Summer is around the corner, which means one thing: vacation. Whether you are headed to the beach or planning a European getaway, you’ll need something (or a few things) to wear.
Vacation conjures up images of bold colors and dramatic shapes, but buying a brand-new wardrobe is not an option for every trip. For professional stylist Audree Lopez, versatility is the number one priority. “I always make sure I can wear the item for almost any occasion during vacation,” she says, “Can it be dressed up for dinner or paired with sandals during the day for something more casual.”
Ahead, we chatted with professional stylists and a textile expert to find the 30 vacation dresses you need to add to your summer wardrobe.
Doen Emmaretta Dress
What makes the perfect vacation dress? In our opinion, the ideal getaway frock must be comfortable, low-maintenance, and stylish. This option from Doên has all three that landed it the top spot on our list. Made from entirely organic cotton, the material is soft to the touch and doesn’t wrinkle (even when trapped in a carry-on). The smocking at the top moves with your shape and the adjustable ties allow you to get a custom fit.
Price at time of publish: $298
Composition: Fabric made from organic cotton | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Care: Hand wash cold and lay flat to dry
Old Navy Fitted Rib Knit Halter Midi Dress
Booking a vacation can already be hard on the wallet, and on top of that, adding to your wardrobe can add even more to the expenses. Thankfully, not every vacation dress has to put a dent in your savings. Enter Old Navy. Yes, they have more than just affordable flip-flops and patriotic tank tops. Its summer dress collection is on-trend and goes up to a 4XL. The best part? This style goes on sale often so don’t pay full price if you do not have to.
Price at time of publish: $35
Composition: Fabric made from cotton and spandex | Size Range: XS–4XL | Care: Machine wash cold and tumble dry low
Zimmermann Wonderland Floral Long Sleeve Linen Dress
On the other hand, if you have extra cash to spend on some new duds, Zimmermann should be your first stop. Prints and bold colors abound and ruffles and romantic silhouettes are expected. Just looking at the collection feels like you should be traipsing around the Amalfi coast or cheers-ing in an Italian vineyard. This one in particular is entirely linen that textile expert Deborah Young recommends for resort wear. “Linen is super breathable, so it is ideal for hot temperatures," she says, “However, it wrinkles, so make sure wherever you are staying has an iron.”
Our one complaint is the sizing system. We wish that it was a little wider.
Price at time of publish: $895
Composition: Fabric made from linen | Size Range: 1–4 | Care: Dry clean
Amanda Uprichard Samba Dress
A mini dress lends itself nicely to late-night cocktails or reservations. Made from 100% polyester, this one is made for travel. Not only is the halter neck a universally flattering silhouette, but the slight asymmetrical hemline is short but not too short that it makes you nervous. Plus, it adds a little sass to your night out. True the size range is not the most inclusive, but it does come in a wide array of colors, so you can find one true to your style.
Price at time of publish: $251
Composition: Fabric made from polyester | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean
J.Crew Collection Side Cut-Out Midi Dress
Something about navy and white stripes screams summering by the water. The voluminous shape adds a little drama but the high neck keeps things appropriate for multiple events. The cut-out is conveniently located near the back of the dress, so if you are uncomfortable with that silhouette, this feels more like an open-back frock.
Price at time of publish: $280
Composition: Fabric made from polyester and elastane | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean
The Line By K Yuki Dress
Dresses come in all lengths and these days, all lengths are popular. Maxi dresses can be tiered or poufy, but we are partial to a form-fitting option. This influencer-founded brand ethically produces its clothing in Los Angeles out of high-quality textiles. Made with a blend of both cotton and modal (one of Young’s favorite materials), this stretchy number loves your curves as much as you do.
Price at time of publish: $199
Composition: Fabric made from cotton, modal, and spandex | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean
Best Cut Out
Rumer The Label Willow Cut Out Maxi
Cut-outs are everywhere in fashion these days often showing up around the midsection or even near the chest. Sometimes, they pop up where we wish they wouldn’t. The cut-outs on the Willow sit right on the midpoint between the hips and the chest. Instead of being right in the front, they rest on the side - enough to add something but not enough to distract. On top of that, it is available in five different colors.
Price at time of publish: $319
Composition: Fabric made from polyester | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean
Best Graphic Print
Farm Rio One-Shoulder Cutout Dress
If Zimmerman is known for its feminine flair, Farm Rio is recognized for its bold, colorful prints. Founded in 1997, this Brazilian brand started in a small fashion market. Brazilians may have fallen in love with the brand years ago, but it recently has enchanted the American markets with its vibrant colors and unexpected mix of patterns. This one-shoulder frock is a mix of linen and rayon, so it is comfortable and low-maintenance. Plus it is machine-washable, so it is easy to clean.
Price at time of publish: $210
Composition: Fabric made from linen and rayon | Size Range: XXS–XL | Care: Machine wash and hang dry
Best One Shoulder
Diarrablu Satu One-Shoulder Dress Green
Handcrafted in a small Senegalese atelier, this one-shouldered gown is as comfortable as it is stylish. It grazes over the forward-most part of your chest and then falls, so no clinging or pinching is involved. Made from 100% polyester, this piece is super easy to stow in a suitcase and looks appropriate during daytime endeavors as well as evening.
Price at time of publish: $225
Composition: Fabric made from polyester | Size Range: XS–3XL | Care: Machine wash and hang dry
Best Tank Top
Enza Costa Maxi Tank Dress
The best part about a tank dress is that it works well on vacation as well as in your day-to-day life because it is highly versatile. Wear it on its own with a pair of sneakers or jazz things up with some heels and a blazer. Either way, it won’t take up a bunch of room in your suitcase especially when you are strapped for space.
Price at time of publish: $225
Composition: Fabric made from viscose, silk, and lycra | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Machine wash and hand dry
Sir Bettina Smocked Linen Sundress
Smocking is normally reserved for the top of the dress, but in this situation, it goes all the way down to the hips. Yes, it adds a chic detail, but it is also very comfortable. As Young has already warned us, linen is prone to wrinkling, but thanks to the smocking, this piece hides any unwanted ripples. It is great for wandering through villages during the afternoon, but it also works great for a dinner by the beach.
Price at time of publish: $360
Composition: Fabric made from linen | Size Range: 0–4 | Care: Dry clean
Best Bias Cut
Tuckernuck Sienna Sunrise D’amour Dress
One of the best parts of vacation is watching a beautiful sunset. This dress brings the sunset to you. The blend of beautiful colors promises to turn heads, and the midi length ensures that you won’t trip on it on your way to dinner. Bonus: it goes up to three XL, so anyone can find a comfortable fit.
Price at time of publish: $298
Composition: Fabric made from polyester and lining made from polyester and spandex | Size Range: XXS–3XL | Care: Dry clean
Loft Perfect Tank Midi Dress
For Lopez, the main criterion for a vacation dress is a garment that she can incorporate into her daily wardrobe. “I love this dress for its comfort and also because it is so easy to dress up or down,” she says. So much so, it promises to take you from the plane ride to drinks at the hotel bar.
Price at time of publish: $85
Composition: Fabric made from rayon and spandex | Size range: XXS–XXL | Care: Machine washable
Dissh Bowie Black Sheer Viscose Dress
Sheer frocks are everywhere this season, and the best place to wear them is near the pool or shore, but we won’t judge if you wear them to dinner. This long sleeve number adds a dramatic flair to any swim look. Plus, it delivers another layer of sun protection (though not an excuse to forgo your SPF). Available in lime and black.
Price at time of publish: $200
Composition: Fabric made from viscose and rayon | Size Range: 2–12 | Care: Cold machine wash and hang dry
Baobab Miamar Midi Dress
Ruching is a lifesaver when it comes to dresses. It adds dimensions and more importantly, stretch. It is typically done on soft jersey fabrics that feel great on the skin and are low-maintenance to travel with. This option from Baobab adds light detailing around the waist without taking over the whole garment. Plus the shimmery fabric will look great with a fresh tan.
Price at time of publish: $330
Composition: Fabric made from elastane and lining from polyester and elastane| Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Cold machine wash and hang dry
Best on Amazon
YENSO Maxi Dress with Pockets
If party and cocktail dresses are not your speed, check out this casual yet cool option on Amazon. Made from 100% cotton, this summer dress works as a bathing suit cover-up and a daytime frock. Not to mention, it comes with deep pockets to store extra bottles of SPF and aloe vera. Also nice, it goes up to 3XL and is available in over 20 colors and prints.
Price at time of publish: $42
Composition: Fabric made from cotton | Size Range: S–3XL | Care: Hand wash only
Best Short Sleeve
Staud Jackson Fit and Flare Dress
Staud has mastered casual yet sophisticated fashion. The Jackson dress is no exception. The cinching around the waist creates an hourglass silhouette that feels elevated, but the material (almost all cotton) keeps the look low-key enough to wear to lunch. Currently, the dress is available in both black and hibiscus, but we wouldn’t complain if the colorways expanded.
Price at time of publish: $345
Composition: Fabric made from cotton and polyester | Size Range: XS–L | Care: Dry clean
Best Wedding Guest
Ramy Brook Tatiana Satin Halter Gown
If you are blending your friend’s wedding weekend into your summer vacation, we have found the option for you. This halter dress skims your shape and offers comfortable wear. The open back is a sexy yet classy detail. Plus if it is hot out, Young loves a polyester option for how it wicks away moisture.
Price at time of publish: $645
Composition: Fabric made from polyester | Size range: 0–16 | Care: Dry clean
Hillhouse Home The Simone Dress
Long sleeve dresses and vacation dresses do not normally go hand in hand, but Hillhouse is here to change that. Famous for its Nap Dress (a dress comfortable enough to sleep in), this brand knows how to do a summer frock. The Simone silhouette maintains the comfort of the Nap style and the loose-fitting shape allows for airflow on hot, humid days.
Price at time of publish: $175
Composition: Fabric made from recycled polyester | Size range: XS–L | Care: Cold machine wash and lay flat to dry
Andrea Iyamah Lida Gathered Mini Dress
One look at Andrea Iyamah’s collection almost screams vacation wear. Full of bold prints, vibrant colors, and surprising silhouettes, her line will bring you somewhere tropical (even if your vacation brands do not). The puffy sleeves and adjustable waistband are dramatic without sacrificing comfort.
Price at time of publish: $295
Composition: Fabric made from polyester | Size range: XS–L | Care: Hand wash cold and hang dry
La Ligne Smock Bodice Cap Sleeve Cotton Dress
If you are looking for a dress you can wear all day, all night, and fall asleep in if necessary, look no further. This completely cotton frock lifts your chest without compressing it, and flares from your waist. Keep your straps up for a more daytime look or let them hang down for something a little more flirty.
Price at time of publish: $295
Composition: Fabric made from cotton | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean or machine wash and hang dry
Hutch Strapless Asymmetrical Dress
A strapless dress can feel - well - not secure, and in some cases, a little skimpy. This one manages to avoid both of those landmines and still be chic. Style it up with statement earrings and colorful heels. Plus, we are suckers for a sunset orange.
Price at time of publish: $198
Composition: Fabric and lining made from polyester | Size Range: XXS–XL | Care: Dry clean
Reformation Tagliatelle Linen Dress
The main critique leveled at sustainable style is that it lacks in, well, the style department. Reformation is here to dispel that rumor for good. This dress in particular earned a spot on our list thanks to its lemon grove-friendly silhouette and earth-loving fabric. The material is made from flax and uses little to no water.
Price at time of publish: $248
Composition: Fabric made from linen | Size Range: 0–12 | Care: Machine wash cold and tumble dry low
Retrofête Claire Dress
Sequins plus vacation equals parties, and we love parties. The resident expert in sparkles these days is the small New York City label, Retrofête. Internet famous for its sequin studded party dresses, they have become the go-to destination for statement sparkles. The ‘Claire’ dress incorporates fringe into the mix. Wear with a pair of black cowboy boots or a skinny pair of stilettos.
Price at time of publish: $595
Composition: Fabric made from viscose | Size Range: XS–XL | Care: Dry clean
Norma Kamali Oversized Boyfriend Shirt Dress
In the market for a shirtdress that is comfortable, wrinkle-resistant, and sexy? This one has all three. Norma Kamali understands how to dress women’s figures, and this dress is proof. The oversized fit makes it feel effortless and the bold blue complements nearly every skin tone. Plus, you could ball it up for a day without wrinkling it.
Price at time of publish: $195
Composition: Fabric made from polyester and spandex | Size Range: XXS-XL | Care: Hand wash cold
Madewell Layton Midi Slip Dress
Another one of Lopez’s favorites, this low-maintenance slip comes in multiple colorways and a wide side range. Most slips on the market are made out of a satin or silk blend, but this polyester mix repels wrinkles and doesn’t trap heat. Wear it with a blazer for an office-friendly look or with a strappy pair of heels to dress things up.
Price at time of publish: $98
Composition: Fabric made from lenzing™ ecovero™, viscose, and nylon | Size Range: 00–16; 14W–22W | Care: Machine washable
Cult Gaia Kourtney Crochet Dress
We will admit this is not the most practical option on this list, but it makes a statement. The intricate crochet details no one at the resort will have anything close to this number, but the best part is that even its complex decals don’t compromise the comfort of the piece.
Price at time of publish: $798
Composition: Fabric made from an acrylic blend | Size Range: XS–L | Care: Hand wash only
Tularosa Parker Mini Dress
Some of the options on this list are a little on the formal side, and lace options on the market are more of the same. The mini cotton sundress keeps things casual and cute.
Price at time of publish: $188
Composition: Fabric made from cotton | Size range: XXS–XL | Care: Hand wash
The Oula Company Fancy Print Cap Sleeve Midi Dress
A bold print and a pretty color mixed with a flowing silhouette, that’s all you need for a successful sundress. It can be casual or formal depending on the setting. But be quick, this style sells out quickly.
Price at time of publish: $350
Composition: Fabric made from cotton and polyester | Size Range: S–L | Care: Dry clean
Best Size Range
ASOS Design Curve Crinkle Flutter Midi Dress
We try to include a variety of sizes in each piece, but unfortunately, not every designer offers a robust plus range. That is where ASOS comes in. The Curve collection goes up to a size 26, and at under $50, this number is a steal.
Price at time of publish: $40
Composition: Fabric made from polyester and elastane | Size Range: 12–26 | Care: Machine wash
Vacation dresses are largely based on style, but the Doên Emmaretta Dress earned our top spot on the list thanks to its low-maintenance silhouette and material. It's both comfortable and impossible to wear without garnering a compliment from a stranger. As much as we love this piece, it is on the pricier end. If you are looking for a more wallet-friendly pick, the Old Navy Fitted Rib Knit Halter Midi Dress is under $40 and goes all the way up to a 4XL. Depending on the shape you prefer, there’s also Enza Costa’s tank top silhouette and a more flowy long-sleeved shape from Hillhouse Home.
What to Look for in Vacation Dresses
Vacation dresses come in a variety of materials, and in Young’s opinion, it comes down to preference. “Linen and cotton are great options because they are so breathable,” she says. Meaning in hot weather, your garment will allow you to feel a breeze.
“Silk looks high-end and expensive,” she continues, “but it is a high-maintenance material, and it traps heat.” Instead, she recommends sticking to polyester. “Polyesters have come a long way,” Young says, “They are easy to pack, they add stretch, and they add a beautiful drape to garments.”
Vacation dresses are often stuffed in a carry-on suitcase or duffel bag. If you do not want to spend a significant amount of your trip ironing, try to pack lower maintenance materials like cotton, rayon, TENCEL™ fibers, polyester, and more.
When does it make sense to splurge on a vacation dress?
Splurging on an item is a personal decision, but if you can afford to spend a little more on an item, Audree recommends reserving your funds for special occasions. “It doesn’t make sense to spend a chunk of change on wardrobe for every trip you go on,” she says, “But if I have a big event, I like to wear something memorable.” On other days, she relies on versatile staples that can be dressed up or down with the help of accessories like shift or tank dresses.
What are some tips for incorporating vacation dresses into your everyday wardrobe?
It can be a hard sell to buy something just for a beach vacation. Instead, look for things that can be incorporated into your everyday wardrobe. “They can be paired with a blazer or cardigan for work and styled with a t-shirt underneath and sneakers for a casual look,” she says. One of Lopez’s favorite hacks is to layer a sweater over her summer slip dresses for a cold weather-friendly fit. She also likes using closet staples for layers like button-downs and t-shirts to maximize her pieces.
Why Trust Byrdie
Anneke Knot is a full-time freelance writer. She has over five years of experience reporting on fashion and beauty. Her work has appeared on sites like InStyle, People, and Real Simple. To find the best vacation dresses, she interviewed a professional stylist and a textile expert for their expert recommendations, tested options from popular brands, read reviews, and had multiple individuals test available options.