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

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [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]

The Antique Corset Gallery

The Antique Corset Gallery

Take a deep breath, and check out this sparse, simple, and beautifully designed site showcasing 250 years of corset… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

1920s Vintage Silk Flapper Kimono Robe Dressing Gown Art Deco Downton GatsbyLovely Rose Silk Velvet 30's-40's GownGorgeous Vintage 30's Copper Silk Chiffon Embellished Cocktail Party Dress GownVtg 1920s Cream Satin Party Dress Gown- Wedding Bridal -as Is- Flapper Art DecoVintage Shadowline Peignoir Gown Black Classic Flowing Night Gown Sleepwear RobeAntique Edwardian Cotton Batiste & Mixed Lace Wedding Gown C. 1908Vtg Bhs Mink Silky Wet Look Slippery Satin Lace Slip Negligee Nightie Gown Uk 221920s Vintage Pongee Silk Flapper Kimono Robe Dressing Gown Art Deco GatsbyVtg 60s Double Layered Ultra Sheer Chiffon Nylon Bow Babydoll Nightie Gown Uk16Vintage Olga Peignoir Nightgown Sleep Wear Night Gown RobeVintage 1920s Art Deco Gorgeous Beaded Party Dress Gown- As Is - Flapper Vtg Bhs Gold Silky Wet Look Slippery Satin Lace Slip Negligee Nightie Gown Uk18Vintage Made In Italy Pure Silk Sheer Floral Embroidered 1930s Night Gown Sz XsVintage 50's Brocade Rhinestones Evening Gown Dress XsGlam Tulle Vintage 50's Tiered Cocktail Party Prom Dress GownEdwardian Reception/wedding Traveling GownVintage 60s Double Layer Ruffled Nylon Lace Satin Bows Negligee Nightie Gown 42"Fabulous Vintage Japanese Yukata Cotton Kimono Robe Dressing Gown + Belt Vintage 70s Double Layered Orange Nylon Beautiful Lace Negligee Nightie Gown 36Vintage 90s Champagne Opulent Ruffled Demure Classic Runway Gown Sz M Vtg Black Shadowline Silky Peignoir Robe Olga Sweep Nightgown Gown Set 1x Xxl 2xVtg 60s Double Layer Frilly Chiffon Nylon Satin Bows Babydoll Nightie Gown 42-44Vintage 20s-30s Bias Cut Pink Silk Chiffon Negligee Night GownVintage Dresses Gowns 1940's Lot Of 3 - Rhinestones Sequins Beading Gunne Sax By Jessica Womens Vintage Dress Wedding Gown Beige Vtg 30s 40s Rayon Satin Powder Blue Long Evening Slip Nightgown Gown Bias S M Nr1930's Ladies Pink Lace Sheer Day Dress Bias Cut Vintage GownVintage 40s Era Night Gown Floral Print Rayon/satin Bias Cut Bust = 40" M-l SizeVintage 1900's Late 1800's Beautiful Sheer Fine Cotton Lace Bed Gown B 38"Vtg Ivory Silky Soft Shadowline Peignoir Robe Olga Sweep Nightgown Gown Set M LOlga Black Nylon Spandex Lingerie Gown-lFab 50's Full Length Satin Evening Gown / Stunning & Exquisite !!!!Vtg Lillie Rubin Beaded Trophy Thigh-hi Slit Backless Evening Gown 80s Dress 12Fabulous Vintage Early 60's Pink Metallic Lame Cocktail Party Dress GownRare Vintage Geoffrey Beene Black Lace Runway Wiggle Fitted Formal Gown Dress 6Jessica Rabbit Dramatic Vintage Hourglass 80s Red One Shoulder Plunge Gown DressVintage Cato Night Gown Robe Sleep Wear Classic WhiteVtg Sky Blue Shadowline Double Chiffon Peignoir Robe Nightgown Gown Set M L New Vtg Victorian Wedding Dress Gown Zombie Bride Costume Halloween Goth Corpse DeadLiquid Satin NOriginal Drawing Sketch 30s 40s Ny Designer Dinner Gown Dress Red W/emerald 6267Vtg Sexy 60s Ultra Sheer Nylon Frilly Chiffon Lace Peignoir Nightie Gown 40-42"Elegant Vintage Bias Cut Nightgown Night Gown Radcliffe Lace Aqua Size 38Vintage Light Peach Night Gown Xl Pinup Clothing Girl Burlesque Mid Century Vtg Cream Deco Bias 30s Gown Nightie Ghostly Lace Gothic Hollywood GlamourAntique French Country Regency Dress Gown Sage Green Ca.1820Vtg Rovel Apricot 4 Lyr Sheer Chiffon Babydoll Peignoir Robe Nightgown Gown Set Vtg 1940s Lilac Ball Wedding Prom Formal Gown Halloween Princess Dress 10-11 Vintage 70s Gunne Sax Ivory Victorian Pioneer Western Wedding Gown MediumGorgeous Vintage 1950s Off White Wedding Gown Princess DressVtg 80s Pink Evening Cocktail Prom Party Pleated Gown Dress S MVintage Silky White Shadowline Peignoir Robe Dressing Gown Sz L Bust 42"Vintage Shadowline Peignoir Night Gown Sleep Wear Robe Vintage Baby Pink Vanity Fair Long Nylon Nightgown Gown Lingerie Size XlargeVtg Miss Elaine Nightgown Negligee Gown & Peignoir Robe Pink Creme Embroidery MVintage 1970's Black Night GownOriginal Drawing Sketch 1930s 40s Ny Designer Dinner Gown Dress Embellished 6229S Sweeping Pink Vintage Slip Negligee Lingerie Night Gown ShadowlineVintage 70's Halston Iv Red Poly Jersey Side Slit Maxi Dress Hostess Gown Sz L Vintage Early 50s Era Night Gown Blue Satin (rayon?) Bias Cut Bust = 36" Sz M