It’s true – fashion is cyclical. Around and around styles go. The names might change: “Hip huggers” became “low rise,” “warm-ups” turned into “activewear” and “maxi dresses” became “patio dresses” then went back to “maxi dresses.” No matter what you call them, maxi dresses are a cool look as warmer weather approaches.

“I love them because you can wear them anywhere,” says Wynn Hukle, a fashion-conscious teen who wasn’t born when the first maxi dress craze hit in the ’70s.

But she’s right. These long dresses that were once worn poolside or on the patio are showing up everywhere today, from restaurants to casual gatherings to nightclubs. Retailers say maxi dresses are selling well as the weather warms and people think about summer.

“There’s a hint of sophistication in maxi dresses this season that I’m really drawn to, even the more casual ones,” says Brooke Greene Hebert, owner of Pink Saloon clothing store.

Halter styles, empire waists, straight columns and elongated A-lines are just a few of the style options. A huge variety of comfortable fabrics, an even larger choice of prints and bright solids and details such as draping, asymmetrical necklines and hems make finding just the right maxi dress a fun search.

When Erin Duke of Aspen Boutique received an invitation that specified “patio chic” for preferred attire, she knew immediately what she would wear.

“I thought, ‘Ah, break out the maxi dress.’ They’re lengthening and flattering and, of course, women love that,” she says.

© 2011, The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.