The Best Summer Party Dresses For Every Possible Occasion
From showers for a friend of a friend to dancing all night.
You’re currently in the midst of peak party season. At this point, you’ve likely been inundated with the most impressive recipes to serve when entertaining and already perused the Instagram-vetted lists of buzzy bars for an unforgettable girls’ nights out. Oh, and you couldn’t have missed all that discourse on the drink of summer 2022: Are you team Dirty Shirley, or do you prefer the forever-classic Aperol Spritz? What you may not be familiar with, however, are summer 2022’s party dress trends. Unlike last year’s — which were a maximalist free-for-all as people reveled in the privilege of being out of the house — this season’s leading styles are a bit more niche and specific.
To start, global shopping service Klarna shares with TZR that its users are gravitating toward the Night Luxe trend, an after-hours party aesthetic that originated on TikTok (surprise, surprise) and borrows from a flashy Roaring Twenties spirit. With 46 million views on TikTok (and growing), the #NightLuxe aesthetic manifests in high-shine embellishments, sultry silhouettes, and opulent textures. In contrast to the Clean Girl, who opts for green juice and goes to bed early in order to make her 8 a.m. Pilates class the next morning, this woman orders an extra gin martini and sleeps in until she’s rested enough to do it all again the following evening.
If you don’t see yourself participating in the ostentatious Night Luxe lifestyle, consider styles that present as more subtle statements — like a breezy maxi gown in a classic floral print or an LBD with one or two choice cutouts. Above all else, though, Diego Abba, CEO of italist, an online luxury fashion retailer that offers items at Italian retail price points, advises that the trend you try should resonate with you personally. “To find a great summer party ensemble, start by picking a dress in a color that brings you joy and flatters your skin tone,” he shares with TZR over email. To add to your own individualistic touch, pair [the dress] with “accessories that feature similar materials, colors, or textures.” He suggests slides and a raffia crossbody bag for a more casual soiree. But if the event calls for heels, a pair of summery platform espadrilles sandals are always a safe bet.
Scroll onward for a more comprehensive breakdown of the party dresses you should consider wearing to your summer festivities, ranging from casual cocktails with a close-knit group to a formal wedding shower.
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A Pool Party Where The Rosé Is Flowing
The most quintessential summer festivity of them all might just be a pool party. Given the laidback nature of the event, Abba says a luxurious caftan in a joyful print is the ideal look. “Nothing says summer like cheerful prints and breezy cuts of Emilio Pucci. Once known as the prince of prints, his dresses are made for sun-filled days and balmy evenings inside or outside,” says Abba. “And if swimming is involved, Missoni is a great option for breathable, elegant cover-ups.”
As for styling a pool party-proof caftan? The chief executive of the luxury fashion platform recommends an embellished pair of flats. Oh, and: “You may need a hat to keep the sun off too.”
Scratch Typical Date Night — Let’s Go Dancing
Think beyond your usual date night activity of having dinner and a single glass of pinot at your neighborhood spot, heading home to watch that new Netflix movie, and falling asleep on the couch at 9 p.m. Consider injecting a party spirit into you and your partner’s romantic evenings by going dancing instead (insert the red-dress-woman emoji here). Perhaps that means finally taking those salsa lessons you two have talked about for years or hitting up the dance floor at that new bar you’ve been hearing chatter about on Insta.
When shopping for date nights filled with shimmying and twirling, dresses with movement-friendly details are key — trendy fringe, flouncing feathers, or voluminous silhouettes, for instance. In particular, ShopStyle, a digital shopping marketplace, shares with TZR that its users are especially seeking out dresses with fringe (searches are up +37%) and puff sleeves (+51%).
You’re Exhausted — But Have To Network At Happy Hour
It’s 5:30 p.m., and you’re wiped. All you want to do is crack open the organic orange wine chilling in your fridge and press play on your comfort reality show. But your co-workers are chatting about post-office drinks, and you have to go. Perhaps it’s your favorite co-worker’s last day or the only chance you might have to rub elbows with your boss’ boss — it’s a happy hour with prime networking opportunities that you really can’t miss.
As for what to wear, consider a minimal slip dress teamed with a blazer for a polished ensemble that expertly toes the line between professionalism and party-ready. Abba also recommends a button-down shirt dress, saying, “styles from the likes of Ganni and Max Mara, in particular, have been popular, with the versatility of moving from day to night and traveling with ease.”
In actuality, the Night Luxe aesthetic is quite simple to achieve — opt for a dress that replicates the effect of a disco ball or one that’s classic and comfortable enough to dance the night away in. In particular, Klarna’s data demonstrates sequin, rhinestone, and chainmail dresses are all charged with trending momentum. Style whichever dress you choose with the leftover glittery eye makeup from the night before and a pair of sky-high pumps.
A Shower Of Some Sort For An Acquaintance
When invited to an event celebrating someone you only tangentially know (perhaps a long-lost college friend or a third cousin, once removed), opt for a dress that’ll serve as an ice breaker. A style in a bold print or one that boasts eye-catching details will capture the attention of other attendees, effectively giving you a conversational “in.”
“If the occasion is something that requires a look that is more appropriate — like a wedding shower — I usually reach for the Lenny dress in a fun print like our paisley border,” says Julia Brown, co-founder of Cara Cara. “I will throw on Valentino’s rock-stud sandals, my jewelry, and that’s about it,” she offers for styling the smocked mini dress.
Pop-Up Garden Party In The Park
Sometimes a dress is so fabulous that it’s worth planning a party in its honor. If you have a dress you bought eons ago that’s gathering dust in your closet, invite your friends to the park for a pop-up garden party as an opportunity to finally wear it out of the house. The same goes for that particularly stunning gown you stumbled on while traversing an online retailer and have been flirting with ever since — create a reason to press “buy” by scheduling a get-together with your friends.
“This summer, we’ve seen growing sales of maxi dresses in colorful patterns and prints — a blend of comfort and statement style,” italist’s Abba says when discussing the leading trends amongst just-because numbers. He also shouts out lace dresses, which Klarna corroborates by sharing that its 2022 data reflects a 2008% increase in sales for styles adorned with the delicate fabric.
Gatherings with close friends are sartorial safe spaces, making them the perfect opportunity to test-drive more experimental looks. Have you been eyeing dresses with body-flossing cutout straps, but have not yet mustered up the courage to try one? (Shopstyle shares with TR it has observed a 43% increase in search queries for cutout dresses, by the way.) An evening sipping dirty martinis with your nearest and dearest is the time to give the trending style a chance.
Or what about a ‘naked’ dress, either done in see-through mesh fabrications or a netted macramé fabric? In particular, Abba shares that the latter style is experiencing a notable boost as of late, saying, “knit and crochet dresses are definitely having a moment — a nod to ‘60s and ‘70s styles and classic feminine details.” Simply put, they’re “textural, breathable, and fun!”
Flee The Country & Celebrate
Whether you need to skedaddle out of the country for a much-needed change in scenery due to recent news or have an international wedding to attend, a newfound celebratory dress is warranted. Cara Cara’s Brown recommends investing in a timeless style with an Italian Rivera feel — “something [you] envision Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) would wear in The Talented Mr Ripley!”
Try a strapless dress — a style which Klarna observed a 65% increase in purchases, by the way — or a tiered maxi gown that will flow effortlessly in the ocean breeze.