How to Wear This Summer’s Enormous Dress

Back and bigger than ever, a statement frock can rock

Annabelle Wallis wears Rebecca. Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Dresses for spring? As Miranda Priestly would say, “Ground-breaking.”

Yes, wearing a dress on a balmy day is about as obvious as donning a tweed blazer come fall. But for the last few seasons, matching pieces have dominated street style seeing fixtures like Taylor Tomasi Hill, Leandra Medine and Chiara Ferragni out and about in voluminous blouses, bright suiting or crisp white button downs tucked just-so into ballooning pants or skirts. To wear a dress seemed almost outdated, with zero bonus points earned in our era of more-is-more styling. However, the dress has reinvented itself this season as the antidote to such overly-fussy separates but take note, oversizing, bright colors and big details are key to this new look. Done right, bold frocks feel feminine, easy and effortless, invoking a new vision of sultry summer dressing.

Lisa Aiken is quite excited about the new statement dress. As the retail fashion director at Net-a-Porter, she’s betting big on the category, which is heading in a few different directions this season. According to Ms. Aiken, the modern dress falls into two distinct categories. There are pieces that feature bold pigments and vivid palettes, such as styles by Prada, J.W Anderson and Balenciaga, whereas others by designers like Chloe, newcomer Ulla Johnson and Zimmermann are embracing a softer Bohemian approach. “Both trends channeled a very refreshing and contemporary take on dresses,” Ms. Aiken said. “Details such as cut outs, exposed shoulders and ruffles were common across the runway and definitely excited me the most.”

Borgo De Nor. Photo: Courtesy of the brand

Silhouettes continue to evolve as well. In terms of length, the fashion world is moving towards the midi as a modern, less conservative alternative to the maxi dress that reveals the slimmest part of the leg.  “We are also seeing asymmetrical hemlines as a softer and easier alternative to the midi and maxi length,” Ms. Aiken said. “It is a flattering and playful cut and great for the woman who doesn’t want to show too much skin.”

Net-A-Porter recently launched the London-based dress label Borgo de Nor by Carmen Borgonovo and Joana de Noronha. It’s a free spirited collection inspired by strong women and surrealist artists, Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo. Borgo de Nor typifies the type of vivid styles Ms. Aiken referenced as evidenced through powerful combinations of emerald green and pinks with pops of navy, or bold reds with fuchsia floral motifs. They are versatile, happy and easy to wear for a day at the beach or while running errands in the city. “There is nothing more exciting that slipping into a colorful dress in a beautiful print you love, it can completely transform your mood,” Ms. Borgonovo said. “Its a great time in fashion currently, in which color and print are at the forefront and women are embracing it.”

Bowerbird dress. Photo: Courtesy of Zimmerman

At the other end of the dress trend is Zimmermann, the Australian label founded by sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann. Its M.O. is breezy, feminine pieces that season after season channel the inner romantic in all women. While soft florals, lace and ruffle detailing has remained a part of the core collections, Zimmermann continues to evolve by modernizing the idea of femininity, whether that means a flowing maxi-dress or a minimalist slip style. “The essence of the brand has always been about femininity, freshness and optimism,” Nicky said. “As a designer who grew up and lives in Sydney, I’ve always created collections against a backdrop of that lifestyle, and it’s definitely shaped how we think about dressing.”

With so many beautiful styles to choose from, women today have multiple options for whichever dress trend they pursue. The only challenge, it seems, is honing in on exactly which dress will become their new seasonal staple. “Women are looking for things that are special, that have a point of difference,” Ms. Zimmermann said. “It may be a small detail or a bigger statement, but something that sets that dress apart.”