Having a versatile closet is a wonderful goal. When pieces can traverse seasons and occasions, you feel like you could take them anywhere at any time and be confident that you will have something to wear. Having a dress or two (or three) that can move from summer to fall is a fantastic addition to any wardrobe. It may take a little planning, but finding the right one (or more) is worth it. Here are some elements to look for and dress recommendations for what kinds of dresses can take you from summer to fall.
First, let's address the style of the dress. More material, like long sleeves or a full-length skirt, usually means a warmer dress. Conversely, less material, like spaghetti straps and a shorter skirt, generally signifies a cooler dress. Now, the question becomes: how can you balance these elements so your ideal dress can work for both warmer weather and cooler weather?
Great question! As a rule, a combination is best, depending on you and what you like. Long sleeves fit really well with autumn, and if the material of the dress is thinner, like cotton, and it's a midi dress with a skirt that is short and breezy, you can totally wear it during cooler summer evenings! If longer skirts are your preference, go with a maxi dress with shorter sleeves. Counterbalance a tighter skirt, which tends to be warmer, with that cotton material.
If, on the other hand, you prefer one season's style over the other, that's fine! You can also use design elements to offset the downsides of your dress in the opposing season. If you are on the autumn side, opt for a loose long-sleeved dress so some airflow can cool you off in the summer sun, or choose a sleeve with a lace overlay. Take advantage of thinner chiffons, cotton blends, and even linen to counter the summer heat. If you overheat easily or just prefer the summer side, you are probably looking at a shorter skirt with a sleeveless or short-sleeved upper half like a shirt dress. If you can find one of these dresses in a heavier material, go for it. If it's a cotton dress, remember to layer up! Use women's cardigans in the evenings as it starts to cool down, then switch to sweaters or jackets. Add a women's hat or a cute beanie to keep your head warm and tights—woolen or regular—with boots for your legs, and you are autumn-ready!
Color is a major factor when moving between seasons. Darker autumn, with Halloween coming up and leaves falling all around, makes for a color palette that is a bit different from the lighter, beachy summer tones. Which colors could possibly work for both? The good news is there are some great options!
Red can be a great season-crosser as long as it isn't too light. Autumn, of course, is replete with reds, so it is an easy color to fit into that season. You just have to find a slightly brighter shade that will also work for summer. Try for something like a Hawaiian hibiscus red. Then throw on some black boots and a black women's hat, and you are ready for fall.
Another warm tone is yellow. A cute yellow sundress is great in the bright summer sun and, if it's dark enough with a bit of a mustard hue, can also function well in autumn. A darker green can also work for both seasons. Think a shadowy jungle green, and you should be on the right track. Navy blue is another excellent color, being a neutral tone, as it recalls the depths of the cool ocean and the dark of the evening sky. Another neutral is cream. With this, you have both an echo of a sandy beach and the bubbling foam of a warm cup of coffee.
You can also use a print to your advantage. Florals are very summery, but with the right color, they can also fit well with autumn. Think orange or yellow flowers, like sunflowers or black-eyed Susans, on a cream background or small creamy flowers on a navy dress. If florals feel a little informal to you, you can also use lace to create the impression of flowers while still retaining an elegant design. Maybe get one of each! Your dress should be nice and cool in the summer, then be able to switch its atmosphere with the simple addition of a black or dark brown hat and shoes.
Now that you know what to look for, figure out what sort of dress style you like, then bring along a classic fall cardigan and summery sandals to compare the dresses you find with the two seasons.