Long dresses have always been a hallmark of a woman’s wardrobe. Up until the 20th century, it was mostly the only thing most women wore. It should come as no surprise, then, that a maxi dress can be worn for a variety of activities, outings, and celebrations. From a wedding to Whole Foods, this staple style can be worn anywhere, and we’ll show you how. Consider this your easy guide to styling this wardrobe staple in every possible way. Realize how to style and dress up a maxi dress for every occasion and you’ll never wonder what to wear again. For further options, check out Karen Kane today for a better visual into how we style our maxi and midi dresses.
What is a Maxi Dress?
The defining attribute of a maxi dress is its length. The maxi length reaches the ankle or just above the ankle of the wearer, not to be confused with midi dresses, which can fall between the knee and mid-calf, or with gowns, which can sweep the floor and extend in a train. However, from slits to ruffles to high-low silhouettes, many hemlines aren’t straight these days, so there is a bit of wiggle room with what qualifies as a maxi dress.
While length is the only hard characteristic of a maxi dress, it has also become synonymous with slightly more casual and flowy styles. However, maxi dresses come in a variety of designs and can suit any dress code when styled accordingly. Read on to see what we mean.
How To Style a Maxi Dress For…
Whether you have a maxi dress at home that you want to wear in more ways than one, or you are shopping for the perfect look for an upcoming event, these styling ideas will help you accessorize any maxi dress in just the right way to create not just one but many looks you can wear with confidence.
Finding an outfit idea for work that strikes the right balance between professional, comfortable, and fashionable is no easy feat, but with a maxi dress it can be. Go for a classic black number with conservative lines such as this versatile rayon dress. The fabric is breathable and doesn’t pill easily, so it will stand up to a 9-to-5 easily. We suggest styling it with a pair of mules or loafers for the office. Reach for a leather tote and the look is complete. When the air conditioning is running, layer it with a lightweight cardigan to keep warm. What’s great about this maxi dress outfit is that it can also go from the office to a parent-teacher conference to dinner and everywhere in between.
Weddings have a range of dress codes, so it’s always best to double-check the invite before deciding your upcoming dress style. For most weddings, though, you don’t need to invest in an evening gown; a maxi dress will be just right. Strike the right level of dressiness by taking the venue into consideration. Indoor weddings at religious venues, resorts, or ballrooms are generally fancier while outdoor weddings near the beach, at a ranch, in a backyard, or on a vineyard are generally more casual.
If the wedding you’re attending is outdoor or states a semi-formal dress code, you can get away with a printed maxi dress in any color that suits the season. Pair it with heeled sandals and fun earrings and prepare to pose for plenty of photos with confidence. If the wedding is formal, opt for a solid colored maxi dress in a sophisticated fabric such as lace, silk, or chiffon with elevated details such as embroidery or embellishment. Accessorize your maxi with heels, fine jewelry, and a clutch. Complete the look with a sophisticated hairstyle such as a low chignon or curls.
When you’re traveling, whether it’s by plane, train, or car, comfort is paramount. However, we’re firm believers that you don’t have to reach for a pair of sweats to be comfortable. You can travel in style when wearing a maxi dress. We suggest a dress style in a fabric that will feel soft and won’t wrinkle such as this tie-front dress. Layer it with a denim jacket and slip on some sneakers or flat sandals and you have a three-piece outfit that can take you anywhere. Should you need to head straight into an activity once you arrive at your destination or stop along the way for lunch, you will feel presentable without needing to sacrifice comfort along the way.
A printed maxi dress can give you the polished confidence you’re looking for walking into date night. Step up the vibe of this flirty patch print maxi by pairing it with black heeled sandals. Wear your hair your favorite way, but be sure to brush it behind your ear to show off these drop earrings that will complement the dress just right. Whether date night involves dinner and a movie, drinks at your favorite spot, or a night of live music, this look will deliver.
Whether you’re just running errands or you're treating yourself to a bit of a spree, the power of a good outfit to brighten your mood and enhance your experience shouldn’t be overlooked. A maxi dress is a no-fuss option that will instantly make you feel polished and cute. Plus, if you plan to try anything on while you’re out and about, it makes the process far more painless than if you were to wear multiple pieces and layers.
We love this cuffed-sleeve maxi dress, which comes in both standard and plus sizes because it is equally as fitting for the grocery store as it is for a posh outdoor mall. The silhouette and side slit provide an optimal strolling experience and the cinched waist gives it a uniquely tailored look. Plus, it looks great with sandals, sneakers, or flats, and looks complete with just minimal everyday jewelry.
Finding just the right thing to throw on over your bathing suit can be hard, but it’s easy when you have a maxi dress on hand. A breezy style that you can slip on and off when you are covered in sunscreen and sand, is essential. We love this smocked maxi dress and this shirred tie-dye dress for that reason. Style either option over your bathing suit, or for lunch by the beach, with sandals, a straw hat, and sunglasses.
A Birthday Party
Birthday parties provide a fun opportunity to break out your favorite maxi dress and style it in some new way. This dress is extremely versatile; it can be worn for numerous types of events (not just birthday parties) and in all seasons when styled right.
For a warm-weather celebration, break out the wedges and add a kimono. Complete this breezy bohemian look with hoop earrings. Easy, effortless, fun. For a birthday during the colder months, don’t look past this number. Instead, wear booties and a cropped sweater over top of the dress for a completely fresh look. Add a velour hat if you’re feeling so inclined.
A Few Final Tips
We hope this has shown you just how simple it can be to style a maxi dress for any occasion. Before you go, keep these final tips in mind whenever you can’t decide what maxi dress to wear or how to style it.
Accessories Can Make All the Difference
With the right accessories on hand, styling a maxi dress is a breeze. You’d be surprised how quickly the right pair of shoes or a chic hat can shift the overall appearance of the dress to be just what you want it to be. In saying that, don’t forget to add accessories before you look in the mirror and say “yes” or “no” to a dress. Paint the complete picture before you decide whether you’re happy with it or not and you’ll spend less time finding the right fit.
Consider the Setting
Keep the setting and occasion top of mind whenever styling any outfit. A maxi dress is ideal on its own for warm weather and outdoor settings but it can be just as fitting for an indoor setting at the office, a wedding, or a restaurant when paired with a cardigan or blazer and sophisticated shoes. This is where styling inspiration such as this comes in handy, so bookmark this page so you can remember how to style your maxi in those more effortful scenarios.
Pay Close Attention to Fabric
Fabric means everything; it can make a maxi dress completely chic and sophisticated or completely casual and effortless. Neither one is wrong, but they are only right for certain occasions. If the occasion is any sort of celebration from a birthday dinner at a nice restaurant to an engagement party, lean into high-quality fabrics that look and feel dressy. Then you can dress your look up or down with outerwear, shoes, and accessories: heels and jewels for a fancier fete and wedges and a cardigan for an outdoor soiree.
If, on the other hand, there is no occasion other than lunch with a friend or a stroll through the mall, embrace those fabrics that are comfortable and casual. With a maxi dress, you will still look put together and polished, but you will be ready for wherever the day takes you and not worried about staining or wrinkling a touchier fabric blend.