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Which beach dress is best?

A beach dress is a casual summer staple for those warm weather days, but finding a good one is easier said than done. You want your beach dress to be comfortable and flattering in beach selfies. It also has to be well-made. No one wants to spend money on a cute outfit only for it to fall apart after a few washes. The Free People Adella Slip Dress is a cute, flirty option that stands out in the crowd.

What to know before you buy a beach dress

Lightweight fabrics

Summer dresses are designed to be comfortable and lightweight for hot, sunny afternoons. Cotton, rayon, and linen are great options, as they are cool and breathable. Cotton and rayon can be a little more flowing, while linen provides a more fitted silhouette. Stay away from fabrics like polyester, which is moisture-wicking but ultimately not as breathable as cotton.

Types of sleeves

Strapless, spaghetti straps and sleeveless are the best sleeve options for beachwear, as they are airy and summery. Strapless and spaghetti straps work well if you’re wearing a bathing suit underneath or don’t mind going braless. If you feel more comfortable with substantial chest support, sleeveless won’t show your bra straps and won’t cover you so much that you overheat.

Dress length

The two most popular lengths for beach dresses are knee-length and maxi. Most beach dresses fall at or slightly above the knee for a cool, breezy summer look. A maxi dress goes down to the ankles and is a good summer option if you’re worried about getting too much sun. It covers the legs but is still flowy and breathable as you walk in the sand. 

What to look for in a quality beach dress

Dress vs. cover-up

Decide if you want a regular beach dress or a swimsuit cover-up. The primary difference here is neckline and sheerness.

A regular beach dress often works as a cover-up, but a cover-up doesn’t always work as a regular dress.  A regular beach dress is typically more substantial, while a swimsuit cover-up is more breathable and can be see-through, exposing the bathing suit beneath. It sometimes has a looser form and neckline than the standard summer dress.

Flattering tan lines

A day at the beach means a day in the sun, and you want to make sure your outfit doesn’t give you awkward, unflattering tan lines. Consider the shape of the neckline and where the sleeves sit. A tube-top dress will give your shoulders the most even tan, but spaghetti straps work well too. Avoid capped sleeves and sweetheart necklines, as they can cause awkwardly angled tan lines that are visible in different clothing.    


More and more dresses these days have pockets and with good reason. Pockets are practical and offer a convenient place to store extra cash or a phone without requiring you to carry around a purse. Pockets are also great for windy days at the beach, as putting your hands in your pockets can help keep your skirt from blowing up.

How much you can expect to spend on a beach dress

Most beach dresses cost around $20-$45, but some high-end brands design beach dresses costing over $50.

Beach dress FAQ

Are rayon and viscose the same material?

A. Viscose is a popular type of rayon. Other types of rayon include modal and lyocell. Viscose is partially synthetic and looks great but is not very durable. Viscose and rayon both work well as beach dress materials.

Are light colors really better for the beach? 

A. Bright and darker colors absorb more UV light than paler colors. They can make you feel warmer but better protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Light colors like pastels won’t make you sweat as much but also don’t provide as much UV protection. 

What shoes go best with a beach dress?

A. Sandals and flip-flops pair well with a beach dress. If you’re planning to spend time in the sand, a flip-flop or flat sandal is best. If you have a beach view only but are walking on concrete or flooring, then heels also work. 

What’s the best beach dress to buy?

Top beach dress

Free People Adella Slip Dress

Free People Adella Slip Dress

What you need to know: This above-the-knee, non-stretch crepe dress is made from viscose, cotton, and nylon with adjustable straps, lace trim, and a ruffled asymmetrical hem.

What you’ll love: It’s comfortable and lightweight, and it flatters different body types. It is well made and comes in seven colors with delicate lace patterns. It looks soft, breezy, and feminine. 

What you should consider: Most colors are a little see-through, and it is hand-washable only.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top beach dress for the money

Lands' End Splitneck Swim Cover-Up Dress

Lands’ End Splitneck Swim Cover-Up Dress

What you need to know: This knee-length cotton jersey dress is sleeveless with a horizontal striped design and button closure.

What you’ll love: It’s soft, durable and lightweight with convenient side pockets. It can work as a swimsuit cover-up or by itself as an everyday dress. It’s preshrunk and machine-washable. It comes in over ten colors or patterns and a wide array of sizes. 

What you should consider: The neckline is cute but not ideal for an even tan line.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s

Worth checking out

Grecerelle Casual Beach Maxi Dress

Grecerelle Casual Beach Maxi Dress

What you need to know: This rayon and spandex maxi dress has spaghetti straps and a dramatic calf-high slit on the side.

What you’ll love: It’s stretchy, soft and comfortable and has two side pockets. You can dress it up or down for any summer occasion. It works as a swimsuit cover-up or a stand-alone dress. It is machine-washable and comes in 20 colors or patterns.

What you should consider: It runs a little big and might be too long if you are on the shorter side. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Emily Verona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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