Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
It wasn’t too long ago when shopping for a dress meant spending hours at your local department store, sifting through racks and racks. Thanks to the internet, though, you can now shop for a dress for every occasion and aesthetic while in your sweats on the sofa. Thank you, Google.
Meet the Expert
Yet with endless options, the search for the perfect dress can be overwhelming. “There's a ton of variety in the dress category these days. Dresses in varying silhouettes, lengths, and fabrications can make it challenging to know what's right for you,” says Whitney Keefe, stylist at Stitch Fix, the online shopping site that provides personal styling recommendations. “If you're looking to emphasize your curves, A-line or wrap dresses are great options because they will fit close to the body through the waist and flow away at the hips and thighs. If you are straighter through the hips and thighs, try a classic shift dress. Lately, I'm loving a midi-length dress for all body types. They're comfortable, effortless, and easy to dress up or down.”
As someone who always prefers dresses to pants or skirts, I’m constantly trying out new frocks to wear to the grocery store, office, or neighborhood stroll. Gone are the days when dresses were only saved for special events.
No matter your budget, occasion, or personal style, these are the best sites for shopping for dresses online.
Best Overall: Lulus
Size range: XXS-3X | Prices: $ | Shipping: Free on orders over $50 | Return policy: Free return shipping within 10 days; $7 fee from 11-30 days
Sometimes you know exactly what you are looking for when online shopping. Sometimes you just want to browse and get inspired. Lulus makes both options easy for customers. The site has mastered the search engine by allowing you to filter by trend, color, style, and details like sleeve length and neckline. You know you want a more "feminine" dress—but will you look in the puff sleeve, ruffled category, or both? And if the first dress you click into isn’t quite right, they suggest similar styles with slightly different details. With most dresses under 100 dollars, you can easily stock up on a few styles you love.
Best Variety: Asos
Size range: XXS-3X | Prices: $ | Shipping: $4.99; free on orders over $49.99 | Return policy: Full refund within 28 days via original payment method; equivalent gift voucher from 29-45 days
If you want every type of dress and brand at your fingertips, start at Asos. Sort of like fashion’s own online search engine, Asos carries a broad range of major brands, price points, sizes, vibes, and trends. You can find everything from those flirty cutout dresses to classic shirt dresses at budget prices—and even some designers. They also carry athletic dresses from brands like Adidas and Nike. If you mourned the bankruptcy of Topshop, rejoice in knowing you can still shop the brand via Asos (and Nordstrom, for that matter).
As someone who personally used Asos when dressing up for all my college events, I know firsthand how easy they make the return process (just print the free label and drop it off at your closest UPS). Most pieces also feature a video of a model wearing the piece of clothing which is a game-changer when deciding what dress to buy and in what size. Add in the express shipping, and Asos is made for last-minute event shopping.
Best for Occasions: Revolve
Size range: XXS-XXL | Prices: $$ | Shipping: Free 2-day | Return policy: Full refund within 60 days; exchanges up to 90 days
Similar to Asos, Revolve carries a slew of different brands and dress styles but at slightly steeper prices, catering towards those occasions when you want to shell out a bit more, perhaps for a fancy vacation or elevated party. What is music to our ears, though, is that they offer free two-day shipping in the United States. While free shipping is less of a rarity these days, free two-day is still a unicorn. Returns also are free as the prepaid label is already included in the packaging. In other words, Revolve is a great place to shop when you need a dress fast and you want to try a few styles and/or sizes without the extra hassle of returns. From minis to maxis and everything in between, Revolve has all your party personas covered.
Best for Work: M.M. LaFleur
Size range: 0P-3X | Prices: $$$ | Shipping: Free on orders more than $150; $10 flat rate on orders less than $150 | Return policy: Full refund within 30 days
Founded by a management consultant and the former head designer of Zac Posen, the women-led brand M.M. LaFleur is all about empowerment in the workplace through functional, comfortable, and stylish clothing. The line of dresses checks off all the boxes you want in office attire—appropriate length, comfortable fabrics, sophisticated colors. These aren’t the frumpy designs you’ll find at the work section of your department store—no, you’ll want to rock the streamlined silhouettes even after happy hour. Best of all, all of the brand’s clothes are machine washer friendly, so you can save on the dry cleaner costs.
Best for Going Out: Nasty Gal
Size range: 0-24 | Prices: $ | Shipping: $9.99 standard shipping | Return policy: Full refund within 45 days
While fast fashion is not the most sustainable choice, the cheap prices and cutting-edge trends make it ideal for a certain type of dress: the going out dress. It’s the dress you slip on for the night fully knowing it’s about to get spilled on and sweated through. You want it to be trendy and cheap, so you don’t mind wearing it only once to that party or club. So you turn to Nasty Gal, which offers an encyclopedia of the latest trends at insanely affordable prices. They also carry a plus, petite, and maternity line and are constantly dropping new collections. We can’t complain that there’s almost always some sale going on.
Most Sustainable: Reformation
Size range: 0-24 +petite | Prices: $$$ | Shipping: Free worldwide shipping on all orders | Return policy: Full refund within 30 days
Reformation already caught our eyes with their gorgeous floral dresses and silk gowns made for garden parties, but add in the fact that they are a carbon-neutral company (meaning they achieve net-zero carbon emissions), and we’re officially in love. Since 2009, the Los Angeles-based brand has strived to merge sustainability with style by recycling scrap materials, focusing on local manufacturing, and reducing the chemicals used in production. But their conservative production doesn’t mean a limited selection; you can find anything from your next wedding gown to your next sundress. The brand focuses on a minimalist aesthetic with structural details like high slits, square necklines, and puff sleeves. Who says sustainability couldn’t be stylish?
Best Maternity: Pink Blush
Size range: XS-XL | Prices: $$ | Shipping: Free standard shipping on orders over $75; $5 standard shipping under $75 | Return policy: Full refund within 30 days
With the motto, “not your mother’s maternity clothes,” Pink Blush truly delivers chic, modern maternity wear. The items are designed to be worn before, during, and after your pregnancy, and trust us, you’ll want to wear their dresses long after. From form-fitting knit dresses to playful tiered numbers, the brand lets you tackle any occasion during your pregnancy. You can even shop for dresses geared towards petite or tall figures. And at affordable prices, the designs deserve to be bought in every color. It's worth mentioning that their sizing mostly ranges from XS-XL, so it's not as size-inclusive as others on this list.
Best Plus Size: Eloquii
Size range: 14-28 | Prices: $$ | Shipping: Free standard shipping on orders over $125; $7.50 for orders under $125 | Return policy: Full refund within 30 days
With plus sizes ranging from 14-28, Eloquii makes finding the perfect dress easy for all shapes and sizes. From sweater dresses to sequin slips, the spread of styles has you covered for casual and dressy occasions and everything in between. The pieces are trend-forward, whether you lean towards sequins, lace, or solid colors. They even offer a rental service, making it possible to have a new dress for every day of the workweek.
Best Designer: Moda Operandi
Size range: 0-16 | Prices: $$$$ | Shipping: $15 standard shipping | Return policy: Full refund within 28 days
If you adore designer fashion and aren’t subscribed to Moda Operandi’s newsletter, you’re missing out. Though it’s a retail site, their emails feel more like a magazine with their rundown of upcoming trends and stylized trunk shows. Encouraging fashion discovery, they regularly host trunk shows of new collections from fashion designers like Balenciaga, Carolina Herrera, and Emilia Wickstead including swoon-worthy dresses. Leaning towards over-the-top, their frocks are best for holiday vacations and glamorous nights out. The best part is you can read through the site’s Edit, which gives you insider advice on all the upcoming trends and how to wear them. Whether you dish out the dollars on the dress or not, you can still leave with some priceless fashion knowledge.
Best for Weddings: Anthropologie
Size range: 00-26 | Prices: $$-$$$$ | Shipping: $15 standard shipping | Return policy: Full refund within 28 days
Whether you’ve decided to buy your wedding dress online or are just looking for some inspiration, BHLDN by Anthropologie is a great place to check out for all your wedding fantasies. Their wedding dresses range from $150 to $3,000 and from classic to modern. They also carry plenty of bridal party and parent of the bride dresses, so your entire wedding party is covered. Feel free to browse the collection online and then go try it on in-store or schedule a virtual appointment through the comfort of your home.
Best Custom: Fame & Partners
Size range: 0-22; custom alterations | Prices: $$$ | Shipping: Free in US, UK, AUS, NZ, CA | Return policy: $35 Zero Waste Fee, within 30 days
Think you have to shop in person to get a custom dress? Think again! Fame & Partners revolutionizes online shopping by allowing you to customize a range of occasion dresses based on your measurements and heel height. No matter if you are the bride, bridesmaid, or prom queen, you can receive a custom-fit dress right at your door. Making everything to order, the brand also minimizes its environmental impact by producing less stock.
However, if you just want to save money without all the frills, you can browse the site’s outlet, which features styles up to 80 percent off. It’s important to note that the sale items are final sale.
Best for Basics: Uniqlo
Size range: XXS-XL | Prices: $ | Shipping: $7.99 standard shipping | Return policy: Full refund within 30 days
When looking for simple, no-nonsense dresses for working from home and occasionally running an errand, you can’t go wrong with Uniqlo’s utilitarian designs and affordable prices. Surely the hoodie or T-shirt dress makes for an excellent get-up when working from the couch. Yet the minimalistic designs can also be great for more professional settings. When I needed a simple dress I could wear to interviews during my senior year of college, I opted for their stretch short sleeve flare dress in black (view at Uniqlo) and added accessories like necklaces and blazers based on the level of formality. The best part? The dress came with built-in pockets.
Uniqlo regularly does collaborations with other designers as well, so you can enjoy Marimekko’s joyful prints or JW Anderson’s timeless designs at a fraction of the price.
What to Look for When Buying Dresses Online
Like with any piece of clothing, the material is a critical factor that sometimes is overlooked. Yet it impacts how hot or cold you’ll be in the dress, the likelihood of it getting wrinkled throughout the day, and how easy it will be clean. If you are going to a summer wedding, you’ll want to look for materials like lyocell that promote breathability and won’t get wrinkles too easily from sitting through the entire ceremony. For colder temperatures, wool is a great breathable, wrinkle-resistant choice.
On the other hand, if you are shopping for dresses you’ll regularly wear to work or around the house, you’ll want a fabric that won’t require dry-cleaning unless you are ready for expensive bills piling up.
Another factor that is easily forgotten when shopping for dresses online is what bras and underwear you’ll need to wear underneath. While backless and plunging necklines look amazing on the mannequin, you’ll likely need a special bra (or no bra) to make it work. Likewise, that body-con number will likely need a seamless thong or shapewear. Nothing is worse than ordering your dream dress only to realize you don’t have the right undergarments to complete the look, so think ahead and consider adding a sticky bra or boob tape to your cart while shopping.
Shipping and returns
Shopping for clothes online is no easy feat, especially when selecting dresses in new silhouettes and colors. When shopping for an event with no extra time to spare, it can be wise to buy the same dress in different sizes and/or colors just to be sure you end up with something to wear.
To avoid losing money, look for sites with free shipping and returns, so you can easily try out different options and return what doesn’t work.
What silhouettes are best for office settings?
Back when I worked in an office five days a week, dresses were my favorite thing to wear. I always felt more polished in a dress, even though it was a lot faster to slip on one piece of clothing that morning. Yet not every dress is made for an office setting, and it’s easy to go from looking professional to inappropriate. The key to finding work-appropriate dresses is all about fit, says Keefe.
“When it comes to creating a polished and professional look, the fit is super important. For workwear, look for a dress that fits properly through the arms and shoulders, loosely skims through the body, and hits just above or below the knee at the hem,” says Keefe. “Almost any silhouette can be work-appropriate if the fit is just right. That said, shift dresses and wrap dresses tend to be foolproof options.”
To make dresses with thin or no straps more professional, you can always throw on a blazer or sweater. Switching up jackets and accessories also makes your go-to office dress feel new.
How do you wear dresses in winter?
Just because the temperature dips doesn’t mean you have to lock up all your dresses in storage. Sweater dresses prove to be a classic option when you want to feel warm and swaddled in fabric. Knit and ribbed materials are everywhere this year, and dresses are one of the best ways to tap into the trend. Adding a long wool coat, tights, and tall boots is a fabulous way to create a chic and cozy outfit.
You can also transform your spring and summer dresses into year-round pieces.
“While adding layers over a dress is always a good idea, don't miss the opportunity to layer under a dress,” says Keefe. “I always have a fitted white T-shirt, a fitted black turtleneck, and a fitted crew neck sweater in my closet ready to layer under my sleeveless dresses when the temperatures drop.”
How do I wear a dress from day to night?
Whether you are traveling all day on vacation or going straight from work to a dinner date, you’ll come across the need to take a dress from day to night. With the right dress and accessories, this transition can be easy.
“During the day, wear a casual dress with flat sandals or sneakers, a straw tote bag, and a denim jacket,” says Keefe. “In the evening, swap your flats for a block heel or statement boot and trade your straw bag for a sleek clutch.”
What is an A-line dress?
If you ever went dress shopping or looked at dresses in a magazine, you’ve probably heard the term A-line. This classic shape is seen in a variety of dresses from strapless to puff sleeves.
“An A-line dress mimics the shape of the letter ‘A,’” says Keefe. “It fits close to the body through the bust and waist and flows away from the body through the hips and thighs creating a timeless and universally flattering shape.”
What is a midi dress?
As Keefe puts it, a midi dress lives between a mini and maxi dress.
“Midi refers to the length of the dress,” says Keefe. “The bottom hem of a midi dress will hit you somewhere between your knee and ankle.”
Keefe says a midi length is a great option for petite individuals who tend to shy away from full-length dresses.
“I'm 5-foot-2 and my closet is full of midi dresses. I'm not always comfortable in a short dress, and I've fallen on more than one occasion after tripping over a too-long maxi dress,” says Keefe. “Until the midi dress trend rolled around a few years ago, I had pretty much sworn-off dresses and now I can't get enough. To avoid getting lost in your dress, look for one that fits you well through the shoulders and torso and hits anywhere between your knee and ankle.”
Why Trust Byrdie?
Emily Cieslak is a Byrdie contributor and has written about fashion for other publications like The Knot, Real Simple, and Red Carpet Fashion Awards. Assisting celebrity stylists and styling photoshoots has taught her how to shop for all different body types and aesthetics, especially online. When getting dressed, she chooses dresses over pants any day and has shopped from the majority of these retailers.