At least three times a week, I look in my closet hoping to find an easy-to-throw-on spring dress where I feel put together yet extremely comfortable. It’s the same thing as opening your fridge for the fifth time with the blind hope that something delicious will suddenly appear. But unfortunately, I don’t have a magical closet or a secret personal shopper that puts new clothes in it…so I come up short every time. I’ve also just been on the hunt because I’d like at least a few options to choose from which also means I’m going to need them to be affordable. Since I was having this issue, I thought some of you must be dealing with the same – wanting a couple of new spring-appropriate dresses but at a reasonable price. So I decided I would go to all the retailers that we love (that are on the affordable side) to find dresses that are under $150. But honestly, most are under $100 (lots under $50)! I also really tried to find dresses that are pretty bra-friendly. Maybe we should do a strapless bra review because I want to know the best ones! Any recs??
Now, this past Tuesday, Caitlin, Mal, and I went to go see Em’s new book in the wild and have a celebratory lunch (Ryann is currently in Italy and we aren’t jealous at all:)) Since we were at a mall, I was like, “Hey! Let’s try on some dresses so we can see and show how they actually look on our bodies!” So that’s exactly what we did. I broke the dresses down into four sections in case people had a dress type preference. Here’s type one!
Long Dresses Without Sleeves (AKA Below The Knee)
Naturally, we started at Target and this was the first dress both Mal and I tried on. We both really loved it! The ruffles were super cute and extremely on-trend this year as you will see throughout this post, the pattern was fun but timeless, and of course, we were into the pockets. Normally I’m not a ruffle person as I mentioned in the swimsuit review post but I liked it on this dress. I probably could have gone up a size to a medium so my boobs were less pronounced but all in all, this is a great throw-on-and-go option at $30.
Another Target dress that was really cute and really affordable! Personally, it’s not totally my style but I think it’s a really great option if it’s yours. I will say that you might need to either go braless or strapless because my bra was showing too much when I had it on. Both the first and this dress also come in other colors and patterns if you are into the cuts. Actually, A TON of the dresses I picked have multiple color options so if you like them click through to see what’s up.
Another stop we had to make was Madewell (duh). These dresses are a little more expensive (a little over $100) but boy did we like them. Mal LOVED this dress. The fit was great and she loved how soft the fabric was. Plus look at that cute tie-back!
Two more cuties (with pattern!). Mal is again rocking that cut and I am being a creep in the background. This is what she had to say about this dress: “SO comfy I didn’t wanna take it off. I love a dress that has that ruching thing at the top so you don’t have to wear a bra (at least you don’t if you’ve got smaller ladies). My only thing was that the sleeves had a STRONG ruffle, which was cute but not my thing since I already have big shoulders…but super flattering, insanely comfortable, and all in all a SOLID dress.”
As for my dress, I liked it a lot. Also super comfortable, loved the cinching at the waist, and thought the pattern was springy without being too springy. I’m not wearing a bra but would for sure wear a strapless with it (I just only had a black bra with straps…a real no-go with this dress).
Let’s see more options, shall we?
1. Women’s Short Ruffle Sleeve A-Line Dress | 2. The Softest Ribbed Tie-Shoulder Maxi Dress | 3. Sophia Cami Midi Dress in Wild Calendula Block-Print | 4. Contrast-Bodice Dress | 5. Button-Down Cotton Poplin Dress | 6. Women’s Sleeveless Sundress | 7. Women’s Plus Size Sleeveless Tie-Back Tiered Dress | 8. Side Slit Dress | 9. Mini Floral Print Dress | 10. Cinched Neck Slip Midi Dress | 11. Ruffle-Strap Tiered Midi Dress | 12. The Softest Ribbed Maxi Dress | 13. Lucie Smocked Tiered Midi Dress | 14. Women’s One Shoulder Sleeveless Tiered Dress | 15. Smocked Bodice Easy Maxi Dress
I am fully obsessed with #2 and #12. I want them so bad and might pull the trigger on one of them. I just think they are so cute, Spanx-friendly, and to my surprise are made by Summersalt. I trust they are high quality after trying on their swimsuits. I also love the very subtle sexiness of the small side cutouts on #8. Often side cut-outs are too big and end up showing stuff you may not want to show off. So these look like the perfect size to just say a little “hey hey”. Lastly, gingham print and springtime are two peas in a pod so #7 and #15 are perfect spring dresses (and look very normal bra-friendly!)
Wanna show a little leg? I’ve got you.
Short Dresses Without Sleeves (AKA Above The Knee)
Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of the short dresses without sleeves I rounded up below while we were out in the wild. However, I happened to have this dress (see above) that I bought last year and it’s still available in some sizes at Nordstrom Rack. I really love it! The cut is great, I love the faux wrap because really wrap dresses NEVER work on my body, and the print is so fun.
This dress isn’t the exact one as #4 below but similar enough that I thought it could still be helpful to visualize. What I love about it (aside from those awesome shoulder pads) is that it’s an easy dress-up or dress-down piece. These aren’t the best photos but you get the idea. Also, I had this one hemmed because it was pretty long on me and I wanted it more as a going-out dress. I’m sure the one on the model is longer than this one but it’s always a good idea to check those length measurements too.
Ok, now let’s see what the internet has to offer us…
1. Stripe Dress | 2. Flower Embroidered Denim Dress | 3. Halter Linen-Blend Mini Dress | 4. Shoulder Pad Dress | 5. Print Slipdress | 6. Floral Print Mini Dress | 7. Tiered Floral-Print Mini Cami Swing Dress | 8. Sami Mini Dress | 9. Vichy Check Dress | 10. The Luxe Pima Tiered Mini Cover-Up Dress | 11. Floral Minidress | 12. Fit & Flare Knotted Cutout Jean Cami Mini Dress
Again, not a ruffle gal but #1 is also making me reconsider. How cute is that dress and 100% bra approved! Personally, I love a high-neck halter so #2, #6, and #8 are right up my alley. #3 and #9 are definitely more going-out spring dresses and make me want to go on a tropical vacation.
But hey, maybe you love sleeves and I am here to deliver.
Short Dresses With Sleeves
Y’all this is the dress that Caitlin recommended a few weeks ago in the link up and she is not wrong. IT’S AWESOME!! We all looked and felt great in it. I maybe wouldn’t style it with high-top sneakers but that’s just my personal shoe regret of the day. They only had it in black in the store but it comes in a couple of other more “spring-forward” colors so there are options baby. A real sisterhood of the traveling dress if we do say so ourselves.
Mal Gal really rocking these two little numbers and here’s what she said about them: “This white J. Crew dress was so soft and comfortable and I love that it has pockets (kind of an essential for any dress for me now). The top part is a tiny bit see-through so just make sure to wear a skin-colored bra with it. The pink dress was SO fun but I think I should’ve sized down. It felt a little big in the sleeves but otherwise, it was such a fun party spring dress and I almost never wear pink (but it’s trendy rn) so what a fun shake-up. Plus the pattern is CUTE.”
And here are her thoughts on these cute dresses: “This denim dress from & Other Stories was so good that I didn’t want to take it off (and I’m highly considering going back for it). I loved the way it looks with these new sunglasses I got, plus the little ruffle detail on the sleeves and collar are a hard sell. The only con is there are no pockets. This white Target dress was super cute, but the sleeves are BIG. Like you could wear them down or up (this is them up), and I think it looks cute but is a lot of fabric. I would’ve sized down in this, and also I LOVE the back. Plus it passes the pocket check!”
Again, THOSE SNEAKERS ARE KILLING ME. Why did I not wear a cute pump?! Anyway, I feel like I look like a member of the Peanuts gang in that Madewell dress on the left but if I changed my shoes and hemmed the dress a little I think I would be 100% into it. And it was SO soft. I will say to size down if you like a tighter fit like I and the model below are sporting though. Then the dress on the right is a great easy breezy dress option if you like a long sleeve and a fun pattern. With the right shoes and accessories, this could be a really awesome spring look.
Here are the rest!
1. Cinched-Waist Cotton Poplin Dress | 2. Women’s Short Sleeve A-Line Dress | 3. Elastic Waist Mini Dress | 4. Ruched Detail Dress | 5. Printed Dress with Balloon Sleeves | 6. Smocked-Waist Mini Dress | 7. Crochet Knit Dress | 8. Flower Fields Floral Long Sleeve Minidress | 9. Striped Shirt Dress | 10. Collared Puff-Sleeve Mini Dress | 11. Cotton Voile Tiered Button-Down Beach Dress | 12. Voluminous Denim Mini Dress | 13. Collared Mini Wrap Dress | 14. Short Linen-Blend Dress | 15. Puff-Sleeve Smocked Mini Dress
Again for me, I like a good cinch of the waist so #1 (duh), #3, #6, #8, #10, #13, and #14 all fall in that category. Actually, I did purchase #8! It really looks like a versatile dress that could also easily be worn well into the fall with some tall boots. Also maybe a good first date dress??
Long Dresses With Sleeves
We made it to the final category and are starting out with a dress that both Caitlin and I really loved! We both are thinking of going back and getting it (except I really loved the solid red version. See below!). It’s a really nice linen fabric that cuts in so nice at the waist and really does good things for the girls. We weren’t wearing bras and were fine! I really liked when I put the puff sleeves off the shoulder on the red one for a different vibe (again see below. Sorry!) Plus the slit is just enough without being too much. 10/10.
From Mal and her PERFECT dress: “I’m in love with the shape of this dress – it’s the PERFECT ‘any occasion’ dress and could truly work for a billion different things. It’s got a cute lil slit on the side to break up the pattern and has a good neckline/sleeve situation.”
1. Midi Floral Print Dress | 2. Puff-Sleeve Fit & Flare Smocked All-Day Midi Dress | 3. Printed Button Up Midi Dress | 4. Women’s Balloon Long Sleeve Dress | 5. Plaid Print Dress | 6. Embroidered Cotton Dress | 7. Colorblock Floral Dress | 8. Women’s Flutter Short Sleeve Tie-Back Dress | 9. Short Sleeve Midi Dress | 10. Midi Shirt Dress | 11. Off the Shoulder Colorblock Dress | 12. Striped Cotton Dress
I really love all of these dresses and what is probably the best part about them is the fact that you can “bra it up” with zero concern. It’s the dream! For my style, I’m really drawn to #1, #3, #6, and #7. But boy am I drawn to the colors and patterns of #5, #8, and #11. Lastly, I have a version of #4 (same fabric) and it’s VERY comfortable and has pockets!
Well, I really hope this was helpful and that if you are also needing some dresses, I also hope that you found something that will make you feel awesome while keeping your bank account intact. Of course, never forget about second-hand shops, ThredUP, The RealReal, Poshmark, etc. for both sustainability reasons and hot deals! Have a beautiful rest of your weekend and see y’all tomorrow.
Love you, mean it.
Hello— great post! I think you are missing a link to Mal’s perfect dress? Looks like it is also from & Other Stories but I had to dig into their site to find the right one.
Thank you for letting me know! It’s updated but here you go: https://rstyle.me/+IBO45pe8zTbQUwXzaNv1pg
Not to make Jess feel worse about her sneakers haha…but any chance we could get the details on Mallory’s shoes too? So cute!!
I just texted her and will let you know asap!
Here they are! https://rstyle.me/+IQHPKt_7BYtIDZ5NPwt5tQ
Mango dresses only go to size eight. Maybe think about size inclusiveness in these posts?
Maybe the other sizes were sold out? Some dresses at Mango go to 12 but other styles go to size 20. Also, Jess listed a ton of dresses and included brands that do have a large range of sizes so I don’t think that criticism is fair.
I clicked on three Mango dresses and all three ended at size eight.
From their website, just FYI:
“At Mango we believe in diversity and celebrate inclusivity, which is why we have integrated our Violeta plus-size line within Mango Woman. From now on, you will be able to find all the old Violeta sizes in the Mango Woman collection, both online and in selected stores.
To simplify the online search of items available in all sizes, you will see the following tags on the images of the garments:
– Plus available: Mango Woman items that cover all sizes (from XXS to 4XL).
– Plus exclusive: items only available in Plus Sizes (from 1XL to 4XL).
Some sizes have changed, so please use the Sizes Guide to find the equivalence with your old size.
Now, we are one: we are all Mango.“
Hi Lisa, I know the extreme frustration that comes with companies needing to be more inclusive. Mango does have sizing that goes up to 4x but to your point, it’s not offered in all styles which is very frustrating and makes zero sense. But please know that I really did try to make sure there were size-inclusive options and if not the exact dress, knowing that the brand carried other cute options.
I was just a Kohls & the Draper James line by Reese Witherspoon is adorable & reasonably priced- especially if you snag a 30% off coupon. Definitely worth checking out.
Thanks for the tip!
I loved this post and thought it was helpful that you broke the dresses into different categories and highlighted ones with pockets. Great job!
So happy you liked it!!
Hi! I just wanted to see if y’all disable commenting after a certain period? I wanted to comment on Jess’s GORGEOUS home office setup, but can’t seem to access a comment box or reply to anyone else’s. Not sure if that’s a glitch on my end or something intentional. Thanks!
Hi Katie! First of thank you so much!! And yes our comments do close after I think a week or so since we stop checking them at that point.
Not related to dresses, but the nail art reminded me of Chaun Legend’s new nail collection: https://www.instagram.com/p/CcwollFLAMN/
O I’ll check them out!
I just CANNOT with all these tiers, ruffles, and puffed sleeves. They are simply everywhere. To me, they seem very infantilizing. When I was a little girl I would’ve loved them.
Totally agree, they all look juvenile. Wouldn’t be caught in any of them.
Same! Really unflattering cuts!
Would you mind giving reference to your height and measurements to give me a better sense of fit? Would be great in future clothing posts to see a few petite models. Thank you!
I agree!! But if no one working there is very petite sizing that would be hard.
Everyone talks about inclusivity but many times true petite sizes aren’t even offered- even if the size is xs they have definitely changed measurements for xs as they are often way too big!
Maybe you all are too young but that very first dress from Target is exactly the same cut as every nightgown my mom wore in the ’80s.