Pretty & Pale: Summer Dresses Under $100

God, am I ready for spring.

Scratch that: I’m ready for summer.

Spring in Seattle is cold and wet (even into May) and the lack of Vitamin D leaves me bored with my “it’s gross outside” clothing options, and frustrated at the prospect of wearing tights…again. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be wearing the lacy patterned stuff into summer, but thick tights? The ones with a little less give, that don’t quite fit because I’ve gained weight and am now on the cusp between a small/medium and a medium/large? Not so much.

Last Friday, Refinery 29 put out their top twenty summer dresses for under $100. With the phrase “damn winter to hell” coursing through my veins like a virus, I looked to them for some summer inspiration. Sadly, a good portion of the top twenty came from Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, which Lindsay and I both boycott, and some of the others left…something to be desired. (Case in point: a gold rope halter-tie maxi dress…that kind of looks like leopard print…but isn’t. No.)

That being said, here are my favorites – click each image to be taken to its sale page, or go to Refinery 29 to see the whole list.

Zara Pleated Dress: $59.50

It may not look like much from the full body shot, but that’s because the beauty of this dress is in the details: it’s 100% cotton (which means it won’t get weirdly shiny or cheap-looking after you wash it) and the pleats and lace detailing are universally flattering.

I’m also really into the more modest looks of this coming season (which Lindsay speculated about at The Demoiselles) and on anyone under 5’9″ this dress is going to hit just above the knee – and with the elbow-length sleeves, that’s perfect.

TopShop Navy Floral Stripe Belt Dress: $80.00

Admittedly, I love the idea of this dress more than I love the dress itself. The pattern/stripes/flowers/matching belt is a little too much for me, but only barely.

Nastygal Maxi Dress: $58.00

This is style so perfectly: a little old world, some bold jewelry, and that’s it. My first maxi dress will be one that looks clean and pretty, whether or not I dress it up. (No, I don’t own one yet. Feel free to gasp in horror. I am.)

LOFT Scattered Print Drape Dress: $79.50

I’m about to admit something a little embarrassing: one of the reasons I love dresses so much is that, unlike jeans and slacks, when I gain five or ten pounds most dresses still fit. I can get up in the morning, lament the Oreos I ate last night, then put on an elastic-waist dress like this one from Ann Taylor and feel just fine. No muffin top, no self-doubt. (This works with belted dresses, too: just buy a couple of differently-sized belts and your summer/winter weight swings won’t matter for anything.)

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Modekungen Side Dress: $93.39

Here’s that awkward transition where I tell you that this dress is fantastic, even though I’m pretty sure it’s less forgiving about weight gain and you probably need to wear pants with it.

I’m a sucker for anything that looks like lingerie, especially when someone tells me I can wear it outside.

MinkPink Olsen Maxi Dress: $99.00

Before you fall in love and buy this, you should know that this dress is sheer. A couple of reviewers got a little cranky about that, with good reason, so don’t pick it up unless you (a) plan on wearing something under it, (b) really like going out in public naked, or (c) have no plans to wear this in public, other than as a swimsuit cover-up or something.

(But I think every woman should own a black and/or nude slip anyway.)

Take Off Your Clothes Double T-Shirt Dress: $98.00

  1. This has a cowl neck that doubles as a hood.
  2. It has pockets. Lindsay, take note.
  3. It’s made to order.
  4. It comes in XS-XL, and if you’re not sure which size to get, I Don’t Like Mondays will suggest one based on your measurements.

It’s not lost on me that this list lacks color, which makes me sad because like Lindsay, I’m into florals this season. Maybe it’s time to collaborate on our own Top 20 Summer Dresses…

Do you wear dresses in spring and summer? What’s your go-to feminine summer outfit?