Bold & Beautiful: Florida Sundresses

by Jillian Pierce

S ince the 1940s, the sundress been a quintessential staple of Florida fashion. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact definition of what categorizes a sundress, suffice to say it’s a flirty, versatile dress that is worn in warm weather. Sundresses are usually strapless or have spaghetti straps and are made of lightweight, airy material that flares out at the waist. In some places, you can only wear sundresses for a few months during the spring and summer, but insundress the Sunshine State, girls and women of all ages can wear them all year-long!

A sundress is an effortless and classic choice when hitting the beach or the pool, but add a pashmina shawl, chandelier earrings and strappy sandals with kitten heels, and it’s instantly appropriate for dinner on a balmy evening. You can’t go wrong with a white, knee-length cotton dress with eyelet detailing or a full skirt. Wear with t-strap or gladiator sandals and an armful of bangles to run errands or catch a movie and add a demure cardigan and flats for work. Just throw on a sundress with a pair of wellies and grab a cute umbrella to add a ray of sunshine to a not-so-sunny day. Invest in dresses by labels with staying power like Ann Taylor, J.Crew and Banana Republic or visit thrift and consignment shops to find vintage sundresses (along with plenty of complementary accessories, like bug-eye sunglasses, beaded necklaces and chunky wood bracelets) for a look that’s completely unique. Other accessories that give off a summery vibe include espadrilles, floppy hats and straw bags.

Through the years, sundresses have stayed a hot trend, literally! Thanks to style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, women in the mid-50s began buying patterns and making their own inspired and unique sundresses. Today, starlets like Sienna Miller, Penelope Cruz and Rachel Bilson have been photographed wearing sundresses while running errands and it’s thanks to them that many mainstream retailers like Forever 21 and American Eagle are now carrying them

Arguably, the sundress has changed little since it first appeared on the fashion scene decades ago. While vintage finds are still wearable today, there have been a few changes to the modern sundress. Traditionally, the sundress has been covered in floral patterns or pastel prints, but today, designers like Diane Von Furstenburg, Betsey Johnson and Florida-native Lily Pulitzer are often touted for using bold patterns. Other differences betsundressween past generations of sundress and today’s sundresses include shorter hemlines, beaded embellishments, louder colors and new materials, like Juicy Couture’s use of terry cloth. Though shorter dresses have become the norm, maxi dresses have come back with a vengeance these past few seasons. These floor-length beauties are essentially long, billowy versions of the sundress and can be worn in just about the same fashion. Modest floral maxi dresses were spotted on the runway for many designers’ resort collections and will continue to be a popular Florida wardrobe staple. 

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