How to Take Your Cruise Dress From Day to Evening

The key to packing light for your cruise? Clothing that’s versatile. Check out how we dress this frock up for formal night, and down for the afternoon. All you need is a blank canvas and chic accessories. Use our picks as inspiration for outfits that effortlessly shift from casual to formal. 

maxi cruise dress fashion

Photo by Garnet Hill

Start with a:


1. Maxi Dress

The formal vibe of a floor-length gown meets the ease of a short sundress. Go with a knit jersey style: They’re forgiving, comfortable, fold easily — and magically emerge from your suitcase without wrinkles. Where white can feel bridal and black leans toward evening, a jewel tone offers day-to-night versatility. Modern Surplice Maxi Dress, $98,



For daytime, add a:

katrina patterned scarf

Photo by Sosie

2. Patterned Scarf

Prints tend to telegraph a daytime mood. Choose a scarf with a multicolored motif, and let those hues dictate the rest of your accessories. Lightweight fabrics are best for sunny climates, and keep you warm in an air-conditioned dining room. Katarina scarf, $21,

fringed edged fedora cruise dress fashion

Photo by Hat Attack

3. Straw Hat

This vacation essential offers protection from the sun and tops off your look with texture, whether it’s a floppy, wide-brimmed sun hat or a tomboy-chic fedora. Fringed edge fedora, $98,

kia sandal cruise dress fashion

Photo by Zappos

4. Flat Sandals

Shoes you can walk in comfortably are inherently casual — and the key to nailing your daytime maxi dress look. Skip the flip-flops and go for a flat that feels special, with perforated leather, shell accents, or beads. Kia sandal, $39,

aviator sunglasses cruise dress fashion

Photo by Guess

5. Aviators

The perfect mix of sporty and glam, this classic style suits any activity, from shore excursions to lunch by the pool. These rose-tinted lenses offer 100-percent UVA and UVB protection, which is critical at sea. Kylie sunglasses, $72,

aviator sunglasses cruise dress fashion

Photo by Baggu

6. Small Pouch 

No need to lug around a tote: This zip pouch is perfectly sized for your room key, cash, and travel-sized sunscreen — everything you need for breakfast on deck or a short port visit. Small pouch, $20,

golden anchor necklace cruise dress fashion

Photo by The One I Love NYC

7. Delicate Jewelry

Keep it simple during the day. Think understated and easily removable for swimming and spa treatments. Golden anchor necklace, $80,




For evening, add a:

midnight bouqet cruise dress two ways

Photo by BaubleBar

8. Statement Necklace 

Go bold: An oversized necklace makes a simple dress Captain’s Table-ready in a flash. A pair of sparkly, shoulder-dusting earrings delivers the same effect. Our advice? Choose one or the other. Midnight bouquet bib, $56,

peppa sandals cruise dress two ways

Photo by Vince Camuto

9. Shoes With Shine

You already know heels are in order, but how to choose? As versatile as black or nude, metallic styles deliver instant glamour and look gorgeous on a dance floor. Peppa sandal, $98,

kenney minaudiere glitzy clutch cruise dress

Photo by Nina Shoes

10. Glitzy Clutch 

Nothing says evening more than a party-sized gem of a handbag. Kenney minaudiere, $58,

cocktail ring harlow cruise dress

Photo by House of Harlow 1960

11. Cocktail Ring

It pulls everything together. This piece, for example, picks up the gold metal in the necklace but won’t overpower your other jewels. Sparkling Marquis ring, $38,

broadway comb cruise dress two ways

Photo by Henri Bendel

12. Sparkly Hair Accessory

If you have long enough hair for an updo, now’s the time: It’s the ultimate special-occasion hairstyle, especially when accented with a crystal comb, clip, or barrette. Wear yours in the back or to one side so you shine from all angles. Broadway comb, $68,

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What's your most versatile item?

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