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Summer dresses - what to buy now

summer dresses 

The sun is shining, so it's time to embrace the season and invest in a stylish summer dress. Between barbecues, garden parties and days out, summer can be a hectic time, so it's handy to have fail-safe, versatile dress ready for any impromptu invitations that come your way. Let's face it, no one wants to be stuck in the changing rooms when it's gloriously sunny outside, so we've asked Actually Mummy blogger, Helen Wills, for her top styling tips. Here are her best summer dresses to add to your shopping list...

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Choosing a summer dress over 50

When I hit 50 I knew something had to change. I didn't feel the dread of my fifties that some women seem to, but it was definitely a milestone, and I wanted to mark it in some way. I've always loved fashion, and especially colour, but as a shattered mum, first of young children, then of a child with type 1 diabetes - a condition which causes quite a lot of broken nights - I'd prioritised easy, comfortable clothes over any particular desire to look attractive. Fifty seemed to prompt a change in that attitude though, and with my daughter developing her own style, I felt an overwhelming urge to recreate my look, and take care of my own image.

One of the things that I noticed about having older skin, was that black just didn't do it for me any more. Similarly with neutrals - I had to be really careful what colours I chose, or I would look tired and drained more quickly than I did in my youth. I've had my colours done in the past, so I dived back into my swatch booklet, and went shopping!

Here's my pick of summer dresses that lift my features and look on trend for summer 2018...

Start with the staples

summer dresses denim

Denim dresses are a huge trend on the high street right now. I live in my Fat Face denim shift dress as soon as it's out of the wash. Denim has the advantage of being a little bit warmer on a breezy day, plus I can dress it up with colourful wedge sandals and a bright scarf, or wear it with canvas pumps on a more active day out with my family.

summer dresses

I think a good shift dress is the staple of any wardrobe, and this one from b.young is the perfect shade of red for my skin tone. Did you know, you can wear any colour (except maybe black or white) as long as you choose the best shade for you?

What I love about a shift dress is how forgiving it is against any curves you prefer not to highlight. Go for one that's slightly fitted, and definitely with a lining, and it will skim your belly and hips, giving you a chic outline. I sometimes even go for a size bigger than my usual 14, just to make sure it doesn't cling, and it always looks smart and flattering.

Get the look

summer dresses

Left: Denim shirt dress, £40, JD Williams; Pom pom linen scarf, £28, Boden; Leather buckle sandals, £22, Next.

Right: Dorothy Perkins tall red dress, £18, Debenhams; Sequin flower necklace, £9.50, Accessorize; Heavenly Soles court shoes, £16, JD Williams

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Bold and bright

summer dresses

Don't be afraid to go for bold colour. There are some lovely colour-block shift dresses on the high street that look amazing on, with the added benefit of being cool enough to wear on hot summer days. In fact, I totally avoid shorts and vest tops these days unless I'm on a beach. Denim shorts look amazing, but a dress is much cooler in the heat.

I love this yellow dress from last year's M&S summer season. It was in their Love it for Less range, and it's been an absolute staple for me ever since. It washes well, doesn't need ironing, and I've honestly had so many compliments on the colour - it's just so happy!

summer dresses

If you feel more comfortable in trousers than a dress, there are some fabulous playsuits that give the glamour of a dress, with the structure of a swishy trouser leg. This bright playsuit from Onjenu ticks all my boxes, with a rûched, and therefore very flattering, bodice, and wide legs that give it a maxi dress style. I love the little cap sleeves too - they give the illusion of a sleeveless dress, with a little bit more coverage, which works well for me.

Of course, with a playsuit or jumpsuit you've got the toilet trip issue, so go for one without zips or buttons if you can. I once made the mistake of buying a beautiful playsuit that buttoned all the way up the back. You can imagine how that went. This gorgeous maxi dress from M&S has a very similar look and is much more practical.

Get the look 

summer dresses

Left: Boden yellow dress, £72, John Lewis; Long tassel necklace, £4.25, Matalan; Wide fit crochet ballet pumps, £12.99, New Look

Right: Petite pink maxi dress, £20, Debenhams; Western style denim jacket, £30, JD Williams; Nude low cork wedge sandals, £17.99, New Look

Make a statement

summer dresses

It's always nice to have a statement dress in your wardrobe. Something that's perfect for a Friday night out, or a weekend lunch with friends and family where you need to dress a little smarter, without being too formal. I found this stunning Stine Goya dress in my local boutique and I love how the V-neck and patterned design disguise my slightly larger than life boobs.

Colour is massive this summer, so although it's a bold design, it's very wearable, and I've worn it to both work events and parties. What's crucial to me though, is that this dress is washable. Too many times I've found a lovely dress that needs dry cleaning, and I know if I buy it, it will live forever more in my wardrobe. This particular dress is an investment, but there are loads of bright, floral patterned dresses on the high street that are perfect for this season.

Get the look

summer dresses 

Left: Joe Browns red floral dress, £30.95, Debenhams; Rimless square sunglasses, £15, Marks and Spencer; Blush court wedges, £28, Next

Right: Together printed lace dress, £75, Marisota; Satin clutch bag, £5.10, Accessorize; Spiced Poppy wedges, £24, Clarks.

About Helen
Helen Wills is the blogger behind Actually Mummy. Although she's not a gran (her eldest daughter is only 13 so she's currently navigating the teenage years), at 51, she is an older mum. Helen writes about confidence in your 50s and beyond. Check out her blog, and Instagram for more inspiration.

Price correct on 05/07/18. Photos of Helen in the red dress, pink jumpsuit and Stine Goya dress are by Stephanie Belton

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