3 easy ways to style a breezy maxi dress

I’m not usually a dress wearer, but after so many of you have requested them, I decided to try this tiered maxi dress as an experiment. The verdict? It’s a keeper!

Susan B. wears a white linen shirt tied over a tiered maxi dress, with shoulder bag and platform sneakers.

I ordered this sleeveless cotton maxi dress while researching this post on wearable summer maxi dresses. I’m quite short (5’1″) and this was one of the few styles I found that was offered in Petite sizes (also in Plus and Tall). I’m wearing Petite Small. Other colors offered are a rose stripe and black.

The color is really more in the Autumn palette than Spring, but it’s close enough to some of the colors in my palette that it works. It’s also a bit more Bohemian than my usual style, but again, I can make it work with what I already own. (“Tools, not rules,” is how I treat any style guidelines.)

How to wear a maxi dress: 3 outfit ideas

Susan B. wears a tiered maxi dress with a white linen shirt and platform sneakers.

dress | shirt (similar) | bracelet | bag | shoes

Here I’ve styled for a day of sightseeing. Tying the linen shirt at the waist corrals some of the volume of the dress, and keeps sun off shoulders, neck and arms. (I’ve had this Eileen Fisher linen shirt for several years; here’s the current version.)

Susan B. wears a summer hat, tiered orange maxi dress, linen cardigan, and flat slide sandals.

Next up, a simple look for a backyard birthday party, casual brunch, or outdoor concert. The hat provides some sun protection, and flat sandals are easy to walk in on grass or other uneven surfaces.

How to wear a maxi dress: Susan B. wears a sun hat, tiered maxi dress, linen cardigan and flat braided strap sandals.

hat | earrings (similar) | cardigan | dress | sandals

I’ve styled all three of these looks with some arm coverage, as many of you have mentioned you prefer it. Here, I’ve used a lightweight linen cardigan, which can be tied over the shoulders during the day, and worn in the evening if it cools off. Here’s another option for a lightweight cardigan that would work with a maxi dress.

Susan B. wears a tiered tie-dye maxi dress, layered gold necklaces, a sheer wrap, and gold sandals.

Finally, here’s a look you could wear to a casual outdoor wedding, or cocktails and dinner on the terrace. Here, a sheer silk-blend wrap can provide some arm coverage if needed. Gold sandals and layered gold and pearl necklaces dress up the look a bit.

Susan B. wears an orange tiered maxi dress, sheer shawl wrap, gold and pearl layered necklaces, gold braided leather sandals.

dress | wrap | necklace | necklace | sandals

In all three of these outfits, I’ve let the dress be the focal point, and kept the rest of the accessories minimal so as not to overwhelm my petite frame. With a simpler dress, I might go bolder with and let the accessories do the heavy lifting.

Here are a few more midi and maxi dresses, both with and without sleeves:

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  1. This is a departure in style for you, but I love it. I wore a similarly coloured maxi for my son’s wedding. I think I veer towards the autumn palette. Maxi dresses are so cool, easy and comfortable to wear. I don’t comment much , but I very much appreciate all your work, style tips and advice. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Vicki! It is quite a departure, but something I could see myself wearing on occasion.

  2. I have 3 midi/maxi dresses. One is a tee shirt maxi with a curved hem, love wearing it with flat sandals and bracelets. The second is white linen, button front and can be dressed up or down. Most recently I wore it unbelted, ponytail and taupe bucket hat, brown sandals. The last is a solid green wrap dress, tiered, but not voluminous, elbow length soft puffed sleeves, can also dress up or down, but mostly worn casually. Love wearing dresses as a change from pants/jeans.

  3. Your styling of the dress is spot on! NAND your hair is looking amazing! Are you enjoying the change! You are rocking it!

  4. Totally agree with you that the volume of the dress needs to be corralled, so the first look is the best of the three but could be improved by a sandal that has a bit of a heel. The others hide every aspect of your very cute figure and in my opinion do you no favors.

    1. Hi Anne, thanks for the feedback. When I styled these looks, I imagined how I might wear this dress on vacation. The first one was intended for a day of sightseeing on foot, say perhaps exploring Kew Gardens, or a chateaux in the Loire valley. As to the volume of the dress, style for me isn’t always (or usually) about showing my figure. Some people feel differently and that’s OK too.

      1. Thanks Susan for your comment and for your excellent blog. This would be fun to discuss! I certainly did not mean showing off your figure in some sort of lurid way. Rather, I was indicating that your more typical pants/blazers look does, in my opinion, show off your best features to very good effect. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  5. First off, you are one of my favorite bloggers. I love your jeans, blazer and solid color tee looks. These looks are such a change. I’m afraid I’m a no. I don’t see myself ever wearing sneakers with a dress either, but that’s just me.

    1. You’d be shocked if you ever went to London then. That is all, and I mean all, anyone wears with their dresses. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, or how dressy your dress is – trainers are worn with EVERYTHING.

  6. I hate sneakers with the huge thick soles, I wish that fad would go away soon.

    The dress is lovely, and looks great on you!

    1. This is not criticism in any way, just a different perspective:
      While I am not taking proper advantage of the sneaker w/cushy soles look, I really SHOULD BE bc fashion so rarely endorses true comfort, as it is doing with this look! And having always had truly difficult feet — bunions, high arches, and bony feet from both parents — almost no shoes except athletic shoes, are comfortable when you are on foot as a tourist or in a big, walkable city.

      It is extremely frustrating to see that, even in a more down-to-earth blog like Susan’s, I can’t wear the vast majority of the shoe styles shown and be able to walk more than from a parking lot into a restaurant and back…

  7. I love this departure!! You look lovely and I appreciate your willingness to go a little outside your comfort zone. Experimenting keeps things fun and interesting!

  8. I think the dress and styling of the dress are not in line with your gamine style personality. I know when I stray to far away from my style description (mine is five words that resonant with me) the pieces do not end up really being keepers. 🙂

  9. Yes, this is a departure from your typical looks, but i really like the different ways you’ve styled it. I’m mostly a pants and tops gal, too. But sometimes you find you need to wear a dress and it’s great to have some new ideas.The color is great on you!
    But WOW! Your hair looks fantastic ! New style and all grown out color. Did you add some highlights?

  10. What a pretty dress! It looks so cool and comfortable for summer. And thanks for the incredible compendium of dresses — definitely something for everyone. Thank you!

  11. The third option is the winner! Great colors on you and you look fabulous. Wear to all your summer events this year!

  12. Ooo, I LOVE that dress! Since I am an Autumn, I do gravitate toward this color! It looks wonderful with your skin tone. Love every way you styled it – and I think the second is my favorite. I don’t look great in hats, but this one is sweet with this look!
    I have a bit of a dress collection !
    Have a great weekend!
    jess xx

  13. So glad you ditched the jeans and went rogue. You made a somewhat frumpy dress ( just my opinion ) into a really fun multi use “workhorse”. I thought your styling ideas were so on point and you could see how this summery dress would flex if you took it traveling. Very fresh post.

  14. Lovely to see you in a dress (I love them, along with my jeans of course). I was a bit worried about the shoes in the first pic!! So glad that you went for a less clumpy sandle in the following photos. I still refuse to wear trainers or heavy shoes with my dresses, whatever the trend is.

  15. I love this! You look wonderful in this dress. I AM a bohemian dresser–and loves dresses–so happy you are showing us some of your picks in this category.