20 Styles of Dresses That Every Woman Should Know About

The fashion industry never stops evolving. It can feel overwhelming to try and keep up with the latest styles, especially as busy women over 40!

One of my go-to’s when I’m not sure what to wear… a dress. It’s an easy one-and-done piece that is also so feminine. But, again there are SO many dress styles that it can be incredibly overwhelming. To help you find the perfect dress for your personality, style, and lifestyle, I’m going over 20 dress styles that every woman should know about. From summer dresses to evening gowns, I’ve covered all the popular styles to help you update your wardrobe…and get out of overwhelm.

Think of this as your Cliff’s Notes for dresses. Ready? Let’s do this…

Palm print sequin mini dress by rachel zoe on blond woman carrying rivington white satchel by Henri Bendel

#1 | The Backless Dress

Backless dresses are usually worn for formal, or semi-formal events. They bring plenty of sophistication, while still packing style, glamour, and MAJOR sex appeal. The dress above is a dressier option, but there are plenty of backless dresses that are great for casual summer outings too! If you like to flaunt your back and highlight your curves, a backless dress is a great addition to your closet.

#2 | Off the Shoulder Dresses

Off-shoulder dresses show off your shoulders while keeping your upper arm covered. The chest is such a beautiful part of a woman’s body and a great area to highlight at any age. This style gives you femininity and sex appeal, without committing to a completely strapless look. For a great off the shoulder dress that covers your arms, this is a great option.

Neutral Accessories, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of featuring a beige belt bag, neutral platform sandals, and a lariat necklace by Vince Camuto in Telluride, CO

#3 | Bodycon Dresses

Bodycon dresses can be a little difficult to pull off over 40 but if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Bodycon dresses accentuate your assets by hugging your body. The tight fit naturally draws eyes to your curves. They are usually tighter in the bust and hip areas, which can give you a look that exudes confidence. If you’re unsure, make sure you check out my video on how to determine your body shape!

What To Wear To A Spring Wedding, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a lavender lace Bardot dress from Nordstrom with strappy heels from Ann Taylor in Moab, Utah

#4 | Lace Dresses

I love a gorgeous lace dress! Lace dresses present a timeless style that strikes a balance between feminine and conservative. Lace is usually considered a traditional fabric but finding the right kind of lace can be difficult. Some of my favorite lace dresses are by Bardot…they have gorgeous lace patterns and they’re affordable! your wardrobe for a cute and classic look. This lace dress is sold out in lavender but it’s available in other colors here. I also love this sexy, halter neckline which shows off your shoulders.

Black dress, fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a black printed dress by Rotate with a Valentino belt, nude Vince Camuto mules, and flat top sunglasses in Telluride, Colorado

#5 | Long Sleeve Dresses

Dresses don’t have to be revealing to make a statement. Long sleeve dresses carry a timeless sophistication that really supports the concept of “less is more.” Remember, the great thing about long sleeve dresses is they look great on women of all ages! If you’re self-conscious about your arms, try a long sleeve dress! This dress by Rotate is perfect for women over 40 AND it’ll transition into fall!

Red Wide Leg Pants and Strapless Matching Cropped Top by Free People in Moab, Utah on Fashion Blogger Erin Busbee (16 of 27)

#6 | Strapless Dresses

Show off your shoulders and arms with a strapless dress. They draw attention to your collarbones or any necklace accessories you chose to add to your outfit. Remember that if you go for a strapless dress, you’ll need a good strapless bra (another wardrobe basic)!

June Best Sellers, fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style sharing the top sellers of June including this chambray linen A.L.C. shirt dress

#7 | A-line Dresses

A-line dresses fit snugly at the chest and hips and gradually flare out, which gives the dress their distinct ‘A’ shape. A-line dresses are usually very flattering on most body shapes! Best of all, they look great in almost any occasion and can easily be dressed up or down. This stunning belted, A-line dress by A.L.C. is super chic and great for summer!

NOTE: The waistline for a-line dresses can be just underbust (empire waist) at your natural waist or a drop waist.

Dress For Summer, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a black long sleeve tiered Amanda Uprichard dress with a Kendra Scott adjustable necklace, Saint Laurent sunglasses, and Valentino sandals in south Texas

#8 | Shift Dresses

A shift dress does not hug the body, which makes it perfect for women of all shapes and sizes. They don’t have a defined waist, so don’t worry about them being too revealing or snug. There are tons of shift dress styles as well…there are work shift dresses, casual shift dresses, special occasion shift dress, etc.

Puff Sleeve Dress, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a white puff sleeve dress by L'Academie with white Jagger strappy sandals, white Chloe bag, and Salvatore Ferragamo sunglasses in Telluride Colorado

#9 | Mini Dresses

 Mini dresses are exceptionally short, which allows you to show off your legs! This sexy L’Academie mini dress is great for summer and it’s short but still appropriate if you feel comfortable showing some leg!

Dress For Summer, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a white smocked waist high neck dress by Amanda Uprichard dress with a Julie Vos cuff bracelet, Saint Laurent sunglasses, and Valentino sandals in south Texas

#10 |  Halter Dresses

Halter dresses feature a sleeveless upper half that sometimes ties around the neck. This sexy style will show off toned shoulders! This halter dress is by Amanda Uprichard has a high neck and drop waist. It’s a sweet and sophisticated LWD!

White Top Under $100, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a white lace top by WAYF with dark wash skinny jeans by L'AGENCE, neutral Vince Camuto peep-toe mules, a white mini Gucci bag, and green peplum Frame jacket in San Diego, California

#11 | Peplum Dresses

Peplum dresses use a cute combination of fit and flare. They use a slightly flared strip of fabric around the waistline, while still hugging the upper legs. The peplum top or dress can make your waist look smaller and also hide a little tummy. In the image above, I’m wearing a peplum jacket. I don’t own a peplum dress, but I’m about to change that. I LOVE this one!

Easter Dresses, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a blue belted Eliza J sweater dress, tan and white strap Malone Souliers, Julie Vos bracelets, B initial necklace, and Chloe sunglasses in the Bahamas

#12 | Sweater Dresses

I love a beautiful (and comfy) sweater dress. I even wear them year-round because I live in a cooler climate. It’s easy to throw on with some swanky mules or booties/boots and be ready to go! Plus, you can dress them up or down depending on the occasion. Sweater dresses come in all styles, lengths, levels of warmth, etc. The gorgeous blue sweater dress I’m wearing above is sold out but you can find more sweater dresses here. I shared more about this exact outfit in here.

Mother's Day Dresses, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a pink blush lace Bardot dress in the Bahamas styled with nude Valentino rockstud sandals and gold jewelry from Nordstrom

#13 | Pencil Dresses

Pencil dresses get their name from their long, slender, pencil-like shape. Their form-fitted style lacks frills and can be used to give the illusion of added height. They are perfect for chic occasions and in simple, solid fabrics, ideal for women in corporate America.

Styling animal print clothes with neutral Accessories, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of BusbeeStyle,com wearing leopard print slip dress, blanknyc tan suede moto jacket, tan suede peep-toe mules and a green woven clutch by Vince Camuto in Telluride, CO

#14 | Slip Dresses

Slip dresses are exactly what they sound like… a dress that looks like a slip. They ooze sex appeal because of the fact they are typically reserved for bedtime or as an undergarment. It’s easy to style a slip dress different by throwing a jacket or blazer over your shoulders and changing your shoes. They are often made from delicate fabrics like silk.

Maxi Dresses For Summer, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a peach Free People Lily of the Valley maxi dress with a Free People lace bralette walking on the beach in the Bahamas

#15 | Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses are THE BEST! The hemline is typically slightly off the ground, just above your shoes. These dresses are very versatile and can be worn to everything from daytime parties, to weddings even the beach!

New Year's Eve Dresses, Fashion blogger over 40 Erin Busbee of wearing a black ruffled metallic mini dress by IRO with black embellished sandals in Telluride, CO

#16 | Cocktail Dresses

The cocktail dress is an essential piece of after-evening wear. They usually hit somewhere in the knee zone… and are dressy enough to wear to parties and events. This dress should be one that makes a statement and makes you feel confident and sophisticated!

#17 | Tube Dresses

I wouldn’t touch a tube dress unless you are in your 20’s. They are really tough to pull off. It’s basically a bodycon dress, but with a strapless tube-style top. They are tight, form-fitting, and almost always strapless. The stretchy material hugs the chest and waist to prevent the dress from slipping down.

How To Wear A Maxi Dress, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a peach Free People Lily of the Valley Maxi dress with brown block heel sandals, white lace cami underneath, floral headband, gold necklace, and sunglasses walking in Telluride, Colorado

#18 | Sun Dresses

Sundresses are a must-have for summer days. They combine a loose-fitting design with a wide neckline to give off a casual look. Soft, light materials combine with feminine fabric and colors …make this perfect for a cute summer look.

What To Wear To A Spring Wedding, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of in Moab, Utah featuring a pink maxi dress by Reformation with Treasure & Bond espadrilles from Nordstrom

#19 | Kimono Dresses

Kimono dresses borrow from traditional Japanese styles to give off a sophisticated look that is difficult to replicate. They use long sleeves and a distinct wrap dress closure. It’s such a flattering option for many different body shapes. If you are not sure what body shape you are, be sure to watch this video.

Africa Outfits, Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing a tan belted shirtdress by ALC with white booties in Telluride, Colorado

#20 | Shirt Dresses

Shirt dreses are my FAVORITE! I love that they are typically belted to create a more defined waist and/or accentuate your shape. They are also versatile and can easily transition from daytime to night.

What is your favorite dress style? Please let me know in the comments below…

To get my blog posts delivered directly to your inbox, along with some awesome freebies, be sure to sign up for my newsletter here.

Thank you for stopping by!

Erin Busbee signature

Join the Conversation

Explore More

Posts You'll Love

How To Wear the Popular Tie-Dye In A Sophisticated Way | Fashion Over 40

Sharing one of the most popular trends and how to wear it in a sophisticated…
Read Post

Three Chic Dresses That Will Make You Love The Puff Sleeve Trend

Sharing three gorgeous puff sleeve dresses!
Read Post

How To Update A Wet Bar To Be Family-Friendly

Sharing how I transformed our wet bar into a family-friendly wet bar...a beverage bar! Including…
Read Post

An Easy Way To Look Chic During The Summer (While Covering Arms)

Sharing an easy way to look chic during the summer...throw on a shirt dress!
Read Post