Active Clothing

For Those Times When Athleisure Is Quote-Unquote ‘Inappropriate,’ Can We Recommend a Breezy Tent Dress?

Erica Sloan

Photo: Emily Dulla for Modern Citizen
The nap dress may have cast its dreamy spell over a great many of us during the past year, but while we're not retiring our favorites anytime soon, we're also happy to welcome its slightly more sophisticated cousin onto the comfortable-style scene: the tent dress.

This billowy type of frock—occasionally called a trapeze, tiered, A-line, or swing dress—is unparalleled for anyone interested in a chic yet super-breezy look. With a silhouette that's narrow through the neckline and shoulders and then flares out into a tent-like shape, the tent dress's signature feature is its loose, relaxed fit. And if that's not something the masses can get behind, I don't know what is.

For those of us who wore nothing but loose-fitting loungewear throughout quarantine, tent dresses are a great option for a fancy meal out—or really any setting where athleisure won't fit the bill, but comfort is still essential. Another win? The float-y cut of a tent dress keeps the fabric from clinging to your skin, allowing air to flow freely beneath (goodbye, sweat stains!), which is a ventilation godsend for steamy summer weather.

Below, we've rounded up the best tent dresses for hanging loose—and looking put-together—all summer.

Here are the 8 best tent dresses fit for all your summer socializing needs

& Other Stories Relaxed Tiered Cotton Dress — $119.00

Both the shell and the lining of this tiered dress are 100-percent organic cotton, making it a great lightweight and low-maintenance option. Whenever it needs a refresh, you can just toss it in the washing machine (on a cold, gentle cycle) and then let it air-dry. And thanks to its adjustable shoulder straps, you can ensure it’ll sit at just the right spot. Tie the lengths of fabric in the back into a big bow or a simple knot—wearer’s choice.

Madewell Summertime Cami Midi Dress in Seersucker Gingham — $95.00

This checkered gingham number has summer practically written all over it. It’s made of lightweight cotton in a textural seersucker, and has a relaxed babydoll fit—so it’s easy-breezy from top to bottom. Since it has pockets on either side, you can pop your phone in one and your wallet in the other, and—gasp—go about your day bag-less. What’s more, it’s machine-washable for easy between-wears care. Pop it on with sneakers for an afternoon picnic, or dress it up with espadrilles for a fancy brunch.

Lemlem Mazaa Cascade Dress — $325.00

Like all Lemlem pieces, this breezy dress gets its softness and hand-spun feel from the traditional production techniques of the community of African artisans behind the brand.

Its founder, supermodel and activist Liya Kebede, works directly with women weavers in her native Ethiopia to develop and launch each style. Voile fabric in bright neon yellow with metallic threading makes this particular piece a summer showstopper—but to keep it in shimmering shape, it’s best to hand-wash it.

Modern Citizen Andra Tiered Mini Dress — $112.00

If you’re into short tent dresses, this Modern Citizen cotton poplin dress with puffed sleeves and a timeless squared-off neckline is a wear-everywhere classic. It fits snugly at the top of the bodice, then flares out for a healthy amount of bounce. And yes, it sports pockets on either side for easy on-the-go storage. It comes in three colors (black, tapenade, and magenta), and is fully made of cotton, so it’s machine-washable on the cold cycle.

Ba&sh Fenelope Dress — $220.00

Even in summer, there are some situations that just beg for a black dress—and when you choose a cloud-light one like this Ba&sh piece (which has a dramatic open back for even more breeziness), you’ll still feel totally in sync with the warm weather. Paired with a jacket, it’ll also transition easily to early fall. Its soft crepe fabric lets it catch some serious air in the breeze, but because of its delicateness, it’s best washed by hand.

Diarrablu Gnoor Dress — $195.00

Bold, colorful prints are an eye-catching signature of the eco-conscious brand, Diarrablu, with each piece designed to pay homage to the African heritage of its founder Diarra Bousso. A drawstring neckline and shoulder tie make this sweeping dress adjustable to various sizes, and its open sides keep it comfortable on even the hottest summer day. Slip it on as a beachy swimsuit cover-up, or dial it up with accessories and fun shoes for a night out.

Athleta Presidio Dress — $98.00

If a nap dress and an exercise dress had a baby, it’d be this multi-functional caftan-esque number from Athleta. Because it’s made from a stretchy recycled polyester-spandex mix, it’s a tent dress that also works well for an active day of errands in the heat. You can just pop it in the washer and dryer to clean, alongside any of your similar activewear pieces. It’s also wrinkle-resistant, breathable, and has 50+ UPF sun protection built right in, plus pockets to make getting around efficiently that much easier.

Old Navy Chambray Tie-Back Swing Dress — $45.00

Nothing says summer quite like chambray. And a swing-y chambray dress like this one from Old Navy is basically the plain white T-shirt of tent dresses—it goes with anything. Shirred, elbow-length sleeves elevate its welcome simple design, while a keyhole opening in the back adds a cute tie detail. Since it’s made of soft-washed cotton, the color has a naturally faded look that just gets prettier and softer with each machine-wash.

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