Nightgowns notwithstanding, the gown is the most formal and elegant form of dress, a garment that’s frequently paired with words like “evening,” “wedding,” and “ball.”

Evening gowns are perhaps the most varied sort of gown. They are often made out of chiffon, satin, or silk in every imaginable color, although most women opt for evening gowns in dark or neutral tones so they can be worn more than once, each time freshened up with different accessories.

Types of evening gowns include strapless and column varieties, both of which are favored by women whose slender figures can handle such revealing and unforgiving cuts. Other women find bias-cut gowns, which are designed to flatter curvier silhouettes, more comfortable to wear, while women with a variety of body types often choose goddess gowns, which suggest the statuesque styles of ancient Greece.

Ball gowns conjure images of Cinderella or Scarlett O’Hara swooping into a room in blur of ruffles and taffeta held aloft by a crinoline armature. Today, layers of petticoats have replaced rigid crinoline frames to achieve the desired puffball effect for everyone from debutantes to attendees at formal embassy dinners and galas.

Wedding gowns, of course, tend to come in whites and creams. These dresses can range from elaborate Victorian affairs with long trailing trains to sexy strapless numbers with lots of eye-catching lace.

In modern times, gowns have had more consideration for the wearer than they did in Victorian and Edwardian times, when getting into a gown meant limiting one’s physical mobility for the duration of the evening. In the 1920s, for example, designers such as Erté created gowns that exposed the arms, neck, and legs amid a sea of wide, looped, taffeta ribbons. The design was over-the-top but the wearer’s movement was largely unrestricted.

Other evening gowns of this period were produced in a straight column style. Sometimes called tea gowns, these outfits were typically beaded in Art Deco and geometric patterns on silk, with lengths that fell just below the knees...

By the 1930s, gowns got long again and necklines plunged—fur stoles were often worn with gowns to keep bare shoulders and arms warm. Materials such as satin, crepe, and velvet were in high demand and beading remained a popular decoration technique, although the style inspiration was from the Victorian Era rather than the anything-goes flapper decade that had just passed.

Sequins gave beads a run for their money in the 1940s until Christian Dior introduced his New Look in 1947, which brought back an era when yards upon yards of fabric were lavished on a single gown. Charles James and Cristobal Balenciaga were just two other designers of the postwar period who excelled at ball gowns.

By the 1950s Balenciaga was pairing his gowns with equally enormous purple-velvet coats, but in the 1960s styles got minimalist again. For example, designer Oleg Cassini created an ankle-length evening gown in pale silk jersey for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. More recently, designers from Emauel Ungaro to Valentino have made names for themselves designing gowns.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

The VFG is a non-profit international educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vinta… [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vtg 1930s Floral Embroidered Black Sheer Organza Party Dress Gown Bias Cut SGorgeous 1930s Bias Cut Blue Velvet Gown Dress, 3-d Velvet Flowers As Is Vtg Luxurious Pure Silk Lacy Ultra Femme Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown 36-38"1930 Elegant Black Silk Charmeuse Evening Gown W/fish Tail Detail & Long TrainChristian Dior 1967 Haute Couture Black Satin Bows Long Gown DressVtg 80s St Michael Glossy Liquid Satin Lacy Chiffon Slip Dress Nightie Gown Uk10#1281, Magnificent 1900 Deep Golden Silk Reception Or Wedding Gown1890 Fancy Lacey White Two Piece Summer Gown Pleated Skirt W/trainAntique 1800's Ladies Chemise Gown- True Vintage Beautiful Detail & Workmanship Rare Antique Original Early 19th C Silk Cotton Dress Gown Gr8 Cond#1282, Stunning 1900 Gibson Girl Pigeon Breast Tea GownGreen Layered Gown Beaded Sequined Sz M L Sleeveless Spaghetti Silk Pearls WowVtg Olga Night Gown Robe Yellow Peignoir Gown SetRare Orig Victorian Pre Civil War 1840 1850 Cotton House Day Dress Gown Gr8 CondVintage Wedding Gown Sheer Cream Gossamer Tucks Ruffles Study Display RestoreEstae Fresh Vintage 1930s Pale Peach Crepe Gown Bias Cut,w/hip Flounce,low Back Fine Tatting Antique 1800's Ladies Muslin Chemise Gown-beautiful Cording &detail60s White And Ivory Delicate Floral Lace Applique Cap Sleeve Train Wedding GownFine Antique 1800's Ladies Linen Chemise Gown- True Vintage Beautiful DetailVtg Ivory Vanity Fair Antron Ivory Nylon Taupe Lace Full Slip Gown Lingerie XlVtg Olga Black Nylon Sweep Nightgown Gown Short Peignoir Lingerie M LLot Of Vintage 40s 50s 60s 70s Dresses Formal Wedding Gowns Veil Hat Xs/s/mVtg Claire Sandra By Lucie Ann Peignoir Negligee Night Gown Set Beverly Hills CaVtg Victorian Country Wedding Dress Gown All Lace & Ruffle Tiers CapletRare 1970s Stephen Burrows World Giorgio Beverly Hills Evening Dress Gown S Beautiful Antique White Lace Tea Gown-downton AbbyVintage Mid-century Modern Wedding Dress Gown Country Victorian Lace AppliquéVintage Lingerie Lot Peignoir Gowns Slips Cami Nylon Robes Vintage Victoria's Secret Gold Label Teal Blue Lace Nightie / Slip - LVtg Midnight Blue Full Slip Dress Lingerie Gown Lots Of Lace 42" BustVintage 1980s Black Silver All Sequined Sequence Dress Gown Size Large Vintage 1970s 70s Fully Beaded Floral Mes Ami Maxi Dress Gown Boho SheerVtg Pink Sexy Long Peignoir Nightgown Negligee Gown Night /smallUltra Frilly Vtg Sheer Nightgown Babydoll Panty Chiffon Set Sissy Gown 3x XxxlMovie Star Vintage 60s Lacy Pink Nylon & Chiffon 2pc Gown & Robe Peignoir Set SmRomantic Vintage 60s Lacy Blue Nylon Chiffon 2pc Gown & Robe Peignoir Set - MedVintage Edwardian Ladies Night Dress Gown Crisp White Cotton& Lace Short Sleeves1930s Black Satin Hollywood Glam Sleeveless Low Back Floor Length GownGlydens Vt. 60s Mango Color Gown & Lace Robe Set-medium-104" SwRare Vintage Find!-sweeping Pink Waltz Gown By Iris-original Tags-l/50"1950s Malcolm Starr Vintage Silk Chiffon Grecian Gown Cocktail Party Dress Antique Woman's Petticoat / Night Gown Vintage 1900-1919 Lace And Applique's Vintage Silky Satin Full Slip Gown Dress Petticoat Size 18 White Semi Sheer 1940's Vintage All Satin Wedding Gown Size 8Vintage Silk GownVintage Ladies Blue Nylon Long Night Gown, Size L Nice ConditionVintage New Rikki Long Night GownVintage Eve Stillman Bonwit Teller Blue 100% Cotton Gown & Matching Jacket LargeVintage Lingerie Cutters Lot Slips Cami Bras Panties Gowns 30 Pcs Total Crafts Vintage 1960s Nude Satin Breathtaking Brocade Lace Rhinestone Embellished GownVtg Lace Peignoir Robe + Olga Black Silky Nylon Nightgown Negligee Gown S M 50s Ivory Satin Lace Applique Long Sleeve Long Train Wedding Gown 1800's Nightgown Night Dress/ Dressing Gown- High Style With French-style CuffsGorgeous Lace! Shadowline Ivory Waltz Gown-l/48" *mint*Vintage Womens Blue Night Gown Long Pretty Neck Med M Shadowline1960's Red Satin Gown W/white Sequin Stars/snowflakes-medium-gorgeous- Bargain Vintage Night Gown Black Sheer Art Deco Antique Nighty Sheer Black Glam Vintage Shadowline Lingerie Blue Nylon & Lace Long Sleeve Gown NwtVintage 1960's 70's Night Gown Yellow Net Nylon Chest 40"Silky Shiny Satin Vtg Wedding Dress Gown Sequin Bead Lace Bust Sz 38 Victorian