Summer dresses have a special place in our culture. For the sartorially inclined woman sundresses represent the ideal intersection of hot weather fashion and comfort, while in pop culture they are the uniform of a light-hearted and beautiful woman who is sexy without being overtly sexual.
I can’t think of another casual garment that better transcends the Madonna-whore dichotomy, for better or for worse. Sexual politics aside, summer mini dresses are undeniably cute, comfy, and fun to wear. Sundresses are more versatile than short shorts, easier to get around in than a romper, easier to put on than a skirt and a blouse, much cooler than almost any other dress – you won’t be remiss to have a few in your closet.
We’ve selected the best short summer dresses you can buy online right now, to suit every preference and body type. We’ll help you select the best sundresses for you based on taste and body type, and we’ll also give styling suggestions so you can rock summer dresses at all times of the day and with the right pair of shoes.
Short Summer Dresses Fashion Guide: Contents
- All the Best Short Summer Dresses to Get in 2021
- How to Find Your Perfect Sundress
- Best Shoes to Wear with Your Summer Mini Dress
- How to Wear a Sundress Each Day, Every Day
From cute floral printed numbers to more party-ready options, here you have the best summer mini dresses to get for the warm season ahead!
1. Plunging Floral Mini Dress
This dress combines all the best elements of sexy mini dresses and floaty summer dresses, to allow femme fatales to show off a girlish side, or allow feminine girls to get into something a little more revealing. The print on this dress is a fun tropical floral one, with a plunging neckline that shows off quite a bit of skin. Despite the neck and hemlines, this dress is also forgiving, with a wrap-style fit that will never be tight or uncomfortable. Buy it at Revolve!
2. White Eyelet Dress
This is one of those short dresses that have a delicate and timeless Mediterranean vibe. It’s easy to picture any one of the background characters from Mamma Mia! wearing it during a lively dance number. Made of cotton, it is light and airy, with a short length, flattering waistline, and tiered ruffled shoulders and skirt. Order it from Forward!
3. Forest Green Sundress
This gorgeous wrap-style dress will look just as nice with fair skin as it would against deep skin, thanks to its deep forest green shade. It still belongs to the sundresses category, however, since it is made of light rayon and studded with the loveliest ditsy floral print. It also has puff sleeves and a tied-waist, which add a retro touch to the design. It is sold online via Net-a-Porter.
4. Ruffled Toucan Print Short Dress
Short dresses are already quite daring, but fun prints can turn them into something a little better for day to day. The toucan print on this lovely dress is as cute and playful as can be. There are quite a few romantic elements to this summer dress that also make it ideal for nights out dancing, like ribbon straps, a ruffled hemline, and a ruffled semi-sweetheart neckline. The dress is made of rayon, so it feels light and airy though the fit is tight. You can get it at Nordstrom.
5. Yellow Floral Summer Dress
Compared to the other summer mini dresses we’ve seen so far, this one is downright demure. The buttery yellow color of the dress is cheerful, with a feminine touch given by the small floral print, ruffled hemline, and slightly puffed sleeves. The dress is made of a gorgeous silk-cotton blend that upclasses it quite a bit. It is available at Shopbop.
6. Striped Skater Dress
This is one of those short dresses for summer you can really feel light and breezy in, even though it still holds some substance. It has a comfortable and flattering skater silhouette, with a striped design, V-neckline, and buttons all along the front. A touch of sexiness comes from the major open back, making it a great choice for daytime dates. Oh, and did we mention that this dress has pockets?! Order it from ASOS!
7. Flirty Lilac Dress
This is one of those summer dresses that are perfect for daytime get-togethers and dates. It is cute and flirty, in a gorgeous lilac color with some adorable ruffle embellishments at the waist and hemline. While it is a little short, the high neckline ensures that it’ll still be appropriate for most occasions. It has a loose, flowy fit, so you’ll be comfortable all day long. You can find it at Revolve.
8. Adjustable Shoulder Mini Dress
This adorable yellow dress is extremely versatile! The sleeves can be worn either on or off-the-shoulder as can the spaghetti straps, including in an asymmetrical style that is super fashionable these days. Beyond that, this summer dress is just so flattering! It’s rooched in a vertical way that cinches the waist and lengthens the figure, and is covered in a ‘60s-inspired floral print that we love. It is available at Forward.
9. Rope-Cinched Summer Dress
This is one of the most comfortable summer dresses, made of voile-cotton in a loose design. A length of rope at the waist emphasizes the figure and also gives a rustic feel to the brightly colored dress. The dancer and animal print on the dress has a medieval vibe that is particularly unique. You can order it online from Net-a-Porter.
10. Peachy Bodice Mini Dress
This is another one of those summer mini dresses for all you romantic types! It comes in a lovely peach shade covered in a white oleander print, perfect for the warmer season. The top half is built like a bodice with underwire at the cups, which gives structure to the look. Button details and ribbon straps amp up the cuteness of the look. Get it from Shopbop!
11. Tiered Top Mini Dress
This is one of those sundresses that’ll really get you feeling old school cool. The tiered top, busy floral print, and puffed sleeves are reminiscent of a vintage nightgown that could look matronly, but doesn’t thanks to the seductively short length of the skirt. It is available at My Theresa.
12. Yellow Linen Summer Dress
Linen is a fabulous fabric for sundresses because it’s light and breathable. It’s also nice for mini dresses, because it has a unique texture that gives them weight and prevents them from feeling too small. This linen dress is summer perfection, with a cheery yellow shade, super flattering ruching that cinches the waist and emphasizes the bust, and a simple straight neckline augmented by some ruffles. You can order it from Farfetch.
13. Strapless Striped Mini Dress
Sometimes the simple short dresses are the prettiest ones. This strapless dress is covered in thin candy stripes, with a ruffled shoulder embellishment that is pretty and airy. The design is streamlined, to flatter the silhouette without fitting too tightly. You can pair it with a cardigan for a less revealing look. Find it at Revolve!
14. Double Polka Dot Dress
Just because you’re not planning on ditching an all-black wardrobe for summer doesn’t mean that you can’t rock super cute summer dresses. This all-black mini dress is a perfect choice for summer, with all kinds of adorable elements like a birdseye double polka dot pattern, a pleated straight neckline, and a skirt that billows out just so. Buy it from Shopbop!
15. Vintage Boho Mini Dress
If you have a style that leans a little more towards effortless and bohemian, then vintage-inspired short dresses like this one should be right up your alley. This summer dress has a pretty straight design that doesn’t cinch at the waist, which lends it a more casual, beachy vibe and makes it ultra-comfortable. It has a U-shaped neckline that shows a bit of cleavage, and delicate gathering details that lend to its vintage feel. It is available through Farfetch.
16. Medieval-Inspired Mini Dress
I suspect that if you’re a big Game of Thrones fan then this is one of the sundresses that will truly speak to you. Made of broderie anglaise cotton, this summer dress has a very medieval feel, but in a length that is strictly modern. The ruffled detailing and tie over a keyhole cut in the neckline, paired with the puff sleeves, contribute to the old timey effect, as well. Order this white dress directly from Sabo Skirt!
17. White Puff-Sleeve Dress
If your summer plans involve frolicking in fields and picking flowers, or if you would like to look as though those are your summer plans, then this is the dress. This little white dress is as pure as can be, with puffy off-the-shoulder sleeves, lace details, and a sweet ruffled hemline. It is made of a cotton viscose blend that will feel very light against your skin all summer long. You can buy it from & Other Stories.
● Pick a color that will flatter your skin! This means choosing a shade that is at least a few shades darker or lighter than your skin tone. A shade that is too close to your skin tone will wash you out.
● Consider the purpose of the summer dress. Are you looking for sundresses to wear casually in the daytime, mini dresses for wild nights out, or flirty short dresses to wear on dates? This will inform how formal, feminine, or casual your dress needs to be.
● While this is not a strict rule, the more delicate the material of your dress and the lighter the color, the more casual the dress will be.
● Summer dresses with lining that covers up a little more skin and with a more three-dimensional design are going to be a bit more substantial and as a result more formal as well. These are the short dresses that will be easier to wear to work or an evening occasion that is not overly formal.
● Shop in store where you can try on a dress before buying it, or shop from online retailers like Revolve who have a great return policy.
● Take into account the fabric the summer dress is made of! Synthetic fabrics can be as cooling as natural ones and they are more resistant to wrinkling, but they might not do as good a job of moisture wicking.
Choosing Short Summer Dresses Based on Your Body Type
Choose a silhouette that you can feel comfortable in but that will also flatter your figure. Before we get into choosing the best sundresses for each body type I want to emphasize a few things: these are gentle suggestions for what will look good, though ultimately the thing that is most flattering is confidence and true love for your look.
If you see some sundresses that you adore and that don’t quite seem to fit into these guidelines… then forget about the guidelines! The best summer dresses for every body type are the short dresses that the wearer loves wearing.
Short Dresses for Apple Body Shape
Ladies with an apple body shape usually carry their weight in their midriff, with a bigger bust and broader shoulders, and narrower legs.
● If this is your body type, then short summer dresses are great because they allow you to show off your legs!
● As far as prints go, solids and prints are always fun, but for something extra flattering choose a dress that will help elongate your body, like one of the vertically striped short dresses on the list.
● Waist-cinching dresses with a skirt that billows out a bit are a fabulous choice for helping create a more defined waist.
● Don’t be afraid of playing around with necklines! Plunging V-necklines will draw attention to one of your main assets while also elongating, while a sweetheart neckline will do the same while also helping give a curvier look.
Short Dresses for Pear Body Shape
Pear refers to a body type where most of the weight is carried at the hips and thighs, while the torso is narrower.
I hate that body shapes are a thing that can be trendy, but unfortunately this is the kind of world we live in. The undeniable fact is that society has decided that the pear body shape is something desirable right now.
● As a result, you will find that short dresses that are figure-hugging will be a good choice, as they will show off your figure.
● If you’d like to achieve more of an hourglass look and to strike a balance between your torso and legs, choose a dress that has a bit more bulk around the bust – this can mean just overall a flowy dress that’s cinched with a waist-tie or belt, or it can mean choosing a sundress that has more material or ruffles around the bust.
Short Dresses for Inverted Triangle Body Shape
This refers to a body type where the hips and waist are both narrow, while the shoulders are a bit broader.
● To add balance to your body, choose summer dresses with a skirt that billows out a little bit more. This will add bulk on the bottom to even out your shoulders.
● You might want to avoid puffy shoulders if they sit right on top of your shoulders and add bulk.
● However, puffy drop shoulders will do the exact opposite! They will soften your look and make your silhouette appear overall more delicate.
● V-necklines and sweetheart necklines will help draw attention to your bust and will also have a narrowing effect on your shoulders.
Short Dresses for Rectangle Body Shape
This refers to a body type without too much curve, which is usually slimmer or more athletic. The hips, waist and bust are usually all aligned, and weight is distributed very evenly throughout the body.
● If you’d like to achieve a curvier look, choose summer dresses that give the illusion of a curve with an A-line or billowy skirt and a bit of material around the bust.
● Avoid overly geometric shapes, either as a print or at the neckline, as these will make your form appear less curvy.
● The great thing about having a narrow figure across the board is that clothes that just kind of drape can look quite airy and nice. These are outfits that are less likely to suit you if you have a more solid or athletic rectangle shape, however.
Short Dresses for Hourglass Body Shape
An hourglass shape refers to a body type with a narrow waist, and wider hips and bust.
● It’s hard to go wrong when choosing mini dresses for an hourglass body type. You can go tight and curve-hugging or looser and flowier.
● You might want to avoid shift dresses that don’t have a waistline, if only because you might as well show off your narrow waist.
I think any pair of shoes will look fab with one of the right summer mini dresses. In recent years, fashion has gone to an odd place when it comes to shoe and outfit combinations. These recent shoe trends make sundresses totally okay to wear with a wide variety of shoes.
Summer Mini Dresses with Sandals
● For a truly hot day, wear your sundress with a pair of pretty summer sandals. Avoid very sporty looking sandals, and instead choose something a little more sophisticated.
● Raw-looking leather sandals are perfect for matching to a plainer, more boho-chic or rustic dress.
● Blingy sandals will look fantastic with a lot of mini dresses, and they will actually help you upclass a plainer one.
● Remember to choose sandals in a color that will work well with your dress. Black can be a little too harsh for summer, but beige, white, brown, and gray are all neutrals that should work with all of your sundresses.
● If you’ll be walking around, opt for sandals that hold the foot well with some straps around the ankle and over the top of the foot.
Summer Mini Dresses with Sneakers
● White sneakers are having a big moment right now, and because of their light color they’re especially easy to pair with short summer dresses.
● If your style is more low-key you can try a pair of low-top, vintage-style white sneakers.
● If you are a little wild and more fashion-forward you can even try a pair of chunky sneakers for a slightly disjointed but memorable look.
● Chuck-Taylors in a color that works well with the color of your dress (think about the color blocking rules) can also be a fun way of making your short dresses more casual.
Summer Mini Dresses with Flats
● Flats are, across the board, a great shoe choice for upclassing short dresses just enough for day to day. They have more heft to them than sandals and are not casual like sneakers, so you can wear them with your sundress to the office, but they’re not as fancy as a pair of heels.
● If you want one pair of shoes to wear with a variety of sundresses then choose a neutral color like nude, beige, black, or brown.
● Metallic flats in silver or gold will also look beautiful with most summer dresses.
● If you’re wearing a printed sundress, match your flats to your dress by choosing shoes that are of the same color as the print rather than the base color of the fabric.
● You can add a fashionable menswear twist to your outfit by wearing a pair of oxfords or loafers to give an intriguing contrast to your girlish dress.
● Flats, much like sandals, also lend themselves to color blocking.
Summer Mini Dresses with Heels
● The easiest way to upclass sundresses is with a pair of heels! In a lot of instances, the right pair of heels can turn short summer dresses into cocktail dresses.
● As with flats, the same color rules apply: nude heels, black, silver, gold, and beige are all great shoe choices that will look fabulous with most summer mini dresses.
● Ditto for color blocking – choosing a pair of colorful shoes in a color that is complementary or analogous to your dress will make a serious impact.
Summer Mini Dresses with Boots
● You might think I’m crazy to suggest you wear boots with summer dresses but hear me out! The right pair of boots can actually look really cool with a summer dress.
● Heavier combat boots worn with a summer dress can make for a very cool, ‘90s grunge-inspired look.
● If your summer dress has a bit more presence, a pair of ankle boots can give a very sophisticated twist to your overall look.
● In summer, wearing a pair of tight shorts under short dresses can help alleviate any skin chafing, although you can also try a specialized barrier cream or just a layer of anti-perspirant instead.
● Don’t forget sunglasses when wearing sundresses in the daytime! They will help complete your look and will also protect your eyes.
● Same goes for a good sunhat – it’ll protect your face from the harsh sun and will add a gorgeous touch to your look.
● Don’t be afraid of accessories! Sometimes the right bracelet or necklace will ensure that your short dresses look like dresses and not night shifts.
● Wearing sundresses in a casual way is quite simple, as these short dresses are by definition light, easy and not overly fussy.
● Almost all summer dresses will look casual by default, and this is also your chance to wear simpler and lighter sundresses.
● Any pattern or no pattern can absolutely work for casual wear.
● For an easy look you can just throw on your sundress with a pair of flats, sandals, or sneakers and be out the door!
● If it might get a little cold while you’re out and about, you can bring with you a jean jacket, sweater, or cardigan to layer over your summer dress.
● A big and dark leather purse might look too formal with your sundress, while a smaller purse or a large tote made of a lighter material will be a better match.
● If you have sundresses with a more substantial design that are not too short, you can absolutely wear them to the office!
● Even very casual offices will usually have an explicit or implicit dress code that you should be aware of. The shortest length usually appropriate for offices is at around mid-thigh, and often having uncovered shoulders is considered too revealing.
● Choosing patterns does require a bit more thought, and a summer dress without a pattern will always be a safe choice.
● Avoid overly cutesy patterns or extremely loud ones. Delicate florals, polka dots, and stripes are probably going to be okay.
● This doesn’t mean you can’t wear spaghetti strap or strapless summer dresses to work! Just make sure to layer a cardigan or a scarf over your shoulders in order to cover up a bit.
● A traditional blazer will probably not work over most sundresses, but a lighter, less structured blazer could look nice over a solid colored or not overly frilly summer dress.
● Choose jewelry and accessories with geometric or solid designs that will add sophistication to your overall look.
● Opt for shoes that are a little more dressed up when wearing a sundress. A pair of low pumps or patent flats should do the trick, and even sleek ankle boots might work.
● If you can get away with wearing sandals to the office, choose a classier pair with a wider strap and perhaps a low heel, and make sure your feet are pedicured.
● This is the category for which short summer dresses were invented! Whether you’re attending a picnic, daytime meeting with friends, or a date, a sundress is a fabulous summer choice!
● This is your chance to wear your most ruffle embellished dress, with the cutest floral print! If that’s not your style, however, you can absolutely opt for a less frilly number.
● Have fun with your jewelry and accessories! Wear a cute scarf, a sunhat, or some bangles and dangly earrings.
● Summertime mini dresses can be great to go out in, since they’re made to keep you cool even while you engage in some energetic dancing.
● You’ll want a dress in a darker color or that clings a little bit more to the body, otherwise you might look a little out of place.
● The best shoes when going out are a pair of heels, for sure, but if you’d rather be comfortable when dancing then you can choose a pair of super blingy and metallic flats or sandals.
● Choose a sleek clutch or a chain-strap purse to hold your must-haves and to make your look seem more sophisticated.
Photos via Instagram