For some reason this summer, maxi dresses have been an epic fail. As much as they are a trend right now, the quality and cuts of most of the dresses I have seen are hideous. For instance anything that cuts you off in the waist. This look only works for very slim girls who need to accentuate their curves and makes curvy girls or any chick with hips look wide.
The fabrics used are cheap and nasty and not condusive to our warm weather. I'm a huge fan of long hippie/maxi dresses. They're perfect for hot days and warm nights out. It's a staple every girl should have. Viscose is the best fabric for dresses, it keeps the wearer cool and falls beautifully against your body. You can find viscose at most of your big fabric shops, it's affordable and durable and comes in so many great prints and colours.
I believe in tailored clothing, if you have an aunty or know of anyone in your community that makes clothes ask her if she can take your measurements, most likely she'll have tons of patterns for you to look through which she will adjust to your figure. Ask her how many metres of viscose she'll need to make up the dress.
Payment should be by the hour (her price) or consider how much you would pay for a similar dress in a store and use that as a margin for payment.
If you're curvy go for something fitted around the bust like a halter neck or boobtube and looser in the body, something that flows and doesn't cling to you. If you're more athletic add a belt to your hips or waist to give the illusion of curves.
Sometimes fashion retailers just don't get it right and rather than buying their crappy garments, have a dress made for you, it's unique and will last you many summer day's and nights for years to come.