Season of the Dress

By Karen R. Smith


We’ve had a glorious and long Spring here in the Sonoran Desert, but make no mistake about it, Summer is coming...and the way to survive it in style is with a dress.

Dresses are the coolest way to dress in the heat and this year, there are so many styles available that you are bound to find one that suits your body, your wallet and your fancy!

Shirred and fabulous

Shirring can take a plain frock from ho-hum to fabulous, and there are terrific shirred dresses at every price point right now. Shirring is the term for gathering fabric together using lines of stitching with elastic thread. (FYI it’s called smocking if the thread is floss, not elastic. The benefits are the same.) Those gathers will then expand and contract on the body, providing fit and line without the constrictions of darts, godets or other inserts.

Wish you had a larger bust? Look for dresses lightly shirred on top; they will add volume. Wish you had a smaller bust? Tight shirring can hold you in, even without a bra. Want waist definition without the discomfort of a belt? Shirring at the waist of a dress makes a belt unnecessary.

Shirring lets the garment flatter, and the stretchiness means you’ll stay comfortable.

Head over to Urban Outfitters in the flesh, or to for the Faithfull the Brand Castilo Midi Dress. This pale blue beauty has a completely shirred bodice, which flatters every body type. There is a narrow band of shirring at the top and bottom of the short puffed sleeves, so if you want to push them off your shoulders, they will stay put.

Want a longer sleeve you can push up? has you covered. Their Oasis Midi Dress is breathable crushed cotton, with a full skirt, shirred bodice with an adjustable tie and three-quarter sleeves. I love this dress in the natural, almost oatmeal color, but now that it’s available in black…!

ASOS ( is always the place to find affordable dresses, but their leopard beauty Animal-Print Shirred Dress is incredible at only $60 and available in regular or curve sizes. And they offer a student discount. Same dress in seersucker and check print is all you need for every wedding this Summer!

Phenomenal Florals, Delightful Dots

If you want to combine that shirring trend with the florals that are sweeping the runways, head to and get Doen’s Sol Shirred floral-print cotton voile maxi dress. The dark ground makes it elegant, the shirring makes it comfortable, and in cotton voile, you’ll be happy in it no matter how high the mercury gets.

Brazil’s Farm Rio has some terrific prints; head to their website for the Sunflower Midi Dress. It combines an updated 90’s slip dress vibe with a bright floral and just enough lace. Linen and viscose, it’ll stay cool and you’ll look great. ( While you’re browsing, check out the Banana Craze separates!

It’s always sale day at Nordstrom’s Rack; after you visit them here in Tucson, head to their website. The kelly green ECI Flutter Sleeve Tiered Maxi Dress is actually midi length and is loose enough to work all summer.

Right now, it’s time for the big half-yearly sale at Nordstrom, and since we don’t have one here in Tucson, head to their website by June 2. Don’t miss the Print Dress by Something Navy … best looking polka dots this Summer in the beige with black; most subtle floral in the teal with chalk etched floral. 100% viscose for gorgeous draping and cool comfort. And remember, even after the sale is over, there’s always free shipping and free returns -- and that’s all the time!

Lulus always has a bevy of dresses, but the one to covet this season is Esperanza. This rayon beauty comes in an assortment of different florals that totally change the dress from flamboyant to prim -- and the choice is yours. (

Retire or Reimagine

Now is the ideal time to get your closet ready for Summer. Get rid of what doesn’t fit and whatever you don’t like. Pass them on to friends and family, or donate them to a local charity. Honestly, if you don’t make space, how can you buy anything new???

In addition to shirring and florals and dots, tie dye has been revived by lots of designers this Summer, so if you have clothes that could use perking up...tie dying is like bicycle riding. You never forget how! And those stained tees and tops from last year will look brand new when you’re finished!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at