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Summer Dresses for 20 Dollars or Less

Cheap Dresses for Hot Days

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One day, I will make a calendar, and replace the months of May through August with a graphic that reads, "CHEAP CLOTHING SEASON." Really, there's almost nothing else you need to know about those months. (Unless your birthday is during the summer. And even then, aren't you excited to have cheap, cute things to wear to your party?)

Summer is the greatest time of year for buying cheap dresses. You don't need or even want a ton of fabric, which keeps costs down, and most budget retailers have a pretty good selection of cute frocks for ladies who want to look awesome and not spend their vacation money to do it.

These are the absolute cheapest of the cheap summer dresses. If you find any dresses cheaper than these, you should not buy them, because they almost definitely fell off the back of a truck somewhere.

1. Color Block Mid Shift Dress

Color Block Mid Shift Dress
Forever 21
This super-cheap dress embodies two of the major dress trends for summer 2012: color blocking and asymmetrical hemlines. Also, it's a good alternative for people who can't get with the pastel thing that's going on this year, and it's definitely professional enough looking that you could pair with a blazer and wear it to the office. Comes in Camel/Black. Forever 21, $12.80.

2. I 'Heart' Ronson Floral Braided Dress

I 'Heart' Ronson Floral Braided Dress
JC Penney
Generally, I have a policy about regurgitating any part of the retailer's description of their own items, but I feel that I must tell you, in this case, that JC Penney describes the pattern of this dress as an "edgy floral." What's even weirder is that they're kind of right. This is a good alternative to the Little House on the Prairie prints that have been crowding the runways and the malls for the past year. Also, it has pockets, which makes it an automatic winner in my book. White/Black. (And edgy!) JC Penney, $20.

3. Belted Cherry Print Dress

Belted Cherry Print Dress
Forever 21
I'm obsessed with the cherry print on this cute little frock. Also, it has both sleeves and pockets, which long-time readers will know makes this pretty much my ideal dress. Comes with the skinny belt, pictured. Coral or Yellow. Forever 21, $14.80.

4. Smocked Chiffon Dress

Smocked Chiffon Dress
Old Navy
Secretly, my favorite thing about this summer dress is that it's chiffon, and already crinkled, which means that as long as I don't ball it up and store it in a corner of my closet, it'll probably look fine without ironing. The smocking details are also pretty adorable. Two patterned versions, in Pink and Blue, and two solid, in Ruby Pink and Locomotive. (Which looks like dark brown to me, but what do I know.) Old Navy, $20.

5. Ruffled Cap Sleeve Dress

Ruffled Cap Sleeve Dress
Forever 21
This sweet little dress features a pleated bodice, a row of cute buttons, and plenty of ruffles. This is the kind of dress I'd wear to go get ice cream sodas, if anyone did that anymore. So basically, a great weekend dress, or perfect for one the time machine finally finds you and sends you back to 1950. Comes in Coral. Forever 21, $19.80.

6. Belted Cap-Sleeve Dress

Belted Cap-Sleeve Dress
Wearing this dress is a lot like wearing PJs, only you're less likely to be arrested in the middle of the grocery store. Super comfy and cute, with a tie belt and cap sleeves. Print comes in Ruby Pink; solid is Black. Old Navy, $20.

7. Daisy Flutter Dress

Daisy Flutter Dress
Forever 21
When I'm evaluating a summer dress for possible addition to my wardrobe, I always ask myself, "Will I actually wear this thing?" If it's too complicated, busy, or binding, the answer is no. This easy-to-wear casual day dress definitely passes my laziness test. It's super cute, too. Comes in White/Red. Forever 21, $19.80.

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