A maxi dress is a great choice for summer. In this article let’s see how to wear a maxi dress. I will also highlight some of the best maxi dresses online now.

What is a maxi dress?

Well, this may seem like an obvious question, but what is the definition of a maxi dress? Well, generally, a maxi dress is a floor, or ankle, length dress. Any shorter and it would be a midi dress.

Easy to throw on, a maxi dress can exude elegance while still being the ultimate in casual wear. Plus, a maxi dress, unlike any other length, means you don’t have to shave your legs!

How to wear a maxi dress

A maxi dress is a fabulous option for summer but you need to know how to wear it. A maxi dress can end up overpowering you, so the right proportions are key.

Things to keep in mind when you’re wearing a maxi dress

Georgette in a tiered green maxi dress outfit | 40plusstyle.com

Pay attention to proportions

Be aware of the length of your legs and torso and adjust accordingly. While a floor-skimming maxi dress can be fabulous, you don’t want it so long that it is actually brushing the floor and you are tripping over.

Make sure that the dress is not wide all over

Although a wide, loose style can work for some women, for others the volume will be overpowering.

Make sure there is structure in your look

Emphasizing the waist is usually a very effective way to add structure. This tip goes as well when you are wearing a midi dress.

Georgette (above) looks stunning in her emerald green, tiered maxi dress which is cinched at the waist.

Check out this similar dress, sandals, handbag and earrings.

Layer with a short jacket

This is a great way to add structure too. You can opt for a jacket that ends at your waist (for a 1/4 – 3/4 silhouette that makes your legs look extra long). A longer jacket will work too which creates the usually very flattering 1/3 – 2/3 silhouette.

Take advantage of asymmetry and high-low effects

These usually help to make your maxi dress more flattering as they break up the large volume and create flattering vertical lines.

If you prefer a slightly shorter syle, you can read our article on the best midi dresses for women over 40.

12 of the best maxi dresses in stores now

Now that you’re thinking about how to wear your maxi dress, below are the maxi dresses and skirts I love in stores now. I tend to find maxi dresses difficult to wear, but these dresses could definitely tempt me to try this hem length again.

As I’m updating this for summer, I’ve concentrated on pieces you would wear during the warmer months, or for a staycation, a vacation, or just for a barbecue or picnic in your garden.

But there are also some beautiful pieces here that you could take into fall or winter by wearing with boots and a moto jacket, depending on what the weather is like where you are.

1. Long shirt dress

I couldn’t resist included this bright, colorful shirt dress from All Things Mochi, which not only features beautiful rainbow hues, but is made from 100% silk.

The design is inspired by the Pahiyas festival, which is inspired by an event dubbed the most colorful in the Philippines.

All Things Mochi rainbow stripe maxi shirtdress | 40plusstyle.com

All Things Mochi rainbow stripe maxi shirtdress

2. Maxi dress with sleeves

Sarah wearing a romantic-style pink maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

It can be difficult to find maxi dresses which have sleeves if you prefer to cover-up your upper arms.

But, a shirt style could be a good option. Choose a vibrant color to add some cheer to your summer. Or you could choose pretty pastels.

Sarah (above) opts for a romantic feel with her maxi dress, which features an empire waistline and bell sleeves.

She is wearing a dress from ASOS. Here is another option you can try from H&M and wear with this similar handbag and slides.

VERO MODA boho long sleeve maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

VERO MODA boho long sleeve maxi dress

Also check out this article on the best dresses with sleeves.

3. Floral maxi dress

Helen wearing a floral maxi dress with red accessories | 40plusstyle.com

A floral maxi dress is definitely a classic look for summer. But, you can also easily wear with a moto jacket for fall.

Helen (above) chooses a soft palette and adds pops of red with her shoes and clutch bag.

Recreate her look with this similar maxi dress and sandals.

A floral maxi dress by Eliza J | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J floral print halter maxi dress

4. Printed maxi dress

A maxi dress is often the perfect vehicle for adding some prints to your outfit. You could opt for a floral dress as above, or choose a more graphic print such as this dress below from Eliza J.

Eliza J front knot jersey maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J front knot jersey maxi dress

5. Two tone maxi dress

Another option is to choose a maxi dress which looks like a top and skirt such as the Zattcas tank dress below, which comes in 16 different colors and patterns.

Zattcas tank maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Zattcas tank maxi dress

6. Silk maxi dress

Another silk option for you! If you’ve read my article on why I have problem wearing synthetic materials, you will know how much I love natural fabrics.

I think the Equipment dress (below) would look beautiful worn either with red accessories or with gold shoes. Plus, when I checked it had 60% off, making it a bargain buy!

Equipment subtle snake print silk shirtdress | 40plusstyle.com

Equipment subtle snake print silk shirtdress

7. Stripe maxi dress

If you’re aiming to look taller and slimmer (not that you need to, of course!), I can think of few more options which would be more effective than this striped maxi (below) from Club Monaco.

Club Monaco stripe silk maxi shirt | 40plusstyle.com

Club Monaco stripe silk maxi shirt

8. V-neck maxi dress

Sam in a polka dot maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

A V-neck tends to be a flattering option for most women, whether you are choosing a top or a dress.

Sam (above) chooses a retro style polka dot dress and teams with shoes to match the dots.

Steal her look with this similar maxi dress and pumps.

A floral v-neck maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

OUGES v-neck pattern maxi dress

9. White maxi dress

When you think of a long white dress, you probably think of a wedding dress. But, I think a white maxi dress can look beautiful for summer and beyond.

I’d opt for a more casual style like this chic beach dress which you could team with metallic sandals and wear as a swimsuit cover-up for summer. 

a white maxi dress to wear as a beach cover-up | 40plusstyle.com

Marks & Spencer maxi beach dress

10. Black maxi dress

Suzie wearing a black maxi dress with a white floral print | 40plusstyle.com

Just as the little black dress is a classic, so to is a black maxi dress.

You could wear a black maxi dress with pretty much anything, whether you choose to team it with a denim jacket for casual days, or dress it up with statement jewelry and heels.

Suzie (above) opts for delicate florals and shows off her fantastic legs with the side slit in her ruched maxi.

She is wearing a black printed maxi dress from Banana Republic and sandals from Vince Camuto. Check out this similar handbag from Amazon to complete her look.

Loveappella v-neck jersey maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Loveappella v-neck jersey maxi dress

11. Red maxi dress

Lizzi wearing an animal print halter neck maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

A red dress always creates impact and a red maxi dress will definitely get you noticed. I would just add a statement necklace and sandals for summer.

Lizzi (above) opts for a halterneck style, which would be particularly flattering if you have an inverted triangle figure.

Check out this similar halter dress, slides and handbag.

Loveappella maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Loveappella maxi dress

12. Navy maxi dress

Equally as classic as the black dress, is the navy maxi. Navy can be more flattering than black on your skintone and is just as versatile.

Navy maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Zattcas crossover maxi dress

Maxi skirts

Of course, if you are opting for a floor-sweeping look, you could also think about a maxi skirt rather than a maxi dress.

A great way to wear your maxi skirt is to style with a simple tank or white shirt and let your maxi skirt be the focal point of your outfit, or to wear with a more casual t-shirt to mix up your style.

wearing a maxi skirt with a slogan t-shirt | 40plusstyle.com

Abi (above) wears a slogan t-shirt and Converse with her floral skirt. However, her skirt is super versatile as it could also be worn with a silk top and heels for a more formal event.

Check out this similar tee, maxi skirt, sneakers and handbag.

Below are more stylish maxi skirts you may like to consider:

Socialite maxi skirt | 40plusstyle.com

Socialite maxi skirt

AFRM plissé pleat maxi skirt | 40plusstyle.com

AFRM plissé pleat maxi skirt

Band of Gypsies maxi wrap skirt | 40plusstyle.com

Band of Gypsies maxi wrap skirt

Catalog Classics boho skirt | 40plusstyle.com

Catalog Classics boho skirt

URBAN K maxi skirt | 40plusstyle.com

URBAN K maxi skirt

What to wear with your summer maxi dresses

wearing a blue maxi dress with summer accessories | 40plusstyle.com

I think a maxi dress makes a stunning statement on its own.

It’s easy to wear yet makes an impact. But, you may well want to add other pieces to your maxi dress either because it is cooler in the evenings during summer, or you want your maxi dress to have seasonal longevity so you can wear it in fall too.

By adding the right accessories, you can take your maxi dress from day to night. Plus, unless you are walking barefoot on the beach, you will definitely need some shoe options for your maxi dress.

Jas (above) opts for a perfect summer look with her metallic sandals and rattan bag, teamed with a floral maxi in a stunning shade of cobalt blue.

Steal her look with this similar dress, sandals, clutch and earrings.

How to wear a maxi dress with Coats, jackets and cardigans

striped maxi dress and blazer | 40plusstyle.com

You may wish to have an outer layer to go with your maxi dress or skirt – either because the weather cools down in the evening on your vacation, because you are wearing your maxi dress as a transitional layer, or because you prefer to cover your arms.

I think that a jacket or cardigan which ends at waist level or slightly above looks best. Otherwise, you can end up feeling lost in fabric if you have a long dress and also a long jacket. However, this can work if you belt over the top of your cardigan or jacket.

You could opt for a cropped cardigan or denim jacket to add some warmth on vacation evenings.

Or, you could add a moto jacket to take your maxi skirt or dress from summer to fall.

Abi (above) adds a fitted blazer over her printed maxi dress.

Get her look with this similar dress, blazer and sneakers.

outerwear to wear with a maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

BLANKNYC faux leather jacket1901 denim jacketJastie open stitch cardigan Boden cardigan

Shoes to wear with maxi dresses

Tanasha wears a black maxi dress with tan accessories | 40plusstyle.com

I always think that open-toe sandals or shoes work best with maxi dresses. A closed toe ballet pump or heeled pump just doesn’t look right with the informal sweep of a maxi dress.

But, I also think booties look great for fall and winter (either closed or open toe depending on how cold it is), as well as knee-length or over-the-knee boots.

That way, you can get much more use out of your maxi skirts and dresses.

Tanasha (above) chooses lovely tan shoes and accessories with her print maxi.

Get her dress from Old Navy and pair it with this similar sandals, handbag and belt.

shoes for maxi dresses | 40plusstyle.com

Tory Burch flip flopsMarc Fisher LTD sandalSöfft wedge sandalBueno cutout peep toe bootie

Accessories to go with your maxi dress

Karen wears a moto jacket with an animal print maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Unless you are opting for a formal ballgown in a maxi length, a maxi dress tends to have a casual air of easy style. I would make sure that your accessories and handbags have the same kind of feel.

So, instead of structured tote bags, you could think about natural materials such as rattan, softer shapes and tassels.

For your jewelry, I would keep that I-haven’t-tried-to-hard vibe by opting for long pendant necklaces, and drop or hoop earrings. Maxi dresses can particularly lend themselves to your outfits if you have a bohemian style personality.

I think maxi skirts and dresses can also have a Grecian feel about them, so you could also go down this route and choose a stack of bracelets or cuff bangles.

You could also add a scarf. Although, I’d make sure it isn’t too long as you will end up swamped in material.

Karen (above) shows how you can style a maxi dress when the weather starts to cool down.

Check out this similar maxi dress, moto jacket, sneakers, crossbody bag and belt.

Maxi dresses accessories | 40plusstyle.com

Rag & Bone hoboO’Neil straw clutchNordstrom straw circle cluthSan Diego Hat XL brim sun hatArgento Vivo hoop earringsCanvas Jewelry statement earringsKendra Scott drop earringsGucci gradient cat eye sunglasses

Here is the complete capsule wardrobe with 9 looks using the pieces I featured above

maxi dress capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

More maxi dress inspiration

Below, you will find a previous maxi dress capsule. While these dresses are from a previous season, you can see you can create a truly timeless look with a maxi dress which you can wear for years to come.

maxi dress capsule wardrobe | 40plusstyle.com

More tips on how to wear a maxi dress

1. Keep it simple

As your maxi dress is a dramatic, flowing piece, you can afford to keep the rest of your look simple. A simple pair of sandals and a rattan bag is a perfect vacation look.

2. Don’t put your maxi dresses away for winter and fall

While maxi dresses are usually thought of as easy, breezy, floaty pieces to wear for summer, they can also make great transitional pieces. You can add a turtleneck sweater underneath, a moto jacket and a pair of booties, knee or over-the-knee boots.

3. You don’t have to choose patterns

If, like me, you tend to opt for block colors rather than patterns, a maxi dress can still be a stylish option. You could opt for a stylish one-color shirt or wrap dress, or a long tunic, which you could belt to add shape.

4. Don’t forget about your body shape

Choose a dress to suit your body shape. For example, if you are an hourglass, you will look best in a style which either comes in at the waist or which you can tie. If you are an apple, you might want to choose an empire style. Try on a number of different styles to see what works best for you.

5. Pay attention to the length

Either go for a floor-length dress (making sure it’s not so long that you trip over it!) or make sure that your dress hits at the slimmest part of your legs as that will be most flattering.

Maxi skirt and dress inspiration from 40+ women

Suzanne really knows how to rock both maxi dresses and a maxi skirt. She looks truly amazing on all of these images (below).

Suzanne wearing a printed maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com
Suzanne wearing a metallic maxi skirt | 40plusstyle.com
Suzanne wearing a floral maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Ana writes that she finds the maxi dress the easiest item to wear of all clothes – just one item and throw it on! Great look!

Ana looking gorgeous in a printed maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Lorraine (below) is looking glorious in her two colorful creations that she combines with short cardigans.

Here is what Loraine had to say about her dresses: “I have maxi dresses which I wear on holiday abroad but it’s not something I have worn during the day in the UK. However, I like the feeling of the fabric around my legs so I might give it a try.” I think she should; she looks magnificent in these dresses.

Lorraine looking fabulous in a blue flower maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com
Lorraine wearing a colorful long maxi dress | 40plusstyle.com

Do you wear maxi dresses or skirts? How do you style yours? Which of the above looks is your favorite?

Continue reading:

  1. The Midi Dress Is Back And We Show You The Best Midi Dresses For Women Over 40
  2. Best Wrap Dress Styles For Women Over 40 – How To Wear A Wrap Dress
  3. A Capsule Wardrobe For The Bohemian Style Personality
How to wear maxi dresses | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Tanasha

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