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It's hard to overlook the power of a really great dress. Of course, dresses are a versatile wardrobe staple that many of us rely on thanks to their ease and simplicity, yet the most transforming among them have the ability to completely alter your mood and even confidence.
Indeed, a RGD (really great dress) can act as a sartorial safety net, ready to be slipped on at a moment's notice whenever you sense the impending doubt of having 'nothing to wear'.
As we transition out of spring and into the warmer months, your RGD arsenal may be in need of an update, introducing summer-ready styles in lighter and more breathable fabrics. But what great dresses should you be investing in this season? To understand the most coveted styles of summer, we turned to the experts, tapping the designers behind in-demand dress labels like Faithfull The Brand, Silk Laundry and Bondi Born.
From runway-ready draped styles to practical mini-shift dresses and '90s-inspired silhouettes, keep scrolling for eight expert-approved summer dress trends to know for 2024.
1. Draped Dresses
Runways were awash with draped dresses in recent seasons. For Autumn/Winter 2023, we saw Grecian-inspired draping on the runway at Jason Wu, Ferragamo, Tove and more. And BONDI BORN's Creative Director, Natalia Grzybowski, believes the trend is set to stick around for the long haul. "You can achieve a really eye-catching form with drape," the designer tells Refinery29 Australia, noting that "it feels both sensual and feminine but also relaxed and effortless". Grzybowski elaborates, saying we're set to see the trend evolve in both bold and neutral colourways.
2. Effortless Silhouettes
Faithfull The Brand's founders, Sarah-Jane Abrahams and Helle Them-Enger see this translating as a focus on effortless shapes and styles. "This season, we're looking towards effortless and timeless silhouettes that can transition from beachside cover-up to cocktail attire with ease," they explain. "Our strapless Dominiquez Midi Dress is a perfect example, as it's crafted from a breezy, lightweight, organic GOTS-certified cotton poplin fabrication that will keep you cool in the summertime."
3. Mini Shift Styles
What's short and sweet and the simplest look to style throughout summer? Why a mini-shift dress, of course. "This is the type of dress you throw on and walk straight out the door," explains Bondi Born's Grzybowski. "It's fun, it's fresh and you can really change up your overall look with the right accessories. Such a simple shape becomes all about the colour and fabric."
I would personally recommend investing in a block colour, linen style. It will never go out of fashion and will become a piece you'll return to summer, after summer.
4. One-Shoulder Silhouettes
Speaking to the intersectional nature of all of these trends, this season we're witnessing an increase in draped dresses that also happen to be one-shoulder. "The spotlight is on one-shoulder dresses in our newest resort wear collection, L’OASIS," explains Faithfull The Brand designers, Abrahams and Helle Them-Enger. "It's a trend that we anticipate will be a favourite throughout the summer season, offering a perfect blend of style and comfort."
On the runways, we saw the resurgence of one-shoulder silhouettes last season, with brands including Tove, Tory Burch and more embracing it. Whether you opt for a draped one-shoulder look (hitting two trendy birds with one stone) or a more minimalist style, one thing is for sure: Asymmetry is in.
5. '90s Style Slips
Evidently, when it comes to fashion, our '90s nostalgia knows no bounds. "Every year, we see people gravitating towards our '90s slip dress," explains Silk Laundry Founder Katie Kolodinski. "Classic silk styles debut every summer because of their fundamental and versatile nature. I love that silk is so lightweight, making it luxurious and comfortable for hot days."
Whether you're looking to channel a young Gwyneth Paltrow or you have another reference in mind, there's no denying a slip dress is the simple throwback style that is sure to give you mileage throughout the summer season.
6. Modern Utility
From the renewed prevalence of cargo pants to oversized, patch pockets adorning everything from jackets to dresses, the utility trend re-entered our lives recently and our clothes have felt endlessly more practical ever since. "I've always been a big fan of utility dressing," says Grzybowski. "As a designer, I love how you can always come back to this trend and approach it in a new way." Grzybowski thinks this is a dress trend that is set to stick around all year, and explains its recent iteration is all about pairing "traditional elements like pockets and belts with unexpected bright colours," or striping it right back and going for something altogether more minimalist.
Could it be the Daisy Jones effect? Or are we all just embracing the carefree je nais sais quois of years gone by? Either way, retro-inspired crochet is back on our radar. "We anticipate a surge in the popularity of crochet pieces, poised to make a statement this summer," the team at Faithfull The Brand tells Refinery29 Australia. "In a season defined by the prevalence of lightweight and breathable textiles, crochet takes centre stage as a versatile option." In fact, the brand's hero crochet piece the La Lune Dress, has been handcrocheted over the course of seven days, to create a truly unique piece of clothing that merges retro style with slow-fashion craftsmanship.
8. Unique Colours & Bold Prints
"In summer, I think people are always more creative with their style and opt for vibrancy," explains Kolodinski of Silk Laundry, adding that she notices customers also "venture into defining prints to create an element of variety and fun in their wardrobes." In the realm of colour, Kolodinski has noticed the prevalence of pastel purple, as well as yellow and when it comes to prints, she predicts florals will maintain their relevance, while people may also gravitate towards revived animal prints.