Styling a Sundress at 40-Plus

Today I’m inspired by fellow blogger Sheila at Ephemera who rocked a halter top dress with a sweater over it. Got me thinking about summer and sundresses, and the over-40 take on showing skin.

Sundresses are wonderful – perfect for about six months a year here in the South. Even in my Northern years, I loved a floral sundress in July, with sandals and an ill-gotten tan (no more of those!)  There are so many lovely dresses to choose from, at all price points. This season has introduced a lot of maxi’s. Not for everyone, in fact not quite for me yet, but a pretty look and a nice alternative to jeans if you want to cover your legs.
maxi sundresses
Sometimes, as a woman of a certain age, I feel that I want a litle more coverage of my upper arms and decolletage than a sundress provides. (Other times, I don’t care at all, and prance around town in a tank top with my head held high; I’m Not Dead Yet!) On those occasions that call for a tad more modesty, I generally reach for one of the following:

  • Like Sheila, I layer a knit top over the sundress, so it looks like a top-and-skirt. The top has to be a little roomy, or awkward lines can show through. Sheila did it perfectly.
  • I pop on a button-front cotton shirt and belt it. I have a couple of white cotton no-frills shirts that are perfect for this purpose. One is from Ralph Lauren and it’s a true workhorse. Another is a Gap (similar). I prefer 100% cotton shirts for casual and the No-Iron shirts for work. I guess I don’t want to look too crisp on my days off . . .?
  • I layer a fitted tee under the sundress. In this case, the tee has to be fairly snug so as not to interfere with the line of the dress. Being a neutrals gal, I go with a black or white Gap tee. I try to avoid the Missionary look by choosing a tee with a nice vee or scoop-neck.
This is the *general* idea of layering – but add about 8″ to the skirt, and for me, subtract the socks  : >
Photo courtesy

I am sure there are other ways to modest-ize a sundress: a cardi or shrug, even a linen blazer? I haven’t tried these yet but the summer is young. I’d love to hear your views – do you feel comfortable in a sundress without cover? If not, how do you modify the look to make you happy?

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  1. Patti, Somehow I have missed your blog!! We are on the same page and I am so excited to find another 50+ blogger!! I will be one of your new followers and hope that you will follow me as well!! I will also add you to my blog roll!
    BTW….love a shrug or a fun wrap….I am arms that need a cover!!

  2. Sheila – you're most welcome. I reallyreally like the denim shirt tied over the halter dress, nice mixing of color too.

    Steph – I didn't know the SF Bay area got so hot; your summers sound like our Floridian ones! Thanks for reading and sharing. I love your blog.

    Hi Paula – shrugs are great little wardrobe-stretchers aren't they? I've seen your arms and sister you have nothing to worry about – you look fantastic. : >

  3. Patti~I am a shrug addict. I have them in all colors and sizes and since I'm cold here most of the time in NE, they work great. When the weather gets too hot, I will let my arms out to air, but not a pretty sight. I'm going to check out sheila right now!

  4. hullo Patti! these are all great ideas – i also like to throw on a button down shirt and tie it (under bust, at waist, at hip, depending on my mood).

    i could stand several sundressii (plural?) in my wardrobe – our summer here usually starts around mid-april & lasts thru october, with temps regularly in the high 90-100's F (except this year – today is 55F with rain). i don't have a problem going slvls, but i do get faint hearted about showing a lot of cleavage/too much back. and these tricks can also get more use out of a sundress, by wearing it as a 'skirt' under a short sleeved sweater for work or warming it up for fall wear, for example. nice idea for a post! steph

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