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By Katy Caric
A dress is a marvellous thing. It’s easy to wear – you needn’t worry about matching tops and bottoms, or sometimes, even underwear – and easy to accessorise: hoop earrings, a great bag and sandals are all you need.
A summer dress is also versatile; casual enough for daytime, light and comfortable enough for the heat, and cute enough to make you feel beautiful, even when you can barely keep your head up for the heat.
But…how much are you willing to spend? On the one hand, summer dresses can be worn year after year without looking dated. On the other hand, depending on where you live, you may only have a few months of weather good enough to allow you to rock your look.
Here, I’ve rounded up some of the cutest ethical dresses for summer – and there’s something for you, no matter what your budget.
Easy, breezy, ethical, Holland Street. This dress is perfect for summer in so many ways. It’s ethically crafted in London and a part of Holland Street’s newest collection of dresses. The fabric is silk crepe de chine, the pattern has horizontal stripes that are perfectly engineered to flatter that summer figure. It might not be what you typically picture as a sundress, but it’s the perfect dress to take out in the sun.
Price: Around $325
2. Canyon Dress
Made from pure linen by Reformation, this summer dress is a classic! It’s got a smocked bodice, vintage inspired tie-up straps and in our opinion, the hem sits at a flattering length for anyone at any age or height. It also comes in three colours: white, black or grey!
Price: Around $190
I love this dress because it reminds me of a Vogue photoshoot, circa 1970. You can almost imagine yourself lounging on handmade rugs in an exotic place (I’m thinking: Morocco), smoking a hookah or something. The tangerine colour is gorgeous, and the off-the-shoulder diagonal cut just highlights the retro beauty of the left sleeve all the more.
Price: Around $300
This is such an easy dress to wear! Throw it on with nothing underneath when the heat’s unbearable, or toss a sweater over it when nights are chilly. Dress it up with heels, or dress it down with sandals. Constructed from organic cotton, it’s got adjustable straps to fit almost any size or shape.
Price: Around $120
LemLem was started when model-turned-designer Liya Kebede started chatting with weavers in her native Ethiopia about the decline of their craft. She founded LemLem as a way to preserve the weaving techniques, create opportunities for local artisans, and reintroduce the world to the beauty of Ethiopian cotton. We’re in love with all of her designs, especially this creatively frilled, strappy sundress with woven zigzags.
Price: Around $450
Organic fabrics, U.S. production with fair wage employees, soft pastel shades, airy floating style. What’s not to love about Loup Charmant? Their clothes are timeless and so are their sundresses. My pick from their amazing selection is this fabulously frilled dress. Its flattering fit will be highlighted with the addition of some simple, sexy, slingback heels, and the right basket bag.
Price: Around $300
Based in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, St. Roche was founded by a husband and wife team who are committed to responsible, sustainable luxury design, as seen in this beautifully but subtly detailed Gabriella dress. The gauzy, lacy, frilly details are truly mini works of art!
Price: Around $340
On a tight budget? You’ll love this Pia dress by People Tree! Its relaxed, bohemian feel reminds us of hot beach holidays in naturally beautiful surroundings. Cut from a breezy organic cotton, it has wide sleeves and folkloric florals embroidered across the neckline.
Price: Around $80
This tangy yellow frock is so light and feminine! It’s a lovely wrap dress with tie sleeve detail and side pockets, a fitted bodice and full skirt and ruffle hem. Available from Reve en Vert, i’s made in surplus lemon-coloured linen, saving the fabric from landfills.
Price: Around $375
Can’t decide whether you like florals or solid colours in a summer dress? The Rosehip model by Reformation comes in mix of 10 colours and textures: choose from minimalistic hues like this grey example, or select the same dress is a sassy lavender, pink, yellow or white floral. We love the straight cut bust line and delicate spaghetti straps.
Price: Around $250
We’re still not sure what to think of H&M’s Conscious Collections: greenwashing by a major fashion brand, or a chance for those on a budget to enjoy some sustainable luxury? In any case, there’s no denying this recycled polyester maxi dress is gorgeous! It opens up at the back with concealed press-studs and gathers at the waist with a drawstring that ties at the sides. It’s great for summer in the city – you can even wear it to work, throw on some heels, and go out for cocktails that evening.
Ready to splurge? This stunning, handmade off-the-shoulder Zeus+Dione dress is full of texture and style. The label Zeus + Dione is a celebration of Greek culture, mythology, and craftsmanship. All their collections focus on aspects of ancient Greek culture and everything – from the fabric weaving to the handwoven knitting – is made ethically by skilled artisans throughout Greece.
Price: Around $900
Made from recycled jersey fabric, this sweet little dress comes in four colours and styles. Great for using as a bathing suit cover up, or just hanging around the city on a Sunday.
Main image: Reformation