One thing unusual unfolds on-line every spring. As the hotter months strategy, many males appear compelled to submit concerning the attract of a lady in a sundress. The straightforward wardrobe staple has lengthy been some extent of inexplicable obsession, however this 12 months, persons are asking questions.

Why do some males get so excited to see sundresses? Wait — do males even know what a sundress is? Does anybody know what a sundress is? As social media flooded with responses, it grew to become clear that nobody may fairly agree on what made a sundress a sundress (versus a slip gown, a day gown, a shift gown, a shirtdress, a caftan, a tube gown or a nap gown).

So we wish to unravel this thread a bit, and ask you, the reader, to reply the query at hand: What’s a sundress?

Many individuals say sundresses are brilliant and floral, perhaps blue or yellow. White is extensively accepted. Pastels are traditional. Black is divisive. Nobody actually talks about grey.

On the resale platform Depop, a vendor named Bianca Steele listed a “Boho Black Sundress 100% Viscose sundress made in India.” The inky maxi was “most positively” a sundress, Ms. Steele wrote over the in-app messenger, including that she had personally loved black sundresses for over 4 a long time. She at the moment owns at the very least 10.

However Jeannie Stith, the chief govt of Colour Guru, a seasonal coloration evaluation firm, mentioned she will be able to’t condone a black sundress. “Basically, black has been bought to us as a common coloration,” she mentioned. “It’s really not.”

Ms. Stith mentioned that universally flattering shades had a mixture of heat and funky tones. For sundresses, that features peony, periwinkle, teal and sage.

Whereas out in Decrease Manhattan on a latest afternoon, three sundress-wearers — blocks aside — mentioned a sundress may be any coloration that makes you content. Although every acknowledged that being unhappy in a sundress was additionally legitimate.

Jana Smith wore a extra joyous instance — for individuals who consider sundresses should be colourful — down Sixth Avenue.

A black, slinky gown noticed within the park might not meet everybody’s parameters. Anakeesta Ironwood, 19, mentioned she would determine it extra readily as a slip gown, however acknowledged that some individuals would possibly take into account it a sundress, too.

“You’ve left me no selection however to mansplain girls’s style,” Randy Trembacki informed viewers on TikTok in Could. Gesturing across the empty area the place he would insert a picture of a mini gown from Shein, Mr. Trembecki, a 30-year-old podcast producer primarily based in Texas, named some options of a sundress: fitted prime, flowy backside.

On the cellphone final month, he elaborated: “It’s conservative however revealing. You already know music movies circa early 2010s, the place it’s the farmer’s daughter kind factor?”

However he acknowledged that his viewpoint was not common. A lot of the suggestions he acquired on his unique TikTok got here from Black viewers with totally different concepts concerning the quintessential sundress.

In “Sundress Pt. 2,” Mr. Trembacki addressed feedback like: “Ask any black particular person what a sundress is and also you’re gonna have the OPPOSITE reply.” In response, Mr. Trembacki included a clingy slip by Skims for instance of a sundress.

“The Black group’s choice for form-fitting, lengthy clothes would possibly emphasize a unique side of attract, one which focuses on visible attraction and the celebration of physique contours,” mentioned Shelby Ivey Christie, a style historian and former board member of the Black in Vogue Council.

It’s close-fitting, it’s black, it has spaghetti straps — however is it a sundress? Its wearer, Yesenia Valverde, 25, mentioned no. She considers sundresses to be one thing one wears on trip and mentioned they need to be flowy and printed. She mentioned her gown didn’t qualify primarily due to its coloration.

Some would possibly take into account this loose-fitting, floral-printed gown a main instance of the shape. Whereas that could be so, Renee Monaco, 29, didn’t assume sundresses wanted to be flowy to qualify. A sundress is any gown an individual wears within the solar, she mentioned.

Dictionary definitions of “sundress” usually stipulate sleevelessness.

However how thick is a strap earlier than it turns into a sleeve? Do you need to see shoulder? What about tube tops?

James Hamilton Butler, the director of the affiliate diploma style design program at Parsons Faculty of Design, shrugged off the query. Speaking about sleeves is outdated, Mr. Butler wrote over e mail. “We may be who we wish with out concern of judgment. (Unsure about tube tops although!)”

Sophie Strauss, who calls herself “a stylist for normal individuals,” says the query of sleeves is determined by what the wearer desires to get out of the sundress. In sundress-happy Los Angeles, she sees purchasers gravitate towards the garment as a result of it tends to “play up components of ladies’s our bodies we’re informed to play up, and downplay components we’re informed to cover,” she mentioned, rattling off manufacturers with huge puffy sleeves.

Mr. Trembacki, the TikToker, was not so dogmatic on straps both. “There must be some kind of strap,” he mentioned. “Although, there may very well be no strap, too.”

A crewneck silhouette may be divisive within the sundress taxonomy. However its wearer says she considers her floral gown a sundress.

The skinny straps on this midi gown might put it firmly in sundress territory, in line with some.

In some unspecified time in the future in recent times, the sundress — historically homely and demure — got here to tackle a peculiar sexual cost. (At the very least for individuals who are extraordinarily on-line.)

On the meme database Know Your Meme, a riff on Maslow’s hierarchy of wants replaces survival necessities like “water,” and “friendship,” with a chorus about sundress-induced exercise, too vulgar to print.

What’s it that makes “males go loopy for ‘the sundress,’” as a person on X lately put it?

Kyle Brown, a author who lives within the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and has a bicep tattoo of Joan Didion, provided some perception into the up to date male gaze.

“It’s all about this pastoral American fantasy,” Mr. Brown mentioned, describing a passionate scene involving a person who has are available in from doing yardwork to search out his sundress-clad spouse within the kitchen baking bread. “Males are confused.”

On the road, extra sensible issues nonetheless prevail.

Lexi Cover, a photographer who was carrying a Chopova Lowena gown on Fifth Avenue on a sizzling day, defined her reasoning. “I used to be considering {that a} sundress needs to be ethereal sufficient to make you not wish to put on underwear.” She clarified that she simply likes the way it feels. “Good heat breeze,” she mentioned.

Laura Meyers, 31, donned an above-the-knee gown on a latest afternoon. She mentioned she thought it counted, however added that, with its eclectic print and extra muted palette, it might be tough to categorize.

Gabriella Chaves, 25, deployed the “pop of purple” development when styling her lengthy, ethereal white gown. She mentioned sundresses ought to ideally be quick — however that she nonetheless thought hers made the reduce.

It could be that the sundress is extra of an thought than an article of clothes. After canvassing Decrease Manhattan for a possible consensus, I finished in to Reformation, a clothes retailer some take into account the mom ship of sundresses.

I couldn’t bear in mind the actual sundress Ms. Strauss, the non-public stylist, had talked about, solely that it was named after a sort of pasta. Once I requested a saleswoman for assist, she inspired me to contemplate any gown within the retailer. A sundress is no matter you need it to be, she mentioned, pointing me to a mini fit-and-flare within the shade “Final Tango.”