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summer fashion

Southern Summer Dresses: Chambray, Seersucker, Gingham and Eyelet

  |   By Holly Jackson

While parts of the country still have cold snaps, we’ve hit full summer here in the South.

It’s the sleepiest time of the year, even in a permanently tourist filled city like New Orleans. Temperatures and humidity creep up until it feels like a sauna outside, with the only relief being the near daily rainstorms that come through without any predictability. Memorial Day traditionally is the date when locals break out their hot weather fashion survival fabrics: chambray, seersucker, gingham and eyelet.

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Traditional Southern materials now show up at every national retailer and many international ones. The Senate even has an official Seersucker Day every June! If you don’t live here and see others wear these fabrics like denim, it’s easy to feel that they’re fussy and hard to incorporate into your summer wardrobe. Yes, you can wear these summer dresses with heels and pearls, but you certainly don’t have to.

Today I’m going to take you through some of my favorite summer dresses that work in New Orleans or New York. And I’ll pass out some tips on how to wear them without looking like you’re trying to reenact A Streetcar Named Desire.

Chambray:

Chambray is the denim of southern summers. It’s the same color and look, but a much lighter fabric with tons of natural breathability. It’s often used for summer dresses as they tend to be much cooler than pants, but you can find it employed in shorts and blouses as well.

Hottie Mini Dress by Trashy Diva

summer dresses

Hottie Mini Dress
Available in Sizes 2 – 22
via Trashy Diva

We’ll start local, with Trashy Diva’s amazingly versatile and useful chambray collection. You’ll see these pieces all over the city once the heat hits here! The Hottie Mini Dress is adorable, comfortable to wear and works with everything from heels to sneakers. You can also dress it up with colorful belts and shoes to change the look dramatically.

Cotton Fit & Flare Dress by Eliza J:

summer dresses

Eliza J Cotton Fit & Flare Dress
Available in Sizes 8 – 16
via Nordstrom

Chambray doesn’t have to be just denim-lite. I love the use of it for the stripes in this dress, which is a great summer fashion alternative to black and white stripes. It’s easy and breezy, which makes it perfect for everything from a day at the park to a fancy brunch.

Lace Up Bodice Off the Shoulder Dress by Eloquii:

summer dresses

Lace Up Bodice Dress
Available in Sizes 14 – 28
via Eloquii

The boho look is popular everywhere, but you don’t see it as much in plus-sizes. This dress is flattering, fun and has gorgeously draped sleeves that add serious drama to a laid back dress shape.

Gingham:

Gingham, like seersucker, comes in pretty much every color of the rainbow. While I don’t always agree with tradition, I do tend to gravitate to the traditional red gingham when I buy it. It has a nice retro look and matches easily with nearly everything. While you can go full pinup with gingham, you can also wear it with Keds and your favorite band t-shirt.

Dottie Dress by Trashy Diva:

summer dresses

Dottie Dress
Available in Sizes 2 – 20
via Trashy Diva

If you do want to channel your pinup side, you really can’t go wrong with this classic vintage replica from Trashy Diva. You can theme it up or tone it down, but either way, it will look classic and chic.

Belted Gingham Dress by J Crew:

summer dresses

Belted Gingham Dress
Available in Sizes 000 – 16
via J Crew

Gingham can also transform into something sleek and modern with the right cut and color. This black and white gingham sheath dress is equally ready for the office or a night out, which makes it a summer closet staple.

Seersucker:

When the heat rises, try seersucker. This classic summer all cotton fabric is woven in a way that gives the fabric a rough and wrinkled appearance. Due to its texture, the fabric pulls away from the body for extra breathability. It also comes in endless colors, is easily washable and doesn’t wrinkle even if you leave it in a laundry basket for a month.

Stripe Swing Sundress in Seersucker by ASOS Curve:

summer dresses

ASOS CURVE Stripe Swing Sundress
Available in Sizes 12 – 24
via ASOS

This relaxed sundress is the epitome of summer. It would look great with sandals or sneakers and a statement purse for hot summer days! For cooler evenings, just slip a denim jacket over it and head out to your backyard barbecue.

The Carolina Dress by Jolie and Elizabeth:

summer dresses

Carolina Dress
Available in Sizes XS – XL
via Jolie and Elizabeth

Jolie and Elizabeth, another New Orleans company, not only designs their pieces locally but also manufactures them within the city. They’re the picture perfect example of Southern girl chic, as you can see from this impeccably cut seersucker sundress. Dress it up with pink shoes, pearls and a giant hat for a special occasion.

Eyelet:

Eyelet is traditionally white to help keep you cool but comes in other fashion forward colors too. Lots of eyelet fabrics can look a little fussy, so it’s good to combine it with some other funkier elements to keep it feeling fresh and modern.

Eyelet Getaway A-Line Dress in Peacock by Modcloth:

summer dresses

Eyelet Getaway A-Line Dress
Available in Sizes S – 4X
via Modcloth

This jade eyelet dress is bold and unexpected but still sweetened up with the eyelet hem cutouts. The fit and flare style works well with jackets, sweaters, and blazers to change up the look.

A-Line Lace Dress by Adrianna Papell:

summer dresses

Adrianna Papell A-Line Lace Dress
Available in Sizes 14W – 24W
via Nordstrom

This white dress is traditional but is a great option for more formal events or celebratory occasions. I love the mix of dotted and floral laces in this dress!

Ruffle Eyelet Dress by J Crew:

summer dresses

Ruffle Eyelet Dress
Available in 000 – 16
via J Crew

This bright orange eyelet dress is right on trend for summer. The ruffled neckline is extra fashionable right now, while the classic shape looks great on anyone.

Which of these Southern fabrics or summer dresses would you wear?

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Holly lives in an old house in New Orleans with her husband, two dogs and far too many bras. By day she runs The Full Figured Chest, the preeminent lingerie copywriting and marketing firm in the industry. She is the number one recommended copywriter by The Lingerie Journal and her blog was recently featured in Lucky Magazine as one of the top three lingerie blogs online.
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