this thing's incredible

This £30(ish) Nap-esque Dress Is Fast Becoming My Summer Uniform

Photo: Courtesy of Katherine Rotunno

A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.

A year of dressing for the pandemic left me, like many people, with a wardrobe full of oversize T-shirts and bike shorts. So when fashion suddenly became a thing again as the world started to reopen, I found myself quite unprepared. Being newly postpartum at the time didn’t help: Not having to search for stylish clothes to transition into my pregnancy, during which I worked entirely from home, meant I wasn’t sure where to begin when it came to finding options to transition out of it. Making things even harder is that, come warm weather, I am traditionally a shorts person — but this year, according to most everyone (and every brand), the thing to step out in is a summer frock.

From the (still) popular Nap Dress to the lineup of easy, breezy (and ecofriendly) styles at Reformation, I considered several options that felt effortless enough and met my criteria of A-line silhouette with a swingy fit. But being the new mom and lukewarm dress-wearer that I am, I couldn’t stomach the thought of paying triple digits for a dress that would probably go from my closet to Beacon’s Closet once these frock-frenzied times subside. I took my search to Amazon, where I came across an objectively affordable (as in, less than £40) tunic dress that looked perfectly loose, plenty presentable, and even had pockets — a detail that some of the more expensive options I looked at lacked. For these reasons, it wasn’t that hard to add one to my cart. The bigger challenge was choosing from among the 18 available colours, many of which come in short- and long-sleeved options. I went with a long-sleeve style in the neutral apricot, in a medium, thinking something slightly oversize would be better than something slightly tight.

Out of the box, the dress’s polyester material felt lightweight and looked more like a summery linen that, with each wear, would break in and get better. The medium fit me as I hoped: Not too loose that it looked schlubby, but generous enough that it wouldn’t cling to my body in heat. I’m five-foot-six and the dress fell to just above my knees, a perfect length for the flowy style. I put it to the test the next day for a stroll in the park with my son, followed by an outdoor children’s music class and dinner. When I slipped the dress on, my husband looked simultaneously shocked and pleased — he even offered to take my photo before I left the house after telling me how nice I looked. It wore through the day’s events comfortably and, after hours out and about, the dress still looked great by the time I met him for dinner.

Being so inexpensive, one of my concerns was having a Marilyn Monroe moment if the dress got caught in any wind, but the material is substantial enough to stay down in a breeze. The final test came when I sent it to the cleaners: I requested a standard wash but asked the service to hang-dry, and was pleased to find that the dress barely shrunk, if at all. I wore it again the next week to a happy hour with friends, one of whom ordered the dress on the spot after I told her the price. When I got home that night and received a second compliment from my husband, I added a second style — the short-sleeved version in red — to my cart.

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This £30(ish) Nap-esque Dress Is Becoming My Summer Uniform