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Ask Belle: Five Shops for Casual Dresses

Hi Belle,

I follow you on Instagram and I’m wondering where you find the dresses you always wear on weekends? 


I like to wear dresses on casual days because it allows me to dress nicely without overdressing.  Just add a pair of flat shoes, some sunglasses, a good bag, one accessory/piece of jewelry and you’re done.  Here are the places where I find most of my casual dresses:

Zara.  A great place to find stylish dresses that you can wear for just one season, or longer if you wish.  Right now, I’m embracing their 1970s, Pat Nixon in Palm Springs vibe.  I love this printed shift and this long caftan.

Loft.  If I’m going out-of-town to visit family or see friends, I pack four or five dresses and call the matter closed.  One of my favorite places to shop for easy, breezy vacay dresses is Loft.  This striped t-shirt dress is an instant staple, and this twisted tank dress could be accessorized for a relaxed dinner or used as a swimsuit cover-up.  Oh, and the details on the bodice of this bright orange dress, super cute.

Banana Republic.  The BR sale rack is my favorite place for great finds.  This polo dress is a preppy classic.  And this red cap sleeve dress would be great for casual Friday or weekend barbecues.

French Connection.  If you want a dress that’s a little nicer, say for brunches or casual dinner dates, French Connection is the place to go.  This printed scoopneck dress is so chic, and could work under a blazer for the office.   And if you like stripes but want a more modern, interesting shape, this is the dress for you.

Uniqlo.  Are you drawn to the look of Band of Outsiders or Rag & Bone or Opening Ceremony?  Then Uniqlo should be right up your alley.  Their dresses have clean lines, modern details and a vibe that’s lightly hipster, but without the acrid after taste of American Apparel.

The prices are phenomenal and even my structured/pretty aesthetic can find pieces to love.  The shape on this dress is to die for, and this cotton short sleeve dress is voluminous and comfy.  And this shirt dress would look great with a men’s leather belt and some woven sandals.

Plus size?  Try Macy’s and ASOS.  Petite? Try Target and Dillard’s.

It takes awhile to build up a good selection of casual dresses, but most of mine come off the sale rack.  Dress them up with accessories for going out, or just while them when you’re running errands.  For me, they’re the perfect alternative to shorts.



  1. SLG says:

    Any tips on fashion-forward styling for shirt dresses? I work in marketing for a tech startup, so I can wear casual Friday outfits every day. I bought a chambray shirt dress and wore it to work with jewelry and a skinny leather belt (not the “self belt” the dress came with). And I still felt like the Queen of Frump all day. Halp?

    May 15, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      A shirtdress needs five minutes of styling. Roll the sleeve. Pop the collar (maybe). Get a better belt. Grab some bracelets. You can’t just throw it on like a jersey dress, you need to stand in front of the mirror and say, “What about this?” and then try it. It takes a little more effort, also it needs to fit you. One inch of extra fabric on a shirtrdress and you’re suddenly wearing a sack.

      May 15, 2013/Reply
      • SLG says:

        Good tips all. Thanks!

        May 16, 2013/Reply
  2. Amy says:

    I’m petite and I love to wear casual dresses on the weekend, so I just wanted to add another source for you – Talbots. Everything in that store comes in petite sizes and while I don’t like some of their offerings, they have usually have a surprisingly good dress selection.

    May 16, 2013/Reply
  3. Kate says:

    For plus size, I second Amy’s suggestion for Talbots, just look for the sales. I also really like some of Lands End’s offerings. I, too, live in dresses for most of the summer.

    May 16, 2013/Reply