14 Types Of Dresses Everyone Should Own

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Styles come and go, but few articles of clothing have stood the test of time quite like the humble dress. Every woman, at some point in her life, has put on a dress, and most of us have taken the style cue into adulthood, incorporating dresses into our wardrobes in various ways. Dresses are appropriate for an unending number of events — including several for which they're required — which makes having a plethora of dresses in your closet more of a need than a want.


The trouble isn't finding dresses — there are millions available. The trouble is choosing the right dresses, and that starts with a list of which styles are necessary. To make the overwhelming task of choosing a closetful of dresses slightly easier, we've curated a list of dresses that every woman should own. From particular styles to dresses meant for certain occasions, these are the 14 dresses you're going to need throughout your life.


Easy, versatile, and appropriate to wear almost anywhere? That's the magic of the shift dress — and precisely why you need one in your closet if you don't already have one. A shift dress can take you from the office to happy hour or from a special occasion brunch to an afternoon of running errands. If your shift dress is in a solid color, you can easily dress it up or down with a jacket, cardigan, coat, or blazer. Pair it with heels or sneakers, making it functional no matter what you're doing.


Shift dresses also look great on everybody. The overall shape is delicate and sweet, while the flare at the hem creates flattering movement. They're perfect to wear when it's warm and are easy to pack for a trip, but they can just as easily be paired with tights and worn all year. If you're in the market for a shift dress, they're painfully easy to find and sold at all budgets. They're a seriously good buy. Trust us.

Purchase a Calvin Klein shift dress from Macy's, like the one pictured, for $119.00.


Midi dresses haven't always gotten the credit they deserve, but we're here to tell you that if you don't have a midi dress in your closet yet, you need one. In the past, they've been viewed as difficult to wear or style, but we're certain that if you believe those notions about midi dresses, you just haven't found the right one. Midi dresses can be paired with dainty heels for a dressy look or styled with sneakers and a denim jacket for a casual vibe. The right pair of booties can give a midi some boho flair, while any pair of sandals makes it instantly beachy. Add the right accessories, and you've got yourself an outfit.


Midi dresses are ultra-feminine and have tons of movement, likely why they fit the bill for a variety of personal styles. If you're short, you might need to get your midi hemmed so it doesn't wear like a maxi, and, if you're tall, you might need to hunt a little longer to find a true midi rather than a mini. The time and tailoring will be well worth the effort, though — a midi is a classic dress that will become a staple in your wardrobe.

Purchase a midi dress from ASOS, such as the one above, for $40.00.

Daytime dress

Dresses can be worn any time, but it's important to have some dedicated to certain times, such as daytime. Whether you're headed to the farmer's market or getting lunch with a friend, you need a casual daytime dress that's simple to style and makes dressing for busy days a quick, painless endeavor. Myriad dresses can be considered daytime, but there are a few defining characteristics that set daytime dresses apart from others: style, fit, and fabric. Daytime dresses typically fall under the midi or sundress category; often have a loose or relaxed fit; and usually are made of casual fabrics such as cotton, denim, or linen. Daytime dresses are also rarely mini, tight-fitted, or made with silk or satin.


Daytime dresses can also be defined by where you'd be comfortable wearing them. They're probably too casual for a business setting, but you likely wouldn't feel uncomfortable wearing one in a religious setting, either. Daytime dresses are all about balance. And, while we can sit and try to define them all we want, since they're such a broad category, simply use the old "you'll know it when you see it" rule of thumb when determining.

Purchase a daytime dress, such as the one above from Lulus, for $72.00.


There are dresses you should own and dresses you need. Bodycon dresses fall into the latter category. Because of their fit, bodycon dresses can be intimidating, especially if you've never worn one before, but there are plenty of styling techniques to make them more palatable. To become more confident in a bodycon dress, purchase one in a color that makes you feel good. Black is slimming, but if you'd rather wear pink or navy, opt for those colors. If you're still intimidated by the fit, wear a jacket, cardigan, or sweater over top. The styling will look good, and you'll get more accustomed to the fit.


Once you're ready to wear a bodycon dress all on its own, style it with fun jewelry and a great pair of heels for a night out, or wear a ball cap and your favorite sneakers during the day. Once you start wearing them, you'll be shocked at how versatile bodycon dresses can be. And, remember, a bodycon dress should serve as a celebration of your body. Feel confident and powerful wearing one no matter how you style it.

Purchase a bodycon dress from Venus, such as the one pictured above, for $29.00.

Shirt dress

Easy and breezy, you need a shirt dress if choosing an outfit is simply too much work. Shirt dresses really are the perfect dresses. They can be dressy or casual, worn during the day or out for drinks, and are flirty without showing too much skin. Shirt dresses can be worn in any season with any footwear and come in a variety of colors. A shirt dress can be accessorized in infinite ways, and just about every layering piece you own can be thrown over top. It's a great basic that has proven itself to be more than just a dress you need — but a wardrobe essential.


If you're bored of shirt dresses, you haven't found the right one. They're constantly being manufactured with subtle design features that make them more appealing, such as knots in the hem or cuffs on the sleeves. While some shirt dresses are tight like bodycons, others fit more like shift dresses. With a little effort, you can find a shirt dress that perfectly fits your style aesthetic and is quintessentially you.

Purchase a shirt dress from Lulus, like the one featured above, for $55.00.

Sweater dress

Although you likely won't be wearing a sweater dress in every season, you'll get enough use out of it in the fall and winter to make it a justifiable purchase. Sweater dresses are chic pieces that make dressing up fun, even when it's cold — which can be a difficult feat. Sweater dresses come in dozens of fabrics and even more styles, so there's undoubtedly one out there for you. Sweater dresses are like sundresses for the winter — they're cozy and cute enough on their own that they don't require any other articles of clothing (although you might need to throw on a pair of tights if it's really cold). Few pieces hold that power in the winter.


Sweater dresses look darling with booties, but they're also fabulous with full boots. They can be dressed down with a pair of sneakers while also working with delicate ballet flats. Throw on a sweater dress if you've got to spend an afternoon in the office, or rock one if you've got a packed schedule from morning to night. A sweater dress will take you where you need to go, and you'll look great going there.

Purchase a sweater dress, such as this Charles Henry sweater dress from Nordstrom, for $89.00.

Work dress

At some point in every woman's life, she needs a dress that's work appropriate. Whether it's for your first day at your new job, a major presentation, a meeting with your boss to  ask for a raise, or even an interview, the occasion will arise, and having a trusty dress on standby will help ease any nerves you might have. A work dress isn't necessarily something you'll wear to work every day but rather a dress that's there when you need to feel extra confident and in charge.


Finding the right work dress is all about finding what you feel best in. No matter the fit, length, color, cut, style, or otherwise, so long as you can wear it in a business setting, it's a work dress. Because they aren't the easiest to find, make sure you care for your work dress so you have it your entire career.

Purchase a work dress, such as this sheath dress from Spanx, for $198.00.

Slip dress

If you want to look sexy without showing every inch of your skin, wear a slip dress. If you want to feel elegant while remaining comfortable, wear a slip dress. If you have to attend a special event but still want to wear sneakers, wear a slip dress. The long and the short of it is you need a slip dress. When you put on a slip dress, you instantly look put together. Slip dresses look great with almost all accessories, coats, shoes, and bags, so they take the thought out of styling. Whether you're in a rush or have all the time in the world, a slip dress is the answer.


Since slip dresses are always on trend, it's always easy to find one you like. Just choose the right color and length for your style, and you're in business. It truly couldn't be simpler.

Purchase a slip dress from Quince, like the one above, for $79.90.


We all deserve our moment in the sun, and, ideally, said moment will be had in a darling sundress. When it comes to dresses, a sundress is about as perfect as it gets. A flowy shape that suits your body and breathable fabric that's perfect for warm weather — what's not to love? From busy summer days to relaxed dinners on vacation, plenty of occasions are perfect for donning a sundress.


Not only are sundresses just about perfect, they're incredibly easy to find. Truthfully, you have to try harder to avoid sundresses than to encounter them. For your first, we suggest purchasing one in a bright color and stylish pattern for that classic sundress feel. As you gather more (because you won't be satisfied with owning just one sundress), look for options in solid colors as well as unique patterns. Find one with short sleeves and another with long sleeves. Make your sundress collection a true collection with a multitude of options. You really can't go wrong.

Purchase an Antonio Melani sundress, like the one above from Dillard's, for $169.00.


If you haven't picked up on it yet, we find it of utmost importance to have a dress in your closet at every length. Mini, midi, and maxi dresses all have a time and place to be worn, making it vital that you have one on hand for when those occasions arise. A good maxi dress can be hard to find, so follow these tips when searching. First, look for something with shape. When dresses get long, it can be easy for them to lose their shape and envelop you with a mass of fabric. Opt for maxis that cinch at the waist or feature a prominent slip. Girly baby doll dresses are trending, and any in a maxi length totally fit the bill.


Next, look for something in a casual fabric with a bold pattern that has staying power. Maxi dresses can easily look too formal in a solid neutral, especially ones made of silk or satin, so stick to maxis made from cotton or polyester for a dress that's adaptable to all occasions. When you're styling your maxi dress, go minimal with the accessories, and select delicate shoes so the look isn't overwhelming. Let the dress be the star of the show.

Purchase a flowy maxi dress, like this Free People one for $98.00 at Nordstrom.

Formal gown

You might be wondering why on earth we believe every woman should own a formal gown, but hear us out — we have several reasons why. Though it's likely not a dress you'll wear often, there are dozens of occasions that might warrant a formal gown. Weddings, galas, corporate holiday parties, black tie fundraisers — each is a perfect occasion to don your best dress. Heck, you might even be invited to an adult prom. If so, you should have a gown in your closet to turn to.


If you don't have a reason for wearing a formal gown, create one. Host a fancy dinner for friends. Make reservations at the nicest restaurant in town to celebrate a special occasion. Attend a murder mystery dinner theater. Hire a burgeoning artist to paint your portrait. Are these practical suggestions? Not particularly, but fashion isn't always about practicality. It's about purchasing pieces that make you feel good, even if you don't wear them outside your home. Plus, you never know when a formal occasion is going to land on your calendar, so be prepared.

Purchase an Eliza J formal gown from Bloomingdale's, such as the one pictured, for $188.00.

Wrap dress

Fun, flirty, fitted — what's not to love about a wrap dress? We owe our fashion lives to Diane von Furstenberg for introducing us to the iconic design. If your closet is currently sans wrap dress, we suggest purchasing one now. With a simple tie at the waist and a billowy silhouette, the wrap dress is as feminine as they come. No matter your shape, a wrap dress will accentuate the right parts of your body, making you feel confident and beautiful. And they come in nearly every fabric and color you can think of, so it's easy to find one that suits you.


If you're not yet sold on wrap dresses, remember how versatile they are. Yes, we've called many types of dress on this list versatile, but who doesn't want versatility in their wardrobe? Few of us, if any, are purchasing pieces to only wear once. You can wear your wrap dress to the office, on a date, or for a girls' night out. No matter the reason, you'll look fantastic in a wrap dress, and you'll be able to wear it for years to come.

Purchase a wrap dress, such as the one from Express pictured, for $88.00.

Date-night dress

While you probably won't wear the same dress over and over again for date night, it's still good to have one designated dress in your closet for whenever you're asked out by a new guy or heading out on an occasional date night with your longtime partner. Whether it's for a first date or the night you get engaged, having a date-night dress takes the stress out of deciding what to wear on evenings when you want to look your best.


Finding a date-night dress can be tricky, so when you're looking for an option to wear time and again, stick with something you know you'll feel good wearing. This could mean a certain color or a particular cut. It might mean a special feature that accentuates the body part you love most. Whatever it is, find it, and take great care of your date-night dress so it's ready to wear at a moment's notice.

Purchase a date-night dress, such as the one from White Fox pictured, for $49.99.

Little black dress

If you choose to forego every other suggestion we've made regarding dresses, at least listen to this one: Purchase a little black dress. You've heard this advice time and again, but it's because it's one of the best pieces of advice a woman can hear. We all need an LBD. LBDs will carry you through every event. Work parties, drinks, dates, weddings, house warmings, dinner parties, girls' nights out, and more can all be attended in a little black dress. What color was Princess Di's iconic "revenge dress"? Yep, black. It's a closet staple for a reason.


And, because there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, available for purchase, there's really no excuse not to have an LBD. No matter your preferred fit, fabric, length, sleeve, or collar, you can find a little black dress in any combination at any budget. And when you find one you love, you'll have it forever. It's the ultimate wardrobe staple, and no dress collection, no matter how large or small, is complete without one.

Purchase a little black dress, like this Dress the Population style from Neiman Marcus for $168.00.