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White summer dresses can beat the heat

How you can pull off the look.Consider skin tone, body type and accessories.

Summer is heating up, and so is your social life. Too bad your old standby, the little black dress, doesn’t work so well in 90-plus-degree heat. Time to ditch the black and rotate in a new summer staple: the little white dress.

We asked local fashion experts how you can make unforgiving white flattering for your skin tone and body type while getting the most from your dress with accessories.

Flatter yourself

When choosing a white dress, make sure you pick a style that flatters your body type. Little black dresses are slimming, but white often has the opposite effect. “Pretty in Dayton” fashion blogger Sarah Tyrchniewicz said, “Free-flowing dresses with a baggier top seem to work well. Most that I’ve seen seem to be cinched at the waist.”

The waist is a trouble spot for many, and Tyrchniewicz suggested, “For those who have difficulty with the waist area … you can buy something more free flowing and belt it as you like.” Wrap dresses are also a flattering option for nearly every body type.

Tracy McElfresh of Sew Dayton talked fabrics. “Jersey stretch knits are great for most body shapes,” she said. “They will fit wider range of sizes.”

As far as skin tones, McElfresh suggested organic unbleached cottons, which she said, “we feel is flattering for almost every skin tone.” If you have deeper skin tones, you’re in luck: Ultra white or stark white will look great on you. Fairer tones should opt for less harsh shades like ivory.

Another option for pale skin is to “add a bright accessory to break up the monotony and keep color near the face,” said BG Krishnan, CEO of

Accessorize it

White dresses are extremely versatile, so you can play with dozens of different looks. Our experts shared some favorites, from retro to ultra-trendy.

Adding bold color is a fun way to spice up cool white. “You can wear almost any type of shoe (with white dresses), so try adding a splash of color,” said Joanie Moerlein of Magnolias on Main in Springboro. “Red-orange is probably the most popular color we have out now. Lime green, royal blue, turquoise and fuchsia pink are great summer colors, too.”

Nude or python heels are an option if you’re looking to stay away from bright colors. “Nude heels and white dresses create a delicate, feminine style, while python heels and white dresses create a bolder, fiercer look,” said Camille Passaro, president of Muse Apparel.

As for other accessories, try some glam inspired by the TV show “Mad Men.” “We like a crisp cotton, 1950s fun and flirty,” McElfresh said. “A well-fitted cream sheath dress in a heavy denim or canvas with cat eye glasses is also a fun look.”

Trychniewicz said, “I also think how hair is styled adds a lot to communicate summer style with the white dress. You want to keep it beach wavy.” A casual hairstyle is important to avoid looking too bridal in white.

Chunky jewelry also adds some casual flair. “A lot of jewelry in the gold tones looks really pretty,” recommended Moerlein. Trychniewicz suggested chunky bracelets and long necklaces for a trendy look.

Cold shoulder

To keep warm on cool summer nights, consider pairing your white dress with a denim jacket, said Trychniewicz. A great look for an outdoor party, blue denim pairs beautifully with any shade of white.

“Scarves you can wear as a shawl are a great pairing for strappy white dresses,” Moerlein said. “They add color and keep you warm in air conditioning.” This is a perfect look for more formal, indoor summer parties.

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