Conflicting definitions of the sundress have dominated Internet fashion discussions: is it supposed to be flowy? Form-fitting? Short? Maxi length? We’re going to cover well-loved definitions of The Sundress, where to find each kind, and brief distinctions between the types of sundresses. (Personally, we think The Sundress refers to the “milkmaid dress”—but we’ll let you decide. Let us know what you think.)

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The Milkmaid 

A tight corset area, a mid-length flowy skirt, a floral pattern: we all know and love the milkmaid dress. It usually has billowy sleeves, chest support—so no bra needed—and is more comfortable than other types of dresses. It’s flowy and flattering in all the right places, and it’s the ideal summer dress. Usually, it’s made of a lightweight material, which makes for that simultaneously comfortable and flattering appeal. What a rare combination!

Urban Outfitters Kimchi Blue Suki Midi Dress

A majority of milkmaid dresses have a delicate feminine print, although some are solid colors. This playful femininity enhances the allure of the milkmaid, especially in light of TikTok’s discourse about The Perfect Sundress. The milkmaid dress is the outfit.

The Maxi Dress

It’s been in the trend cycle in other years, but is making a comeback via sundress: the maxi dress. Think Skims’ Maxi Dress: a taught, flattering, uniformly-colored dress that can be dressed up or down. It’s a wardrobe staple, regardless of the popularity of the “sundress” right now. (Seriously, what are you waiting for? Show off that hot bod!)

Maxi dresses might not be as comfortable or movement-friendly as the milkmaid or other breathable options. But, because it can be dressed up or down, it’s always a fantastic choice for a day-to-night option. Plus, it’s a more timeless staple piece, and one that’ll withstand the trend cycle. No need to scramble next summer when looking for the It Girl’s Dress; you’ll already have it in your wardrobe.

Oh Polly Ainslee Square Neck Midi Dress

If you’re not into the Skims-esque kind of maxi dress, you can also opt for a flowier option. These are the quintessential Vacation Dresses: the kind you wear to a seafood dinner after a day on the beach—it has to be airy, semi-formal, and won’t irritate your sunburn. Here’s one of our favorites from Free People:

One Ciela Printed Maxi Dress

Ruffle Beach Dress

Ruffles, tassels, and anything extra is in for Summer ‘24. The ruffle beach dress—light, airy, comfortable, and adorned with tiered tassels—is the perfect trendy option for your sundress summer. It can be casual, like a beach coverup, or it can be worn for a nice dinner. Accessories and context bring this dress together. Plus, the swooping feminine length, ornate details, and unique flair add a sense of intentionality to the outfit, even if you’re going for a more casual look. 

V-Neck Tiered Midi Dress

Lulus’s tiered midi-dress is the perfect combination of class and trend, and their sultry selection of color options is guaranteed to turn heads. 

The Floral Dress

Arguably, any floral dress can count as a sundress. If it’s strappy, floral, reminiscent of girlhood—it’s probably a sundress. Floral dresses are always in—especially for spring and summertime—and are a nostalgic nod towards the rompers and dresses of girlhood. While this isn’t as much of a fit or style of sundress, it still deserves some love. We can all appreciate the revered—if not THE—original print of sundress. One of our favorites is Francesca’s Megan floral tie A line mini dress, although Francesca’s always has the best selection of floral dresses. 

Megan Floral Tie Front Mini Dress

The Babydoll

This is a shorter, frillier play on the milkmaid dress. It’s reminiscent of the Y2K trend that we’ve been seeing—baby tees, short shorts, halter tops, toying around with lengths and superimposing patterns—and is projected to be hot this summer. Babydoll dresses are marked by their short and billowy skirts, playful straps (like bows or tie straps), and unique bodices. Usually, babydolls will have bows or decorative buttons near their necklines—some kind of Y2K, coquette frill. 

Delightfully Dainty Pink Tie-Strap Babydoll Dress

Lulus’s babydoll dress selection is top notch: they are girly, practical, and won’t break the bank. 

The On-the-Move Sundress: The Romper

Although they have hit peak trendiness in previous years, the cyclical nature of trends means that rompers are back in. Plus, rompers facilitate ease of movement and are a bit more practical than the other dresses we’ve covered. Think dressy loungewear or an elevated flavor of athleisure, but super cute! Check out Pink Lily’s “Wishful Thinking” romper:

Wishful Thinking Romper

Embrace your sundress self this summer! There are so many different options, colors, styles, fits, and prints that you’re bound to find a sundress you love.

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