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    

Super Orig Antique Victorian 1880s Blue Embroidery Eyelet 2pc Bustle Dress Gown Vtg Merlot Olga Nightgown Gown Negligee With Full Sweep 3xl Xxxl Plus Size 98280Vintage Edwardian Gown French ? Irish ? Dress Hand Tailored Silk Velvet LaceAntique Victorian Titanic Era Silk Glass Bead Embroidery Blouson Dress Gown Fabulous Glossy Wet Look Liquid Satin Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown Uk20Avon Glossy Wet Look Liquid Satin Lacy Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown Uk18-20Orig Antique Victorian Edwardian 1890 Black Dress Gown Lace Up Hourglass Corset Wow! Vintage 30s 40s Purple Crêpe Gold Tinsel Dress Gown L XlVtg 30 40s Rare Bias Cut Pale Pink Silk Lace Inset Hollywood Glam Gown Romper MVtg 1980s Semi Sheer Silky Nylon Lacy Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown Uk18-20M&s Luxurious Pure Silk Ultra Femme Lacy Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown Uk20Vtg 80s Miss Elaine Semi Sheer Silky Nylon Lacy Nightie Negligee Gown Uk18-20 Lot Of 56 Vintage Contemporary Nighties Night Gown Robe Babydoll Sleepwear PjVintage 40s 1940s Sweeping Full Circle Organdy 3-d Carnations Gown Dress MVintage 1950's Jean Of California Metallic Blue Mermaid Beaded Gown Dress 2 XsVtg 60s Pale Green Nylon Ruffles Ecru Lace Angel Sleeves Dressing Gown Robe MXl Long Stretchy Brown Vintage Slip Negligee Lingerie Olga Style Nightgown GownVtg Shadowline Double Chiffon Nylon Lace Gown Nightgown Peignoir Sweep Set M LGunne Sax Jessica Mcclintock Dress Floral Corset Demure Sweet Gown Boho Prairie1930s To 1940s Blue Rayon Chiffon Gown With Sequins And BeadsVintage 80s Val Mode Semi Sheer Silky Nylon Lacy Nightie Negligee Gown Uk16-18 Vintage Ivory Silky Soft Shadowline Full Sweep Nightgown Negligee Gown 2x XxlVtg 50s 60s 70s Wedding Dress Veil Train 20+ Lot Lace Silk Chiffon Party GownShadowline 2pc Black Gown Peignoir Robe, Size 1x VtgPost Civil War Silk Belt With Bow For Bustle GownStunning Sz Small Vtg 1930's Lace, Taffeta & Cream Sheer Flowing Wedding Gown1930's Ivory Satin Wedding Gown Sm True Vtg 1920's Full Slip Nightgown Royal Cobalt Blue Gown Bias Cut Drape-y S/mVintage 90s Cache Navy Blue Beaded Silk Dip Back Column Gown Sz S Vintage 80's Sequins Originals Gown Green & Gold Formal Beaded Silk Size SVintage 40s 50s Maurer Original Satin Wedding Gown Long Sleeve Vintage Peignoir Set Robe Gown Intime Double Chiffon Retro Chic ExcellentVintage 80s Cerise Pink Semi Sheer Nylon Lacy Nightie Negligee Gown Uk20-22Vintage 80's Jagswear Golden Gown Formal Beaded Silk & Sequins W/bra Size SVtg-30s Look Red Hot Victoria's Secret 100% Silk Super Draped Back Out Maxi Gown1940's Organza Wedding Gown W Applique Flowers Sm Vtg 70s Blue Yellow Floral Nylon Bell Sleeves Hostess Gown Lounge Boho Dress M/lVtg 70s Neon Hot Pink Pearl Bell Slv Boho Evening Party Maxi Dress Gown CaftanVintage 1960's Cream Raw Silk? Sleeveless Gown/colored Beads & Sequin Top 8-10Claire Sandra Lucie Ann Medium Ecru Ivory Lace Sheer Bridal Gown Embroidered MedVtg Gown And Peignoir, Vanity Fair, Wine Color. Lot Of 33 Vintage Contemporary Nighties Night Gown Robe Babydoll Sleepwear PjVtg Kayser Blue & Ivory Lace Silky Nylon Sweep Nightgown Gown Sz M UsaVtg Ucw Black Full Swp Chevron Lace Nightgown Negligee Gown Olga Panties Nwt XltJ Vintage 80s Olga Bodysilk Pink Nylon Long Gown Lace Full Sweep 38"-44" Bust LVtg Vanity Fair Black Stretch Lace Nylon Nightgown Long Sweep Gown Lingerie M LVtg Sz M 36 Long Floor Length Beige Nylon Lace Chiffon Top Nightgown Chic Gown Schiaparelli Lingerie Negligee Lace Paris New York 2 Layers Nightgown Gown♥ Saucy 70's Slinky Red Nylon Dressing Gown Robe Uk 12 ♥ [ J59Vtg L 42 Soft Beige Nylon Italian Camisole Style Full Slip Or Gown Ultra Fem Vintage Nwt Florencia Fiume 1930's Style Cream Lace Plunging Back Dress Gown LVtg 70s Silk Chiffon Crochet Lace Empire Hippie Prairie Wedding Maxi Dress GownVintage 90s Open Back Jet Black Velvet Embellished Column Gown Sz S Vintage 80s Oleg Cassini Sequined Black Bandage Gown Sz XsVintage Black Beauty Olga Nightgown Gown Size S Huge Sweep 190"Vtg Vanity Fair Watersheer Nylon Short Lacy Gown Slip Dress Lingerie Size 38Vintage Floaty Chiffon Over Nylon Fluffy Nightie Gown Darling! Lime Green- LargeVintage Wedding Dress Formal Evening GownWomen's Vtg 50's 60's Shadowline Cream Wedding Nylon Chiffon Gown Robe Set S MVintage Peignoir Robe Night Gown White Chiffon Lace Lingerie Vanity Fair S M