November 24 2021 – Ryan Mercado
There are certain pieces of clothing that will always be wearable, fashionable, and ready to go when you are. You’ll find yourself returning to them again and again, and they never seem tired or dated. Here are six dress styles to keep in your closet at all times, to be ready for any season or occasion.
Little Black Dress
Endlessly versatile and always classic, the little black dress can go from the office to cocktails with a minor adjustment in footwear or accessories. And pssst…here’s a secret: you can own as many little black dresses as you want: they come in an abundant variety of lengths and styles. Wear a sleeveless LBD in warmer weather, and a turtlenecked, long-sleeved, form-fitting one when chilly weather sets in. The little black dress can be a mini, knee-length, or mid-calf style. It can feature cut-outs, it can be backless, off the shoulder, or halter-style; you name it. Find the cuts and styles that make you feel gorgeous—our selection of southern boutique dresses has a number of choices to fit this necessary niche in your closet.
Fabric choices are as varied as styles for the LBD. Go with sequins for cocktails, and knits, wool, or linen for more casual wear. Pair your dress with a pendant necklace, glamorous chandelier earrings, or a statement belt to make it stand out. Any way you look at it, you simply can’t go wrong with this classic, go-to dress style.
Lightweight and flirty, a sundress is a must for the summer months. Available in many different cuts, from roomy A-line tent dresses to fitted sheaths, a sundress is the perfect choice for shopping on a hot day, a summer picnic with your friends, or for a walk in the park. Sundresses in florals, stripes, plaids, and patterns reflect the happy vibe of summertime in pastels, neutrals, or even vibrant jewel tones.
The shirtwaist dress has come a long way since the days of Donna Reed, mopping the kitchen floor in kitten heels and a pearl choker. Functional and comfortable, a modern shirtwaist dress usually has pockets (why don’t more dresses have pockets?) for convenience. Crisp in cotton, the shirtwaist dress can look businesslike under a blazer, or more casual all on its own.
We’ll include shirtdresses in this category, even though they don’t emphasize the waist. Basically knee-length versions of a button-down shirt, these dresses are the ultimate throw-on-and-go dress for everyday wear. They look fine paired with sandals, loafers, or all-white sneakers for running errands around town or meeting friends for a casual lunch.
Fit and Flare
This universally flattering style should be near the top of your list of the six dress styles to keep in your closet at all times. Characterized by a fitted bodice and flared skirt, the fit-n-flare dress covers a multitude of “problem areas” with class and style. These come in versions with tight bodices and big skirts that call for a fun crinoline underneath, to subtler styles that flow more gently from the shoulder to the waist to the knee. Any way you look at them, the fit-n-flare style will make you feel great about how you look. This style is a comforting confidence builder, a makeover miracle, and a flirty classic all in one.
Fit-n-flare styles can feature embellishments like gentle ruffles, cute Peter Pan collars, contrasting belts to emphasize the waist, or fun graphics (poodles, cityscapes, florals) on their generous expanse of skirt. If you don’t have a fit-n-flare style in your closet, go out and get one. Like, now.
Another throw-on-and-go dress style, the sweater dress is there for you on cold days. Paired with knee-high boots, a sweater dress is classy enough to wear for business, and casual enough to wear to the library or the lecture hall. Classic with cable knit or luxury with cashmere if you’re in the mood for a splurge, a sweater dress takes the burden off pairing a top with a bottom; you don’t have to choose jeans or trousers to wear with a sweater, because the sweater is the entire outfit. Add a silk scarf for a splash of pattern and color, and some classic gold hoop earrings, and you’ve got a very put-together fall or winter look.
Wrap dresses were common housedresses before Diane von Furstenberg’s jersey knit version changed the dress forever, and made it a forever piece for every closet. Comfortable and stylish, a jersey knit wrap dress is beloved by working women everywhere: it’s one of those pieces you can stuff in a suitcase and pull out ready to wear. It’s flattering for almost any body type, and is another piece that can go from work to cocktails to dinner with the smallest modifications like a change of shoes, a set of statement earrings, or a jacket thrown over the shoulders. The longevity of this design is a testament to its comfort and versatility, and a powerful argument as to why it should be one of the six dress styles to keep in your closet at all times.
There’s room for debate about styles that didn’t make our list—that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add them to your wardrobe! Other strong contenders are the slim and stylish pencil dress or sheath, the tank dress as a beach cover-up or casual quick outfit, or a comfortable knit maxi dress for knocking around town or lounging at home. Then there are women who won’t be without an off-the-shoulder dress to perk up a party.
Once you’ve got the basics hanging in your closet, be sure to shop for accessories that will complement these looks. Necklaces, earrings, shoes, bags, scarves, and belts are all additions to your wardrobe that can provide a variety of looks built on these classic, basic styles. Make a girls’ shopping day of it, online or in person, to help each other choose the perfect dresses and accessories to build a wardrobe that’s always ready for any season and any occasion.