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20 Ways to Wear a Maxi Dress

When we think of summer staples, our minds go straight to the beach, channeling bikinis and jean shorts. But equally as important for collegiettes’ summer wardrobes are items that can be worn for multiple occasions, like a part-time gig, a family barbeque, a graduation party, an internship, or drinks with friends. While we’re big fans of separates, another of the most versatile and easy-to-style clothing items is the maxi dress. In an effort to make a maxi dress appropriate for any occasion, we’ve compiled a list of 20 ways to strut your floor-length stuff.

1. Throw on a fedora: Top off your maxi with a cute fedora for instant trendiness. A loose and natural hairstyle underneath adds to the maxi’s relaxed vibe and helps your look stay effortlessly cool.

2. Carry a killer handbag: Fashion consultant Colin McDonald suggests kicking things up a notch with a “clutch in a bold color like neon or exotic skin” with a solid maxi. Think about adding embellishments like studs or bold patterns to turn what might be a simple column frock into a fierce and stylish ensemble.

3. Bust out the bling: Nothing completes an outfit like a little bit of sparkle. Whether you prefer a chunky cocktail ring, a glitzy pair of earrings, or a statement necklace, layer your favorite jewels over your maxi dress for a glamorous look.

4. Go chic and sleek in black: Stylist Elizabeth Kamm suggests sticking to the most basic hue: “Black! It is sometimes really refreshing to step away from bright colors and vibrant florals and wear a sleek black maxi dress in the middle of summer. It always looks good, especially if you find the perfect long dress which toes the line of casual and formal.” There’s no need to overdo this look with accessories, either. Keep it easy with a pair of flat thong sandals.

5. Layer it with a blazer: Sure, in the prime of summer we’re not really in need of extra layers. But in the event that you want to dress a maxi up or are just a little chilled, a sophisticated blazer can do the trick. “Look for a dress with a small print (also called a foulard print),” Kamm suggests. “Keep it mainly monochromatic, with a structured bodice seamed and darted around the waist.  Style it with a white fitted blazer and chunky gold bracelets.  Perfect shoes for a dress like this would be a wedge.”

6. Channel ancient Greece: Think of it as playing dress-up, but in a practical way. A solid column maxi in a color like emerald, orange, or peach is perfect for a Grecian goddess look. Kamm suggests wearing this with “a one-inch thick belt in white or cream to highlight your waist. Wear with your chain strap bag or metallic clutch.” And, obviously, gladiator sandals.

7. Color block like crazy: Choose a dress that does the work for you, or create your own color-blocked look by adding a solid-colored sweater or jacket to a vibrant maxi. You can also layer your maxi under a different colored T-shirt or camisole. Introduce more bold colors by adding a statement necklace, a bold handbag, or bright wedges.

8. Embrace flower power: Choose a dress with a small floral or geometric print. High waists and/or ruffled hems also scream “hippie-chic.” Complete the look with “a cowboy hat [and] drape strands upon strands of beads around your neck and around your wrist,” says Kamm. Finish off the look with a floral headscarf and leather boots or sandals.

9. Sexify sporty: Because they offer such a clean and simple silhouette, maxi dresses offer the perfect opportunity to achieve a sporty look (even if you’re not at all athletic). Look for a fitted jersey dress with a racer back. “They can usually be found in bold or thin stripes, or solid or color blocked versions,” says Kamm. Keep your hairdo sleek by tying it into a ponytail or blowing it out pin-straight.

10. Flip-flop to the beach: You can’t have one without the other—the beach and flip-flops just go together. For days at the beach, go for a voluminous maxi in a bold print that screams fun and add a pair of your favorite flip-flops. This is also an easy go-to look for after a day at the beach and is practical for any summery event. Don’t forget to add sunnies!


11. Add some denim: A jean jacket is the perfect companion to any maxi dress. Use denim as the ultimate dress-down accessory to take your maxi from the workplace to drinks with the girls. For casual events outside the office, keep things trendy – and keep yourself a little cooler – by opting for a denim vest instead.

12. Look long: At the end of the day, donning a maxi is all about lengthening your body. If for no other reason than the fact that your maxi might be an inch too long, throw on the highest pair of platforms you’ve got. Fake lengthy gams with platform heels or just a raised sandal for totally heightened style.

13. Crop it off: Get in on our love of layers and slip on a graphic or lace crop top over a solid maxi. This will give you a bohemian look (or a skirt/shirt illusion) and add a bit of dimension to your dress. It’s a great way to incorporate your on-trend cropped tees without revealing too much skin.

14. Choose a bold pattern: …in bold colors, of course! Nothing says summer like full-bodied brights, and maxi dresses are the perfect way to pull them off. Whether you’re into stripes, polka dots or something more intricate, add a maxi with a unique pattern to your closet that you can accessorize in a few different ways.

15. Twist and shout: To make mobilizing easier throughout the course of a busy day, tie a little knot in the bottom hem of your dress. It’s a subtle choice that lends style, shape and practicality to a maxi dress, and, if your maxi is a little too long, this will save you a trip to the tailor if you just can’t find the time to get there before you’re ready to wear your new dress.

16. Convert it: Get your hands on a few safety pins, scrunch up the front of your dress in a couple of places and secure it. You’ll get an awesome high-low look without having to buy another dress!

17. Change everything but the dress: That’s right – a simple gray maxi will have a completely different feel if you top it off with a ballet bun, red lipstick, cat eye liner, a stack of bangles, and platforms than if you finish it off with wavy bed-head hair, a swipe of lip balm, a long pendant, a bit of mascara, and flat sandals. We love the versatility of a maxi!

18. Use neon to accent: ‘Tis the summer to be fluorescent, because everywhere we turn, neon accessories and beauty products are popping up. For a fun night out with maxi dress ease, pop on bright jewelry, carry a neon clutch, and give yourself a glowing mani.

19. Mix and match: If you’ve got a billowy, feminine maxi dress hanging in your closet, don’t be afraid to rough it up with something unexpected like a military jacket. Keep the look chic with a brown leather belt, a hefty stack of bangles, and strappy sandals. The same goes for a rough maxi dress and feminine sweaters (and patterns, too!).

20. Use your trusty chambray: Button things up with this tried-and-true closet staple. You can leave it open, button just a few buttons, or tie a knot just below your waist. Add a belt or a blinged-out necklace to keep the look either super-relaxed or super-chic.

How are you rocking your maxi dress this summer? Let us know in the comments below!

Lauren Kaplan is a senior majoring in English and Dance at Emory University. She is originally from New Jersey, and has loved living in Atlanta for the past three years. Lauren thinks most fondly of her two favorite places - her childhood camp, Camp Wayne for Girls, and Margate on the Jersey shore - from which she has derived a love of friends, family, and the beach.
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