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How to wear a black maxi dress in summer

How to Wear a Black Maxi Dress in Summer

Happy Monday!

It’s cold and cloudy here, but it’s officially MAY and that means hot weather is going to happen ANY day. (Right? 👀) In preparation for the inevitable BEAUTIFUL weather we’re about to enjoy for the next several months, today I’m styling a new-to-me wardrobe staple–the black maxi–several different ways. The maxi is great because it’s breezy, it’s versatile, and best of all–you don’t have to worry about it catching a gust of wind and giving everyone around you a show! (Also great for mom life, bending over chasing kids!)

Whether you’re wearing it now (when its still a bit chilly) or late in the summer (when its hot and humid) I’ve got lots of tricks up my sleeve to show you how this can easily become your go-to dress for all occasions this summer.

(Also, if maxi dresses aren’t your thing–don’t worry, all of these tips work with midi dresses, too!)

How to wear a black maxi dress in the summer

First, some tips that may help you when styling your maxi…

Consider going with a relaxed fit. 

A relaxed fit black maxi (like the one I’m wearing here) works great for spring and summer! The long length combined with the baggier fit will keep you comfortable and cool. All while leaving enough room for any warm weather activity. Whether you’re taking a walk on the beach, shopping at the farmers market, or traveling the country, a relaxed fit black maxi dress will be flattering, functional, and fashionable. 

Don’t be afraid to show some skin. 

Black fabric can get hot, so to wear a black maxi dress in summer (and keep your cool!) don’t be afraid to show some skin. Not just short sleeves or open-toed shoes, but feel free to experiment with slits in the skirt (like this one from Old Navy or this one from Quince), cut-outs (like this option from Madewell), strapless or spaghetti strap dresses love this one from Gap! Exposed skin keeps you cool and helps break up all that dark color! Unless it’s a lightweight fabric, I also typically will stay away from long sleeves just because of the heat factor and sometimes TOO much black can look a bit winter formal.

Opt for breezy, light fabric.

I love to wear cotton, linen, gauze, rayon and jersey in summer, because they’re easy to wear and allow for a lot of airflow! Since you’ll probably be pretty active (it is summer, after all!) in your summer black maxi outfit, don’t settle for any heavy, uncomfortable fabrics!

Wear a sticky bra, petal bra, or no bra!

Knowing what bra to wear with your black maxi can be a little challenging when you’re dealing with sleeveless dresses or square necklines. I like a sticky bra, or petals (I like this set from Amazon that includes both!) and will often try to get away without wearing one at all! If you need more support, my friend Shaheen raves about this strapless bra for bustier gals!

Use accessories to elevate it in addition to layers. 

I love to layer on a denim jacket, cardigan, or moto jacket when I’m wearing a black maxi dress if there’s a chill in the air–all accomplish very different looks! One is perfect for a picnic, another adds polish for work, and the latter can edge it up to make it perfect for a concert. But that’s not the only way to add personality to your black maxi look. If the temperature is sky high, no one wants the extra weight! To elevate your black maxi summer outfit on a hot day, experiment with summery accessories like a silk scarf, a straw hat, strappy sandals, belt bags, and sunglasses.

How to Wear a Black Maxi Dress in Summer

What I love about this maxi:

I bought this maxi off of Shaheen’s recommendation before our Florida trip and it was the perfect vacation staple! Personally, I love the relaxed fit, it’s breezy to keep you cool on hot days, and an easy thing to chase a toddler in because it’s long enough to give me enough coverage to bend over and chase her around (even when the wind picks up!) I love the tiered design! I wear it with this sticky bra or petals. Depending on your comfort level, you could easily get away without a bra too!

The price point: Right now, it’s only $40–so that’s a steal IMO!

Sizing: Runs roomy, I’m wearing my regular size small, but probably could’ve gotten away with an XS because it’s a bit roomy in the chest. I would not size down if you typically need room in the chest. (I’m 5’6 for length reference.)

Tips For Styling Maxi Dresses in Summer

How to Style Maxi Dresses in Summer

Amazon black maxi, Birkenstocks, Claire V Grande Fanny with a removable strap, Ray Ban sunnies

Pair it with neutral accessories. 

One way you can style your black maxi for summer is by pairing it with neutral accessories that fit the season. For this look, I went with Birkenstocks, sunglasses, and a rattan fanny. The natural shades paired with the black make it elevated and beachy for the perfect vacation maxi dress outfit. I also often get asked for good “mom outfit” inspo and I’ve never seen a better mom outfit than this one!

How to Style Maxi Dresses

Amazon black maxi, Freda Salvador Eda sneakers (reviewed here), Rey to Z hat, Claire V moyen messenger (gifted) with strap

Keep it casual with a ballcap and white sneakers. 

For this next look, I assembled a practical maxi dress look that’s perfect for a busy day of errands, socializing, or family fun. I paired the maxi dress with a ballcap and my woven Clare V Moyen messenger bag (if you need to carry more stuff than the fanny pack from the last look.) For shoes, I went for my favorite white sneakers that are equal parts dressed down and dressed up. (This is also an excellent mom uniform!)

How to Wear a Black Maxi Dress in Summer

Amazon black maxi, Freda Salvador Eda sneakers (reviewed here), Rey to Z hat, Sezane sweatshirt (TTS, sized up to M), ABLE Karla belt bag (use code JESSMOM25 to get 25% off during their mothers day sale! All other times can use code JESSKEYS15 for 15% off!)

Add a graphic pullover and belt bag. 

For this maxi dress outfit, I pulled on a graphic sweater shirt and tucked it into a black belt bag. (The belt bag is essential to keep your waist defined and outfit elevated.) It turns the dress into a skirt, which makes it even more cozy and casual. I kept the ballcap and white sneakers for this lowkey black maxi summer outfit.

how to dress up a summer maxi

Amazon black maxi, Quince cashmere boyfriend sweater (reviewed here), cap toe heels, Sezane Artemis belt

Zshush it up with heels, a belt, and a cardigan for a polished look

Okay, we’ve talked about casual looks, but what about for the office? It’s easy to think this breezy cotton maxi is only for outside of work, but with the right accessories, it can be perfect for a 9-5 setting. Define your waist with a waist belt (which adds polish and makes it less casual) add cap toe heels, and then layer on a cardigan to both cover your shoulders and protect against that icy summery AC. I went all black with my look, but you could also mix it up with a patterned belt—for example, if you love leopard print, a leopard print belt is an easy way to incorporate a pattern!

how to dress up a summer maxi dress

ABLE Bailey denim jacket: use code JESSMOM25 to get 25% off during their mothers day sale! All other times can use code JESSKEYS15 for 15% off! ( jacket reviewed here), Amazon heels, old J.Crew earrings (love these though!), Sezane Artemis belt

Wear it with a denim jacket. 

This final look could seamlessly go from day to night. I kept the waist belt but went with neutral strappy sandals and a denim jacket. I love a denim jacket with a maxi—either white, blue, black, or even a faded black would work great here! For the final touch, pick some fun statement earrings.

Other great black maxi’s catching my eye right now:

Hill house Ellie nap dress in black cotton:

I own this dress in 3 different colorways and I never get sick of them. They’re just so great–I have had to restrain myself from buying any more. If you’re looking for a black dress you will wear 24/7–this is it! (Okay technically it might be more of a midi maxi but, don’t knock me for that.) I love the cotton versions–they’re light as air and due to the smocking, I don’t need a bra–so I truly live in them in the summer–both around the house and out and about! They look so cute with sneakers, sandals, heeled sandals–everything.

Sizing: it runs big–I wear XS!

Abercrombie puff sleeve plunge maxi:

I own this in the blue and white pattern but it also comes in black–the puff sleeves are so fun. You can see it reviewed in this post! Sizing: true to size.

Kindred Bravely maternity/postpartum stretchy maxi:

I LOVED this dress when I was pregnant, and it’s not ruched so it doesn’t look like maternity and you can wear it postpartum, too! (Many of you bought it and were it all the time–and you aren’t even pregnant! 😂) TTS, buy your current size and no need to size up for a bump–it’s SUPER stretchy! I also have a similar stretchy version from Amazon!

Quince tencel tank maxi dress:

I don’t own this personally but it has five star reviews and the $39 price point is tough to beat! I love the playful slit of this dress and it will go with everything from sneakers to heels. This would be an excellent bet for a vacation dress because you can wear it day to night with no need to change from a day of exploring to dinner!

Reformation black maxi dress:

I absolutely love Reformation dresses–it seems like no matter what you’re looking for, they have a fantastic version of it. This black dress is no different. I love the square neckline, the fitted bodice and fuller skirt and teeny tiny spaghetti straps–a little bit sexy, super comfy, and easy to dress up or down. It’s made of lyocell with a hint of spandex so it’s stretchy but still super breathable. The design is versatile in that you can dress it up with heels for a summer wedding, zshush it up for a date with heels and a Moto jacket, or dress it down with sneakers or birks and a jean jacket. A fantastic investment.

Now you see…the right black maxi can be styled perfectly for summer!

I hope you now feel confident enough to wear your own black maxi outfit this summer. For more style tips, check out the style section of my blog. There, you can assemble a whole wardrobe of trendy summer looks.

Shop these black maxis and more: