If the recent weather and our website traffic numbers are anything to go by, dress season is officially upon us. In fact, last week on Who What Wear UK, dress stories outperformed just about all other summer content (so sorry, sandals and swimwear). With summer dresses in such high demand, I thought I'd turn to a few experts to find out exactly which trends they foresee gaining popularity for the season ahead.
From Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix of Rixo to Han Chong of Self-Portrait, Charlotte de Geyter of Bernadette and Haeni Kim of Kitri, I asked the brains behind some of the most coveted contemporary brands (and one very cool rental platform) about the dress trends they'll be championing this summer. Unsurprisingly, many of the experts replied with very similar responses.
In a post-COVID world, many of us are looking for fashion that will put a smile on our faces, and this was a common thread throughout many of the quotes. Talks of joy, freedom, optimism and fun resounded throughout, and the concept of dressing up just because was also high on the list. In terms of tangible trends and takeaways, a few designers noted the prevalence of gingham this year, while others spoke to the popularity of bright colours and smile-inducing prints.
From Rixo to Sézane, Aligne to Ghost, keep scrolling for the dress trends fashion experts are excited about this season.
"Our sights are set on summer and the freedom it brings—this year more than ever! We are excited to see airier fabrics and lighter hues across a range of cuts and silhouettes: minis for fun daytime dressing and maxi shapes that promise easy glamour from day to night. After so many months of casual WFH dressing, now is the time to dress up, and we can't wait." — Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix, co-founders of Rixo
"This summer is all about comfort and joy! Coming out of the long lockdown and cold weather, we may not be quite ready to get into a tiny dress just yet and are leaning towards easy, breezy smock silhouettes in joyful colours and bold patterns. Gingham checks are still very popular in a whole array of different colours and scales, but we're also seeing it develop into more graphic checkerboard prints.
"Cottagecore is still a huge trend for us, this time with large collars finished with frills in vintage-inspired floral prints. Finally, artistic and graphic illustrations in the form of female nudes have been very popular so far." — Haeni Kim, founder of Kitri
"This summer is about appreciating everything so much more. Whether it's wearing linen dresses during the vacation you've been dreaming of or attending postponed celebrations where you'll want to show off by showing some skin, women will give in to the joy of wearing cheerful prints and bright colours. It's time to have some fun!" — Charlotte de Geyter, co-founder of Bernadette
"I've been noticing a real shift in what our customers are gravitating towards at the moment. They are buying colour, prints, and dresses that feel uplifting—both mini and long. I'm seeing that they're looking for a change in their wardrobe, and I think we're going to see a trend in feminine styles, shapes that make women feel like themselves again and pieces that reflect their emergence into the world." — Han Chong, founder and creative director of Self-Portrait
"For Sézane, we definitely think that long, flowy dresses will be a must-have for this summer. We want them colorful, with prints that make you travel instantly. If you prefer minidresses, we want to wear them as statement pieces with strong details like puff sleeves. It's perfect when worn with belts!" — Morgane Sezalory, founder of Sézane
"This summer, I think cut-out dresses will be everywhere, as people are excited to get back out into the world looking their best and showing a little extra skin—a departure from the loungewear we've been accustomed to! Gingham has really been trending this spring, perhaps due to all the time we've been spending on picnic rugs. I don't think it's going anywhere and predict gingham prints will be really popular this summer. It's a happy, easy print that everyone needs after the year we've had. It's also a print that's easy to wear for lots of different skin tones and shapes." — Stefania Vaidani, founder of Stefania Vaidani
"For summer, it would be the prairie look in washed cottons, linens and crêpes. Soft pastel colours in printed, ditsy florals and plain crêpes and easy button-through dresses." — Sameera Azeem, creative director at Ghost
"We've definitely seen a shift on-site at Endless Wardrobe for joyful dressing as restrictions have eased. Since March, our most popular styles have been the most colourful, including the House of Sunny knits and Olivia Rubin dresses. In fact, our most popular style over the past few months has been the Olivia Rubin Sadie Dress. For us, we think overdressing is no longer a problem. You can now dress up for the pub to the park, as we've been locked inside for so long waiting to dress up and feel good that anything goes this summer!" — Rosie Gunn and Hannah Johnston, co-founders of Endless Wardrobe
"We are coming out of a COVID coma, and I think it's time for optimism and to celebrate colour and change for the future by swapping out our sweatpants and neutral tones for colour and print to inspire a holiday or the thought of one." — Lesleigh Jermanus, founder of Alémais
"S/S 21 dresses are about optimism and looking ahead. The important trends will be exuberant colour, joyful prints and a sense of new beginnings. Fresh white midi dresses bring a feeling of wiping the slate clean, and our poplin Delaney dress is the perfect nod to this trend. It's roomy enough to wear on the hottest of days and has just the right amount of playfulness in the frills. Hot pink will be the go-to colour to see you through the summer. Our Carly tie-back dress hits all the right notes in its fuchsia tone and on-trend open back.'' — Dalbir Bains, founder of Aligne