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    

1920s Vntg Chiffon Gown Sheer Blush Peach Lace Flapper Kimono Style Satin Flower20's Or Early 1930's Liquid Gold Silk Swirl Dress Art Deco Bias Evening Gown 30sVtg 40s Silky Rayon Hawaiian Casuals Pake Mu Muu Anthurium Print Dress Gown M1920s Vintage Chiffon Flapper Dress Sheer Daffodil Yellow Lace Cape Evening GownTed Shore Vintage 1940s Ivory Gown 2pc Dress Jacket Wedding Evening Silk TaffetaVintage 1920's Bright Orange Silk Chiffon Beaded Gown/dress With SashVictorian Gown With Embroidery, Lace And Drawn ThreadWearable Size! Antique/vintage/modest/original/edwardian Linen Dress/gown/collar1950's Vintage Retro Glamorous Tulle Aqua Teal Blue Dress Formal Prom Size SVintage 80s Dress Drop Waist Peplum Pleated Blue Green Formal Retro Prom20's 30's Black Silk Velvet Gold Lame Brocade Halter Dress Art Deco Bias Gown Love Moschino Vintage 60s Style Formal Smart Wool Blend Dress Uk 12 Us 10 Vintage French Label Molyneux Gown Numbered Couture Black Crepe Pink AccentsHalston Iv Vintage Gold Metallic Caftan Full Length Gown Vintage 1920's Lovely Ethreal Sheer Tiered Ruffle Dress Gown 40-40-40Vintage 50s Lace Tull Ball Gown Wedding Dress Full SkirtReiss 'emiliano' 60s Vintage Style Pencil Formal Smart Party Dress Uk 12 Us 8 #1718, Edwardian 1906-1908 Pigeon Breasted Sheer Silk Tea GownVintage 1940s/40s Polka Dot Rayon Floral Print Mermaid Caplet Evening Gown Dress1930s 40s 50s Style Velvet Gown Dress LVintage 80s Dress Drop Waist Purple Pleated Off Shoulder Formal Retro PromVictorian Raspberry Wool Full Length Maternity Gown ? Watteau BackVintage Long Black Velvet Coat Dressy, Formal, Opera Size S/mVintage 60's Maxi Gown Party Dress Stan Hicks Size LargeC1894 Antique Victorian Leg O' Mutton Gray Silk Taffeta Half Mourning 2 Pc GownAwesome Antique Vintage Edwardian Chiffon Hand Beaded Navy Formal Dress Dtd 1919 Vtg 80s Aj Bari Noir Silk Sequin Bead Embroidered Formal Party Dress Gown 8 PetYves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche 40 Vintage Purple Velvet Satin Ball Gown Vintage Beaded Sequins Elegant Evening Silk Gown Red Size 8 Old Hollywood Gown1930s Style Multi Colored Sequined Cleopatra Gloria Swanson Dress Gown LTrue Vintage! 1960s Ivory Cotton Wedding Gown Detachable Train Short SleeveVintage 1950s 60s Victorial Royal Formal Sequin Prom Dress Size 10 Aqua TealEdwardian E. B. Donnelly Shoe Co. Black Silk Jet Beaded Ball Gown Slippers VtgVintage 1950's Ball GownSz12 National Level Vintage Princess Girls Ball Gown Dress--formal Kids PartyVintage 80s Dress A.j. Bari Floral Strapless Formal Dress Prom Vtg 12 CottonWomen Dress 50's 60's Formal Cocktail Tea Dress Vintage Pinup Housewife Sz SmallVintage 70s Prom Dress Maxi Yellow Gown Princess Sheer Ruffle Beauty Beast BelleVtg. Lace Pearls Satin Wedding Gown Stunning!Vtg. Chiffon Pearls Satin Wedding Gown Stunning!Vintage 80s Southern Belle Sweetheart Blue Lace Formal Prom Dress Small Xs EucVintage Sears -cachet- Pink Nulon And Lace Long Gown Sz L-xl Nice Never WornVintage 1950s Long Blue Formal Womens Dress Sequins Tulle Satin Metal Zipper GooVintage 1980's Couture Designer Bill Blass Pink Satin Strapless Formal Dress SVtg Women's Laurence Kazar Sz 2/4 Petite Sequin Dress Beaded Long Sleeve FormalVintage 60s Gold Evening Gown / Formal Dress / Mustard Yellow / Size MAntique Art Deco Wedding Dress Gown C1930s Ivory Satin Lace See Measure Xs SVintage 60s Yellow Prom Dress By Jane Winkler // Formal Gown // Size Xs SReally Beautiful Vintage Black Glass Beaded Purse Clutch Formal Evening NiceVintage 1970s/70s Silver Rhinestone Empire Waist Disco Maxi Evening Gown 60sVintage 1950's Formal Pink Tulle And Lace Prom DressLot Of 10 Vintage Beaded Sequin Clutch Bag Evening Gown PursesVintage Women's Gloves White Crocheted Victorian Dress Formal WeddingDelicates - Soft Long Flowing Gown Chiffon Details Pretty Excellent Sz Large 100% Silk Jewel Queen Evening/runway Gown Sz B4 Black/gold/silver Beads&sequinsVtg Marc Bouwer 80s 90s Goddess Gown Long Train Shoulder Red Carpet Dress Gown MTrue Vtg 80s 90s Mike Benet Sequin Sweetheart Blue Prom Formal Dress Gown 0 2Vtg M Sequin Jacket Oleg Cassini Black Tie Beaded Evening Formal Blazer Silk TopVtg 70s Rainbow Hibiscus Surf Beach Maxi Hippie Dress Gown Retro Mod Gypsy 42"Vintage 40s Prom Dress Ball Gown The Famous Braddock & Mckeesport Yellow Maxi S