mainstay in women’s wardrobes across the globe since the early seventies. Her iconic jersey wrap dresses have been worn by everyone from Michelle Obama to Susan Sarandon – and this season’s vibrant Milly style is a fitting follow-on.
Printed in vibrant stripes on the front and chevron on the back, this crepe wrap dress with a cinching tie waist pays homage to the legendary DVF dresses that have gone before. While it’s definitely an investment buy, it’s one that you’ll wear and love spring after spring.
Ah, the T-shirt dress – one of life’s underappreciated fashion hacks. A one-and-done outfit that’s comfortable, casual, and breathable, we think that the T-shirt dress is long overdue for its time in the spotlight. And if there’s ever been a time to bring it back into the mainstream, it’s this spring. As casual or as dressy, and as fitted or relaxed as you want it to be, the humble T-shirt dress is the style staple we all need to ease us gently out of our lockdown style slump. Just add a slick of the best mascara, and you’ll feel like a million bucks.
Where to buy T-shirt dresses – quick links:
Less of a dress than an oversized tee, Everlane’s T-shirt dress is made of soft, lightweight cotton with a lived-in, comforting feel. Yes, it’s called the Weekend Tee, but it’s also our current favorite working-from-homeware because it’s just so damn comfortable. With flattering set-in sleeves and a front chest pocket, we’ll admit that it’s not the most outwardly stylish dress on our list, but it is one of the ones we’ll be reaching for most frequently this coming spring.
Style it with sneakers or cozy sliders for optimum off-duty comfort.
With cap sleeves and side slits at the leg, Free People’s maxi T-shirt dress is the perfect beach cover-up. Crafted in a lightweight and ultra-soft cotton-blend, this effortless throw-on-and-go style is surprisingly stylish – hanging flatteringly around the body, without clinging.
Coming in five spring colors, beware that the white is slightly on the see-through side, so you’ll probably want to pair it with lighter underwear. All in all, though, this everyday dress will quickly become a mainstay in your closet – you’ve been warned.
How to style spring dresses, according to the experts
The best thing about dresses? They can be endlessly reinvented by switching up your accessories – whether that’s adding a statement pair of earrings or elevating your look with one of the best designer bags.
“Almost any dress can be styled up or down for day or night. It’s all in the accessories,” says personal stylist Keren Beaumont.
“For daytime, trainers and flat sandals with a cross body bag and simple, understated jewelry give a relaxed look,” she adds. “For evening, a dress can be transformed by adding statement earrings and a pair of heels or smart flat pumps and a small bag carried under the shoulder (as you might carry a clutch).”
Our style editor Joely Chilcott agrees. “A few simple tweaks can help you transition from day to night effortlessly,” she says. “A change of footwear is key – heels will instantly make you hold yourself differently, so the overall outfit has a more elevated feel. Glam up with some statement jewellery like oversized earrings to draw attention to your face. And a sweep of lipstick always helps!”
Accessories can also extend a dress’ wearability as the seasons change. Lots of summery, floral frocks can be worn with tights, boots, a chunky knit, and one of the best winter coats once the colder weather rolls around, too.
“Don’t be afraid of layering,” advises Joely. “Summer prints can work wonders in temperamental weather if you pop a jumper on top and wear it with boots.”
We told you that splurging on one of the best dresses was an investment well worth making. Which one’s going in your basket?