Need a showstopping party dress for the festive season? Or maybe you’re after a casual frock that can be fancy with the right accessories. Either way, we have you covered.
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Festive season is upon us and with it comes the need for a perfect party dress. Whether you’re looking for a cocktail dress to be your go-to for every Christmas party, birthday and fancy event this season, or a casual summer dress that can take you from day to night with a pair of heels and some cute accessories, we’ve found the perfect fancy frocks for you.
A great party dress needs to do three things: make you feel beautiful, feel dressy (whether via a luxe material or premium details) and, when it comes to summer party wear, withstand hot, humid nights – and plenty of dancing.
WHAT PARTY DRESS STYLES ARE TRENDING FOR SUMMER?
There are a few trends that have made their way into party dresses for 2021. Firstly, the 70s is very much the decade to emulate, with halter neck gowns and printed maxi dresses being seen on runways and fashion stars everywhere. Cut-outs are also a big trend for summer – if you’re not daring enough to go for extreme cut-outs, you’ll still find plenty of beautiful party dresses featuring subtle skin-baring details.
WHAT PARTY DRESS STYLE WILL SUIT ME?
Don’t get too fixated on certain styles suiting certain body types! It’s 2021 and we should wear what feels good on us. If you’re looking to accentuate certain parts of your body that you love though, halter dresses make shoulders and arms look amazing, wrap and v-neck dresses are great for showing off an hourglass figure, and minis or dresses with a split will have you looking like you’ve got legs for days. I also love a tie-waist dress as often you can opt for a cinched waist or a floaty, Grecian look.
Below, our edit of the best party dresses for summer.
THE BEST SHOWSTOPPING PARTY DRESSES
The tropical print and elegant halter neck on this floaty summer party dress makes it a great go-to for hot nights. I love the sheer fabric teamed with a practical extra layer that hits just past mini skirt level, so you won’t be worrying that your knickers are showing. The tie-waist adds definition but can also be worn without for those Grecian feels.
The detail on this dress is just stunning, as is the structured skirt and bodice. It’s truly a “it’s my party” type of dress, perfect for your own celebrations or a dressy festive season bash. It’s very short, but the shape makes it less sexy, more showstopping and honestly, anyone’s legs would look celebrity-level in this frock.
Hot pink is probably my favourite colour for summer parties – it sets off a tan, feels bright and festive for the warm nights, and suits so many skin tones and hair colours. This dress is just fun – the cut-outs, the sleeves, the flirty length all work together to make it a showstopper.
That bubblegum pink! This dress is just so beautiful, playing into the 70s trend and the cut-out trend without feeling too revealing, if you’re not comfortable showing too much skin. This could have easily worked in casual party dresses too, but I find the colour makes it a showstopper.
It’s a simple style made in 100% linen, but this beautiful summer party dress is still a showstopper thanks to a truly beautiful cut and that scalloped edging (which is also embroidered, by the way). Team this with a low, sleek bun, some statement gold earrings and a pair of tan heels and you’ll have all heads turning.
What could be more of a showstopper than a bright red frock! This stunning gown is fit for any formal event, with the shirred, jewelled middle drawing attention to beautiful curves of the body, while the floaty skirt will swish around your ankles as you dance the night away.
Another example of cut-outs that don’t have to be super OTT. This dress allows you to wear a bra if you want to, and the leg split will draw attention to your gorgeous pins. I especially love the silky material, which takes the floral pattern from casual to dressy.
I’m loving all these silky dresses in bright, summery patterns. It’s a welcome level-up from the block colour slips we saw over the last couple of years. This dress will hug your curves, but the pattern will act as a blur effect if, like me, you have some bumps you’re self-conscious about (mine? One hip is higher than the other!).
This is another high-drama dress where I think you just let the gown do the talking. Team with a low bun, a sleek bob or a slick up-do and go minimal on the accessories – the stunning pleated silky material does all the talking for you here.
It’s the ruched edging and puff sleeves teamed with such an eye-catching print that turn this linen frock from casual to showstopper. This would look equally as amazing with a slick bun as it would with natural curls or waves, and you can get away with flats because the dress is so unique.
Simple yet oh-so-elegant, this silky black midi gets its showstopper status thanks to its beautifully cut neckline, which draws inspiration from the 00s, and flattering low back. You can have fun with accessories here – opt for jewelled statement earrings, or even add a chain belt for extra glam.
Another perfectly simple dress made showstopper thanks to its versatility. I particularly love the 70s vibes here with the collar and flared sleeves – this would look amazing with a pair of sky-high platform heels and a messy up-do.
This is dressy summer garden party in a maxi dress – the pattern keeps it casual enough for a daytime event, while the detail in the ruffled skirt and ruched bodice make it a showstopper. You can wear this with flat sandals easily without compromising on dressiness.
Minimalist and understated, this is a wonderful, timeless dress for summer parties. The design feels modern without tapping into trends to the point where you won’t want to wear it in a year, while the neutral shade will set off a faux tan and have you feeling summery and feminine.
This breezy frock will be so easy to wear and keep you comfortable through even the most vigorous of dance floors! I love the green – such a flattering shade for everyone.
This might be my favourite summer party dress of 2021. The cut is so elegant, the material perfect for soirees where you don’t want to look too formal, and the maxi length feels modern and fresh. This is also a great dress to throw on in the humidity because it is practically made for a sleek pony or bun.
CASUAL SUMMER PARTY DRESSES
I love the summery butter shade of this midi dress, which would pair just as nicely with some white sneakers as it would with a pair of heels for a party.
This dress could work as a beach throw-on, and as a garden party dress. The fitted bodice keeps things looking slick for a dressy event, while the breezy linen material makes it versatile for everyday.
An off-shoulder dress will always look fancy with some statement earrings and an updo, but you can also dress this down with tousled curls and some strappy sandals for a summer bbq.
Nothing beats a classic wrap dress in a luxe material. This dress will flatter pretty much everyone, looks casual with sandals or sneakers and feels dressy with heels. It’s also a stunning forest green, which feels a bit more summery than classic black.
This is such a fun and flirty party dress for summer birthdays and festive parties. I especially love the tie sleeves – they make it less beach days, more celebrations, don’t you think?
Add a denim jacket and some shades, and you can wear this to family lunch or a sports day. Team with heels and a great blow-dry, and you’ve got a beautiful party dress on your hands.
This is such a pretty, feminine dress, and will look equally as cute with some sandals for a children’s birthday or casual picnic as it will with heels. The trick here is your hair – a casual ponytail keeps things breezy, tonged curls will elevate it.
Created in organic cotton, this floaty casual dress feels elevated thanks to its beautiful open back with a delicate tie, puffed sleeves and lace pattern work.
This is definitely a casual summer dress, but the ruffled skirt and puff sleeves add detail that can turn it into a party dress with ease. I’d love to see this with some wedges and beautiful gold hoops.
I love the beautiful apricot shade of this dress, and the fitted bust means you can forgo a bra if you like. Plus, the cutout gives definition to the empire waist design, and nods to the trend.
Look at that swish! Peony may be a high price point but they make the most beautiful, timeless summer dresses. This midi is just so feminine and flattering, you’ll honestly cherish it for years.
The Dom is a new online store specialising in archival fashion pieces from your favourite brands, like this Minkpink frock. Basically, you’ll find heavy discounts on items, which is why this dress is just $49. I love the v-neck cut – so flattering for larger busts.
Spell is known for its beautiful casual dresses, but what I love about this Gardenia gown is the way you can take it from day to night with a quick footwear and accessories change. Even simply removing the belt can make it feel more casual.
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Melissa is news.com.au’s Best Of Fashion Writer. With more than a decade of experience in the Australian media industry, Melissa’s words and opinion pieces have appeared in print and digital publications including ELLE.com.au, Vogue.com.au, marieclaire.com.au, Pedestrian.TV, and Mamamia.