It’s time for May’s Signature Style with Cindy. This month we are talking about dresses. I am sharing the dresses I wear over and over and my favorite casual chic dress brands. Cindy is doing wedding dressing ideas and looks. We both are doing posts readers have requested!
You know how I feel about buying less and better? Well this post is all about those dresses that are the workhorses of your closet. You should have some great go-to dresses for the warmer months that are easy to throw on, feel great and give you a polished look with little effort.
The dresses that I reach for over and over again, are nicer pieces that last for years. These are dresses I can fancy up or dress down and that can work for days, nights and holidays away.
Some of my favorite dress brands:
A So Cal based brand, Jenni has simple, classics that embody the easy California lifestyle. The Leopard T-Shirt Dress is a top seller and a bit pricey, but I have had mine for almost three years and still adore it and it has many years to go! It’s made of a viscose that skims the body and feels great on. I wear it with jackets in colder months and slides and my hair up in summer.
Five ways I have worn this dress..
This leopard fabric also comes in a slip dress that can be layered with a sweater or jacket. Their new linen T-Shirt dress in black, is another classic that will be great for travel and they also have jersey version.
All the great dresses at Jenni Kayne here.
I love Rails, a California company and have followed them as they have expanded. I love visiting them at the new Palo Alto and also SF Hayes Valley branch. They also can be found in many department stores. I have four of their dresses- all which are very easy and I wore a ton last summer. The cotton ones usually have a built-in bottom slip that makes them a breeze to just throw on and go. The dresses are normal lengths and sizing despite online pics of super short dresses ( so annoying, I mean why?)
The Tara is an easy dress for everyday and a lovely go-to on hot summer days with a pair of flip flops and a straw bag! I bought the black as I thought it could work for travel and dinners out too..
I also love the Jasmine, which I have in white.. Now comes in a lot of pretty options and this is a good one for evenings and the transition seasons. This floral version left is on my want list.. (Notice the difference in lengths vs. the online pics?) I am 5’4 and these models must be 5’11.
I also have the Zana dress in the ditzy floral.. I loved the striped Inez dress which I tried on, but didn’t buy.. These dresses are light and easy to wear.
My most worn dress of theirs is probably the Angelina Dress. This was my summer number one.. So light and easy and casual.. Last time I wore it at Filoli with a white denim jacket. (If you need a white denim jacket a cute one here and here.)
I take medium in all their dresses. Similar styles in a longer lengths are the Amelia, the Constantine Dress, and the Kiki Dress.
I also like new Nadia dress a flattering tie front look that in come in a blue stripe poplin, white and this pretty flax gauze…More of their new season here.
Frank & Eileen
Named for the founder’s Irish grandparents, Frank & Eileen began in 2009 in an effort to create beautiful shirts for women. It has remained a 100% ethical and sustainable brand as it has grown- with clothes being manufactured in California and Italy. All of the fabric is sourced down to the orgins and the company is also 100% women owned and run.
They make a small collection, but what they have is lovely. The shirt dresses have a cult following and I have the Mary Dress in distressed vintage wash, but it comes in eleven more shades and washes! I wear this dress so much in spring and summer with a pair of slides and a straw bag. It isn’t tight, but it also isn’t frumpy and is on the shorter side. This dress has little folds that give it lived-in look, doesn’t wrinkle and is a packing dream. ( My little bag here.)
They have the same style in a long Rory dress which I would love to own. They have denim, linen and voile versions and many solids and fun prints.. SO cute worn with pants too..
They also have the Nicole dress in jersey cotton or a fleece that would be perfect for casual days, beach trips and just about anything..
Faherty is another American brand that I adore. The fabrics and quality are excellent.
I have this Gemina stripe dress and love it. They have a version of mine here and it also comes in a floral and a pretty blue. This dress is flattering. Here I dressed it up with some pearls on a cord and a sandals for a summer day in Santa Cruz.. ( Similar pearl necklace here.)
Their Isha Dress has been a perennial number one best seller for them and is a summer classic..and I want one! Maybe this summer. ….This dress also comes in a midi length now too.. Their new Dream Dress , on right, is also a beauty and would be so right for California in summertime!
Another with well made dresses is Tory Burch. I love her T-shirt dresses and bought this one a few years ago. I see they brought it back in a darker color. I always get compliments on this. I think her clothes are made to flatter and are under the radar gems.
All Tory Burch T-shirt dresses here. There are some very cool ones right now…more online.
I hope this got you thinking more about what sort of dresses might be great addition to your closet and that you can wear for years and make getting dressed easier! Please share below if you have favorite dress brands that you rely on. I’d love to know.
If you missed April’s Signature Style, it was about resort dressing, and what you need for a getaway or vacation trip! I shared cute dresses, outfit ideas and packing tips.
Now stop by Cindy’s blog to see what she is sharing. This month she has wedding dressing and tips and ideas. I am sure many of you have events coming up this summer…
Thanks for being here!
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Kathy Perdue says
Great post Kim. You’re definitely our quintessential California girl. You always look so put together and comfortable. I love to hear why you love certain brands too. These are my favorite kind of post.
Aw gosh thank you Kathy! From one California gal to another.. We love our casual looks don’t we? xoxo
Leslie Toms says
Great article and a lot of preparation put into it. I just purchased a Rails dress at Loop in Sonoma last week. I had never tried that company before. It’s just a little black dress that I can also wear as a tunic. And has a tie about empire height that can also be worn across the back. I will definitely wear it with a little jacket or sweater as I’m now over 70 and a lot has changed! But i agree with you that dresses are so easy and when it’s really hot, like it can be in Sacramento, a dress is a fabulous option. Thanks for your great post!
Hi Leslie! Love that you found that Rails dress at Loop. It sounds like a perfect little dress! I know dresses are just so great for those warm days and in Sacramento I know you get that. Thanks for the note! x
Francesca B says
Thank you Kim for a wonderful post. I love all the brands you mentioned and l found out a Faherty store is close by so that’s a bonus !
Dawn Ross says
Oh what a great list of dresses!! I’m glad you added in some longer ones too. You know I prefer midi or maxi! And so funny about the length on you vs the Amazon size models! Love all
Thanks Dawn. Yes so may fans of the midi and longer dress and so I added them! I agree we all know what works. I am shorter so sometimes the shorter is better on me.. I wish I could wear the tie waist looks. I am short waisted and that never works for me, and the long ones tend to be a more defined waist. xo
La Contessa says
In my opinion, the cap sleeve is not your best look.
No sleeve is fine but the caps sleeve. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t care for it on you. I’m just being honest I think it accentuates your bust line? Which should be a good thing I guess but it’s just not my favorite I like you in sleeveless or long sleeves is my very favorite. You are so lucky you can wear the short dresses and still LOOK like a 20 year old.!!
I realize they must be very comfortable, so to hell with what I think! Do as your heart desires!
Agree true as the cap sleeve ends at the bust which is the widest part of the body and makes it look bigger.. I wish I wasn’t busty as nothing looks sleek. That said, sometimes I just don’t care. I usually don’t wear short sleeve t-shirts, but did like this one dress.
I always admire your style so much. You know what suits you and you wear it well. You have rounded up some great dresses. I really like Rails too. I wish Tory Burch wouldn’t put her initials on everything. I love so much of what she does. You look so great in short dresses. You are lucky!!
Cindy, you know I love all you do and feel lucky to do this with you! Agree and I think she has taken notice and taken her initials off a lot. All her new bags and shoes have hardly any markings. They should be able to stand own their own without the logo. I wish I could wear a defined waist one like you can! xx
Kim … I love all these dresses. Classics. That and quality never goes out of style. Rails is a fairly new obsession of mine and you look so cute in their above-the-knee dresses. I prefer their longer versions and love that they offer both. Your Jenni Kayne t-shirt dress has been on my radar for some time … I love the JK aesthetic. The clothes are so well made and are true work horses. Love this post so much … you’ve offered up so many great tips and inspiration. As always! xo
Rails …It’s just really good isn’t it? I don’t think the website shows the items off as well as they are in person. Oh Jenni Kayne.. wish I could afford to live in the catalog ! 😀 xoxo
Jane P says
Disagree with contessa. That look creates a vee and makes the waist look slimmer. Boo boo couldn’t find the vertical blue stripe one available now. I’m new to your emails and love what you post.
Jane, you are so kind. Thank you. Is the dress the sleeveless one I am wearing with the white jacket or is it the one with the slight sleeve and flounce at bottom? I may have another source for you.. Let me check.
Jane P says
Thank you Kim. Just enlarged the photo and I was misreading the color of the Gemini dress. I thought it was light blue, not a black strip. Looks great on you. We have similar body shapes and why I started following you. Smiles, JP
Jane, I agree it was hard to see the color! Well, I think they might get more of this dress in other patterns for summer.. I’ll share if they do! Oh so nice I hope my posts are helpful! xo
You are blessed with beautifully shaped legs and have such a youthful face I like you very much in dresses. Not everyone is comfortable wearing short dresses but you pull the look off so well.
Thanks for modeling.
Katherine thank you.. They are aging for sure! I can’t wear a lot of cinched waist looks, so this is what flatters for a short waisted short person! LOL. xo
Kim, I love your fashion posts! You know what you like, what looks good on you and always look classic and beautiful! I am a dress girl, they are my favorite summer outfit. I cannot wait to check out some of these brands, I am not familiar with California brands.
Have a wonderful day, I will see you on Saturday!
Elizabeth, Thanks! You always find pretty dresses for your blog. Yes we are lucky to have some great California brands!
See you on the Weekend post! xx
Karen L. says
What wonderful information on summer dresses! You look positively adorable modeling them. Thank you for introducing me to Faherty. I absolutely love the Rails dresses. I’ve never been to my closest Rails store in Newport- now you’ve inspired me to go. Great job on your blog!
Karen, Thanks so much. Yes Faherty is awesome. Beautiful pieces and collectible! Good idea to check out the Rails shops. They are a lot of fun and you can get a better sense of how things really look! Much better than on these models.
Suzanne Bell says
Great round up of dresses Kim, you definitely have curated what works best for your body and lifestyle. Im on the hunt for a few new dresses myself, must be the year of the dress – they are so easy, just one and done – love that!
Suzanne you always have great dresses too! I agree one and done is the best and the year of the dress- love it. xo
Mary Ann Pickett says
So many good choices, Kim!!! I want them all!
Thanks Mary Ann! x
All such lovely choices, most a bit pricey for me. You look great in short dresses, you have those perfect tennis toned legs! I have plenty to choose from in my closet already, short and long, but still waiting for the weather to warm up. I love that tie front dress but need to find a more affordable version!
Thanks Heidi, I know a lot of the F&E and Jenni are on the pricier side. I also have looked and found Jenni pieces on Nordstrom Rack and Poshmark. I just was trying to share some things that will last and look good for a while.
The tie front dress by Rails is really cute. I love that too. No doubt there night be similar styles coming up! I’ll keep my eye out for them.
Martha Foss says
I am short waisted too, so I find a lot of things don’t work like I wish they would!! You look very cute in these dresses. I love dresses for summer. They are so easy.
Martha, Isn’t it hard to find things that flatter when you are short waisted? I never thought too much about until I got older, and to be honest, my bustling migrated south! That does not work with high wasted pants or dresses with a very defined waist..
I do love dresses and wish I could wear them more . You always look cute on your getaways! xo
Hi Kim, you look so chic in these dresses! How I envy you being able to wear a short length. I’m definitely in my midi to maxi phase of life (or legs), but I do like a shorter shirt dress worn as a topper once in a while.
I’m trying to be more mindful of buying fewer and buying better; that said, I checked out the F&E Rory dress and noticed that the plaid version on the model doesn’t have the pattern matched on the side seams, which would drive me crazy if I spent $300+ on a dress.
Anyway, loved your and Cindy’s ideas this month!
Sarah, You are kind. I should wear more long dresses and I like the straight ones like this shirt dress. I am going to look at that pattern.Yes for $300, I would expect that the pattern is matching and perfect! I will investigate more and good catching that.. The reviews seem to be good. I loved the quality of mine, but it was denim!
Thanks so much Sarah.
Hi Kim, I’m behind in responding because I’m traveling and haven’t had good internet. I’ve finally been able to read your most recent posts and love this one on dresses. As you may know, I’m more of a slacks person but the styles you show make me think that maybe with tan legs, I could get away with some of these styles if they aren’t too short. I also appreciate that you are promoting CA designers. I’ll try to make to a place with some good shopping options soon. Thanks for a fun round up of options.
HI Wren! No worries I hope you’ve been having a great time. I know I think slacks are always what we default to. It took me a bit to get into dresses and now for the warmer months, I know of love the ease. I know love these California designers..Rails, Jenni Kayne, and F&E.
Hope we get warm weather soon!
Great post Kim, highlighting such a gorgeous selection of dresses … and you look really lovely in all of yours. You certainly rock an over the knee dress! I’m about the same height as you ( but somewhat chunkier atm 😂) and I tend to go for midi or maxi length.
I do have a couple of over the knee for by the beach or the pool. I wish more cotton dresses , especially white ones would have a half cotton slip layer attached as so many are too see through to wear without a slip and would be perfect if lined.
I bought a couple of shirt dresses last year that work for pretty much all occasions … dressed up or down, depending on accessories. They make life so much easier, especially when travelling, with minimal time to get ready for dinner lol
Rosemary, thanks I love the longer shirt dresses ! They are so good for travel and by the pool and just easy right?
Yes more companies should put in the half slips. I hate having to add another layer when I just want something light on.
You should give tips on travel you probably have some smart packing ideas!~
Great post, Kim! You always look so casually chic. I will definitely be referring back to this post as I shop for summer!