If you struggle to think of a maxi dress without envisioning post Simple Life Nicole Richie walking along a beach, well you’re not the only one. The maxi dress may be synonymous with the 70s boho aesthetic, but there’s much more to it than floppy hats and Stevie Nicks’ tribute acts. Not that we don’t adore a sheer ethereal floor-length number, we do. We just think the maxi is way more versatile than it’s given credit for. So we’ve created a bit of an ultimate guide to the maxi dress *without* resorting to the default bohemian styling.
First off, let’s take a look at how the maxi dress has risen, fallen, and risen again over the last 50 years.
What is a maxi dress (vs. a midi dress)?
The maxi dress sits at the ankle or runs on to the floor, while a midi dress is defined as a dress that falls below the knee but above the ankle. Seems obvious we know, but the line between a midi dress and a maxi dress is a fine one, so the two are often confused.
The illustrated differences between maxi dresses and midi dresses:
Timeline of the maxi dress:
Types of maxi dresses
There’s something about a full length dress that can feel a bit daunting. “I’m 5’3. A maxi dress would drown me!” “I have big boobs, I’d look frumpy” “I never really dress up. I wouldn’t be comfortable” That’s just a sample of the pushback we hear. But the maxi dress has an answer for every hesitation. Maxi dresses are great for bigger busts, particularly a wrap design because you can adjust it to control the level of cleavage you want to show. Light materials are key when choosing Petite maxi dresses. Too many layers can have a bit of a drowning effect but you only have to look at 5ft nothing Nicole Richie to see that height is no obstacle, and can actually make you look taller. True, maxi dresses typically lend themselves to more fancy affairs, but there are so many trainer-friendly options around this season, even hardened jeans-only types could stand to be converted.
There are four main types of maxi dresses:
- Long Sleeve Maxi Dresses – Bra-friendly, no jacket required, wear all year round!
- Bodycon Maxi Dresses – Dressy enough for fancy events, effortlessly feminine (when you wanna be), as extra as you are
- Plunge Maxi Dresses – Excuse to go bra free,shows off that décolletage, sexy in an effortless way
- Sleeveless Long Maxi Dresses – Good option for petites, easy breezy, shows off your guns!
What shoes to wear with a maxi dress?
Deciding what shoes to wear with a maxi can be tricky. However, a barely there strappy sandal with a single strap is always a winner. If you want the dress to stand out and elongate your legs, we’d recommend for going for a minimal heel, something that’s not going to distract from your dress. Avoid lace-up heels, or anything on the busy side if you want to keep it sleek and classic. If you’re wearing a more casual maxi, crisp white trainers are a great accompaniment. Going for more of a beachy vibe? You can’t go too wrong with a flat sandal. We love these glitter sliders from Linzi. If in doubt, a neutral stiletto will never let you down. You might not see your shoes too much in a maxi dress, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
Styling a maxi dress for any occasion
Occasion dresses to wear to a wedding
Maxi dresses have a way of making an entrance, which makes them an excellent choice for all impending nuptials.
Ocassion dresses to wear to the races
Want to win that “best dressed” prize at the races you pretend you don’t care about? We’d recommend opting for a brightly coloured maxi dress like this one. It’s practically in the bag.
Lightweight dresses to wear on holiday
White maxi dresses are ideal vacation companions. And they’re also great when layered with an oversized biker jacket throughout the colder months. Smart investment.
Casual dresses to wear over the weekend
A maxi that actually looks better with flats? Yes please. A strong printed maxi with slider sandals is an outfit recipe you can repeat all summer long.