The Long Summer Dress
and How to Top It for Cool Evenings

The Long Summer Dress <br>and How to Top It for Cool Evenings

The long summer dress – a perfect way to be stylishly cool on high temperature days. And when evening chill moves in, add a coordinating topper to keep you and your look warm.

Dresses are a summer wardrobe staple. They are feminine, they help keep us cool in the heat, and there are SO MANY styles and variations. As I’ve moved through the years, the summer dress styles I’ve chosen have changed. The style I’m most comfortable wearing at this time of my life are long summer dresses – at or below the knee lengths to full-length maxi styles.

Black summer dress

Simple and Versatile T-Shirt Dress

This simple black t-shirt style maxi dress has been one of my go-to summer dresses for several years. I love that the long length keeps my leg veins under wraps while the high side slits keep me cool and add style. This dress is easy to wear for any occasion. It can be dressed down with flat sandals or dressed up a little with shiny jewelry (as in this photo) and platform or wedge sandals. This long dress was one of those bargain finds at Target, and the quality has been great. I’ve found that when shopping at discount or bargain retailers, if you have a discerning eye, you can find quality at a great price. Keep your eye out for neatly sewn seams, patterns that line up on seams, fabric weight, and draping of the garment.

Black summer dress with vest

Utility Vest Adds a Layer + Style

This cute olive green vest is a fun way to top this casual summer dress with an extra layer for style or to keep a little warmer on a cooler day or evening. It also works well as a travel accessory to cut down on the number of separate outfits needed. An accessory like this utility style vest can change the look of this long dress and extend the wearability so it becomes two different looks. The vest would also be great paired with a pair of skinny pants or jeans. Think of outfit extenders like this when planning a trip. (Lol – you can tell I grabbed this vest to use only for a photo – the tag is still hanging!)

Red summer dress


This is one of my favorite summer dresses. It’s whimsical and eye-catching, and I always get compliments when I wear it because it’s so different. I love the print and the cotton knit fabric makes it super easy to wear and pack if I’m carrying it on a summer vacay. In this photo, the length of this long dress show that the hem hits at the widest part of my calf, which is not the most flattering place for a hem to end. The best place for midi-length dresses is just at or below the knee as it’s a more slimming look. However, the unusual shape of this dress and the way it drapes and moves does not create an illusion of bulk, so I’m comfortable wearing it even with the hem length.

Red summer dress with sweater

Solid Cardigan Grounds a Busy Print

When the day begins to cool, I like to pair this summer dress with a simple topper. The fun and mixed print of this dress has a lot going on. To insert another print into the mix would create a bit of chaos. I choose instead to ground the look a little with this black, 3/4 sleeve length cardigan. Actually, I prefer not to top this dress at all as it makes such a statement on its own. But our cool Northern California coastal evenings sometimes dictate how we dress!

Blue stripe summer dress

Fun, Fresh, Flirty

I love the high-low, flirty hem style of this long summer dress. The simple navy and white stripe print is fresh and cool. I bought this in the swimsuit department at Nordstrom a few years ago with the intention of wearing as a swimsuit cover-up. But it’s really much more than that, and it’s become one of my summer long dress faves. The elastic waist and the drapey bodice also work really well belted, and I often do add a belt to elevate the look a bit.

Blue stripe summer dress with jacket

Perky Bomber Jacket Adds Pizzaz

This perky navy and white check, lightweight bomber jacket is a fun way to cover up when the summer temps dip. Don’t be afraid to mix prints – it works in this look with both the dress and the jacket in the same color family. (Have you checked out this post: Prints as Neutrals and Mixing Prints?) I nabbed this jacket as I was cruising through Target intending to use it for the photo and return it. But . . . it’s kind of fun and it was only $29.99! So it’s been integrated into my closet for a little wardrobe whimsy.

The Long Summer Dress for Women Over 40

Now that maxi and midi styles are back, long summer dresses are easily found in most dress retailers. It’s a great style for everyone, and particularly for us gals over 50 who want to feel stylish while camoflaging some of the things that have changed in our bodies (like spider or varicose veins).

We have quite a lot of summer still to go, but when the hot temps begin to wane and the weather calls for an extra layer over your summer dress, think of your topper as an accessory and important piece of your ensemble. Have fun with it!

Here are  a few long summer dress styles you might want to check out!

Long summer dress for women over 40
Target Ruched T-Shirt Maxi Dress
Long summer dress for women over 40
Anthropologie Corseted Midi Dress
Long summer dress for women over 40
Chico's Chambray Shirt Dress


  1. Julie
    July 14, 2017 / 6:18 pm

    Is this why I dreamed of my maxi dress last night? I love the format on this post– so easy to read! The Anthropologie dress is surely Hamilton-inspired. Yesss on the midi this summer!

    • July 17, 2017 / 11:31 am

      Hi Julie – Uncanny that we are on the same page thinking about maxi dresses! Such a perfect summer solution!

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