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I can't stop wearing this $23 shift dress that doubles as a tunic top

It gets me so many compliments!
Katie Jackson / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

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The little black dress may be a classic, but unless you're Audrey Hepburn, it's probably not the most eye-catching thing you own. So, if it's compliments you're after, you'll have to go fishing.

However, some dresses can't help but turn heads and even stop total strangers on the street. Recently, I found such a dress. The best part? It cost less than the bra I wore with it.

Urban CoCo Bohemian Summer Shift Dress

The last dress I bought on Amazon was this nondescript bestselling T-shirt dress in gray. With its comfy jersey fabric, long sleeves and pockets, it screamed practical. But after taking a Caribbean cruise this summer, I realized I wanted something with a bit more pizzazz.

After a quick search on Amazon, I found the Urban CoCo Bohemian Summer Shift Dress. I loved that it comes in a variety of gorgeous prints, and the $23 price tag was perfect for my tight budget. Plus, it has more than 3,700 verified reviews. That's how you know something isn't too good to be true.

How it looks

I clicked through the different swatches and struggled to find one I didn't like. Ultimately, I went with Color 18. However, even if they'd sent the wrong color, I probably wouldn't have sent it back. I like them all. While the dress looks like it could come from a designer, it actually comes from Urban CoCo. It's the same brand behind Amazon’s No. 1 bestselling skirt and this cute off-the-shoulder top with more than 4,000 verified reviews.

My dress was 100% true to color and looked exactly like it did online. I was worried I wouldn't like the three-quarter sleeves, but I didn’t mind these since they’re “lotus style" and just look like long sleeves I casually rolled up. Surprisingly, the fabric itself didn't look as cheap as I expected. I was able to wear it straight out of the package without even steaming it.

How it feels

It's certainly soft, however, it's not very breathable. That’s just the nature of polyester. The dress is 91.2% polyester and 8.8% spandex. Of course, it didn’t help that I first wore this out in Paris during the recent record-breaking heat wave. There was no AC on the train, so I was definitely sweating. Fortunately, because of the vibrant colors and cool pattern, no one could see any pit stains. I do have sensitive skin (my neck is still covered in a rash after a recent Keratin treatment), so I was slightly worried about reacting negatively to a cheaper fabric — but that didn't happen.

Why the rating isn't higher

Normally, I only stick with products that have a 3.5-star rating or higher. This dress had a 3.4-star rating when I ordered. Still, I couldn't write it off without looking into why the rating wasn't higher. Based on what I read, I think it's because of the sizing. Only 46% of reviewers say it's true to size, though the description does note that the size will probably be smaller than you’re used to. I ordered a size small since I’m often an x-small in loose-fitting things. When it came, it was a bit broad in the shoulders, but other than that, it fit perfectly.

Where I'm wearing it

Wearing my new dress at the Trek Travel VIP Tour de France finale viewing party in ParisKatie Jackson

Yes, this dress is short. You'll want to wear shorts under it. However, because it's short, it can also be worn as a tunic with jeans or leggings. I first wore it to the Trek Travel Tour de France VIP party gala at Paris’ esteemed Automobile Club de France (which has a strict dress code), but I can also easily get away with wearing it as a beach cover-up without feeling overdressed.

It can also be worn as an oversized top with jeansKatie Jackson

Casual or not, this dress got me plenty of attention. No one was whistling or making me uncomfortable. But I did get stopped in the street by two strangers (one of whom turned out to be the Olympic silver medalist Leon Van Bon and the other, a Dutch photographer who took photos of the dress). I also got some unexpected compliments on social media from followers who have never commented on what I'm wearing before.

I don't like attention enough to live in this dress. But the next time I'm feeling low and need a little ego boost, I know exactly what to wear.

The article was originally published on Aug. 7, 2019.

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