Fashion Editors Share the Best Work Dresses From Their Summer Uniform

From classic wrap silhouettes to breezy linens, these are the expert-approved styles we're wearing on repeat.

women wearing work dresses
(Image credit: Getty Images, Launchmetrics)

The majority of my weekdays are spent in the Marie Claire office, which is why I’ve built a well-rounded collection of professional outfits, like tailored trousers, crisp button-down shirts, and sleek blazers to create an easy work uniform. I also rely on a rotation of the best work dresses to anchor my semi-corporate capsule wardrobe, especially in the summer months.

On most work days, you can find me in a minimalist-style sheath dress with a lightweight cardigan layered over my shoulders. I’ll slip into flat shoes, like ballet flats or loafers, that make running from one meeting to the next easy. For a casual look in peak summer heat, I’ll team a relaxed linen dress with a pair of work sneakers alongside an oversized tote bag that’s large enough for my laptop and everything else I need.

I’m not the only one in the Marie Claire office who swears by a collection of work dresses to conquer their nine-to-five. Entertainment Director Neha Prakash and Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor Rachel Burchfield champion minimalist summer dresses, while Senior News Editor Halie LeSavage prefers to round out her lineup of work dresses with playful prints. Beauty Writer Gabrielle Ulubay and Fashion E-Commerce Editor Julia Marzovilla recommend shift dresses and nap dresses for a comfortable fit, and Contributing Editor Katherine J. Igoe says shirt dresses are her go-to.

Everyone has their own personal style and preferences, but the best work dresses should always prioritize making you look and feel your best. You can still have fun with dress codes that call for silhouettes with lower hems and higher necklines, too. That's why Marie Claire has curated a selection of the best work dresses—from the best lightweight linen to printed summer dress styles—with editor's reviews and stamps of approval.

Minimalist Dresses

When it comes to the products Marie Claire recommends, we take your faith in us seriously. Every product that we feature comes recommended by a MC writer or editor, or by an expert we've spoken to. Learn more about how we review products.

woman wearing minimal black midi dress

Simplify your work outfits with a versatile dress that you can wear on repeat.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I love patterns and bold, bright colors elsewhere, but in the office, I typically like to stick to solid shades and structured silhouettes,” says Burchfield, who shares that Calvin Klein’s tulip-sleeve dress is her go-to.

Prakash agrees, noting that she favors neutral-toned dresses like Toteme’s linen-blend maxi dress. ”This dress may seem simple, but it works— pun unintended— for every work-related situation, whether I’m attending a coffee chat, an in-office meeting, or an elegant business dinner.”

Midi and Maxi Dresses

woman wearing a black midi work dress

Is your office dress code a bit unclear? If so, err on the side of caution with longer hemlines that provide more coverage.

(Image credit: Launchmetrics)

In most cases, a dress with a hemline that falls below the knees or around the ankles is suitable for any office dress code. Proenza Schouler and Victoria Beckham both master the fit-and-flare shape, while brands like Reformation offer an in-between with a ton of fitted midi-length styles. If you choose a form-fitted style, just be mindful not to go for a full-on bodycon fit.

Roomy Shift Dresses

woman wearing pink shift dress

During sweltering summer days, the best way to beat the heat is to wear an airy shift dress.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dressing for work during a heat wave is no easy feat. Ulubay relies on J.Crew’s shift dress to carry her in style through the hottest summer days. “Because of its shape, it never clings uncomfortably to my skin, and its linen fabric is so breathable,” she says. Try comparable styles from Veronica Beard and COS, which are short enough to keep you cool but still feel appropriate for the workplace.

Sharp Shirt Work Dresses

woman wearing shirt dress

There's no denying that a button-down shirt is a workwear must-have. The same goes for a button-down shirt dress.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Defined by a neat point collar, crisp cotton fabric, and charming buttons along the front, a shirt dress has a professional edge that makes it a non-negotiable workwear item. If you prefer to stick with a standard shirt style, try Everlane’s boxy Oxford dress. To put a textured twist on the look, Igoe recommends Brochu Walker’s Havana Dress. “The tiered fabric makes the dress look so chic,” she says. You can also opt for Tory Burch’s pleated poplin shirt dress that adds volume and a sleek belt from the waist down.

Easy-to-Style Wrap Dresses

woman wearing wrap dress

For the days when you don't feel like putting a ton of effort into styling your look, you can count on a wrap dress to work overtime.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The beauty of a wrap dress is that it practically styles itself. With a crossover design and a cinched waist tie, you don’t have to add much to this look, making dressing for the office a tad easier, especially if you’re in a rush. Depending on your desired coverage, Veronica Beard and Ralph Lauren offer options with longer sleeves, while Mango designs a chic sleeveless rendition.

Fitted Sheath Dresses

woman wearing sheath dress

One of the most quintessential work dresses is a standard sheath dress. Do yourself a favor and add one to your wardrobe.

(Image credit: Launchmetrics)

For days in the office, when you want a “she means business” aesthetic, slip into a sculpted sheath dress that commands attention. Vince and Akris provide polished daytime alternatives with bright and cheery hues, while Theory’s all-black version can be easily transitioned into a chic post-work happy hour or dinner look.

Breathable Linen and Cotton Dresses

woman wearing linen dress

As you shop for your next summer work dress, keep breathable fabrics top of mind.

(Image credit: Launchmetrics)

While curating your wardrobe of summer work outfits for the warm months ahead, you’ll want a few breathable styles in soft linen blends and lightweight cotton to help you stay cool. Keep your look neutral with Staud and Tibi, or try a vibrant pop of color with L'AGENCE. These airy dresses are also ideal for warm-weather occasions beyond the office, like a trip to the beach or a picnic in the park.

Comfortable Nap Dresses

woman wearing nap dress

Consider a comfy nap dress for your collection of in-office outfits. Just make sure not to fall asleep at your desk while wearing it!

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to Fashion E-Commerce Editor Julia Marzovilla, Hill House’s signature nap dress is so comfortable that she could literally fall asleep in it. “The fabric is beyond lightweight, and the roomy construction doesn’t cause me to overheat,” she says. Banana Republic and Ganni also have roomy nap dress-esque styles to choose from when comfort is a priority.

Toned-Down Printed Dresses

woman wearing floral work dress

Looking for a work dress that will attract compliments but won't cause a stir? A flowy piece with subtle prints will fit the bill.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Like a lot of other fashion people, my work wardrobe over-indexes on neutrals,” says Senior News Editor Halie LeSavage. “This Rixo dress keeps me in my comfort zone, palette-wise, but the mixed prints are so much more fun than standard black and white,” she adds. Patterned styles from DÔEN and Veronica Beard also boast playful prints without reading maximalist.

Lauren Tappan
Fashion Editor

Lauren is the Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, where she writes trend reports, shopping pieces, and celebrity news stories. Prior to Marie Claire, Lauren worked for Harper’s Bazaar and ELLE as a freelance editor with a specific focus on seasonal styles and coveted products. She also worked for Town & Country, where she developed a robust portfolio of fashion roundups and designer profiles.

Lauren graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in journalism. While attending Penn, Lauren contributed to the university's fashion magazine, The Walk, while also interning for Philadelphia Style Magazine and EveryStylishGirl.

When she’s not exploring the world of fashion, you can find Lauren sharpening her skills as DJ, discovering new restaurants in New York City (she’s a foodie), and spending quality time with friends and family. Follow her along at @laurenktappan.