How to Make a Casual Summer Dress Look Formal

How to Make a Casual Summer Dress Look Formal

It’s summertime and the perfect time to pull all of our favorite summer dresses out of the back of the closet. From daytime lounging to afternoon soirees, BBQs, and coffee dates, many of us like to simply live in our comfy summer dresses all season long. Flowy, fabulous, and comfortable, why would we want to wear anything else? Rather than having to abandon our comfy casual summer dress for nighttime engagements, you can learn how to dress it up to look formal enough to take you from the backyard to date night. With a few easy steps, your casual summer dress will be looking like it was made to be worn to a party.

A Pair of Heels

Take your favorite flowy midi dress from boho chic to formal with a pair of sleek heels. Heels will dress up just about any outfit, so find the pair that works for you and go with it. Often, a pair of heels is all you need to really upgrade your outfit from daytime casual to evening formal. If it’s a more professional event, choose a neutral pair of heels. For a cocktail party, choose something more dazzling and attention-grabbing. For dinner out, go for your favorite pair of heeled boots to make your casual summer dress more dinner-appropriate. Your choice of shoe will always change the entire feel of an outfit.

So take advantage of this and dress up your casual summer dress with an epic pair of high heels. Summertime also means it’s wedges season. So even if you’re not feeling your heels or you’re on your way to a garden party, slip into a pair of strappy wedges instead for a dressy yet still summery look.

Cinch the Waist

Make any looser-fitting dress more formal looking by cinching the waist to accentuate and elongate your shape. For example, a flowy maxi dress for women can be made elegant and goddess-like by simply using a high-quality belt to cinch the waist. Wear with a pair of heels and some jewelry and you’re good to go!

Opt for Neutrals

While bright colors and vibrant patterns are fun, neutrals err on the more formal side. When choosing what casual summer dress you want to dress up to look more formal, perhaps choose something a little more appropriate for nighttime. Choose colors such as blues, creams, whites, and sage for dressing up. Especially in the summer months, take advantage of the opportunity to wear lighter hues such as whites, creams, and beiges. And feel free to wear a black casual summer dress to a more formal event, as black is always a classic and elegant choice.

While solids are the more neutral choice, you can also wear more neutral and classic printed dresses. Choosing muted floral prints against white or black solids can also look dressier. Similarly, other classic prints such as stripes, gingham, and paisley can be dressed up well if they are relatively neutral and not too busy.

Rock a Blazer

One of the most reliable ways to dress up just about any outfit is to throw a blazer on. Even in the warmer summer months, the appropriate blazer can do wonders to take your casual summer dress from daywear into a more formal evening. Choose a fitted neutral tone blazer to wear over your women’s dress. For warmer summer months, choose lighter fabrics such as linen and cotton. Even the most casual of summer dresses will look dressier worn under a well-tailored and high-quality blazer.


Accessories are just one of those amazing things that can change an entire outfit. Dress up your casual beach dress with some statement jewelry and a bold lip for a more formal outfit that no one will ever guess you wore all day by the pool. The right statement jewelry can work wonders to dress up even the most casual of dresses. Another great accessory item is the perfect bag. Leave the shoulder tote at home and pull out your sleek clutch to make your casual dress more formal. Also, throw on a silk or lightweight cotton fashion scarf to add a dimension of formality to your casual dress.

You can’t help but want to wear summer dresses all summer long. Lucky for you—even if you receive that invite for the more formal cocktail party, you can still find foolproof ways to dress up your casual summer dresses. Use these tips to get creative and bring your daytime dress seamlessly into the evening.


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