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]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Authentic Missoni Lurex Knit Crochet Maxi Festival Dress 70s Gown Hippie#1187, Dynamic 1918 Green Silk & Incredible Lace Dinner GownMuseum Piece Rare 1937 Jeanne Lanvin Haute Couture Gown DressVintage Edwardian Dress Wedding Gown 1900's Lawn Embroidered Intricate CrochetVintage 1930s *exquisite Ivory Slipper Satin Bias-cut Lace Art Deco Wedding GownRare 3 Pc Side Saddle Riding Suit Wool W Tricorn Victorian Era Bustle Gown 1880Superb Antique Victorian Black Silk Faille Bustle Mourning Dress Gown 1875 Xs/sVery Rare Antique Edwardian Gown Slip Fancy Lace Embroidered Clover Dress 1900'sNet Lace Embroidered Gown - Metallic Thread & Beading - Gorgeous - Needs RepairVtg 60s Bombshell Metallic Lame Brocade Cocktail Mini/maxi Dress Gown + Jacket LAntique 20's Ruffled Sheer Pink Roses Net Lace Long Gown Glam Formal Dress#1189, Romantic 1950's Tea Length Wedding GownVintage 50's Olive Green Flower Dress Gown Top Neck Back Bow Pinup BombshellVintage 1970s St Michael Sexy Ultra Sheer Floral Nylon Peignoir Nightie Gown 36"Antique C.1800-1810 Federal Neoclassical Embroidered White Cotton Gown/dress YqzVtg 60s St Michael Double Layer Nylon Frilly Lacy Negligee Nightie Gown 38-40"Vtg 60s Double Layered Chiffon Nylon Frilly Satin Bow Babydoll Nightie Gown 40"Vtg 70s St Michael Ultra Sheer Chiffon Nylon Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown 36Vtg 1960s Double Layer Chiffon Bri Nylon Satin Lacy Babydoll Nightie Gown 38-40"Groovy Art Deco Floral Print 1960s Vintage Green Mod Dressing Gown Robe 18 LVtg 80s David Nieper Silky Poly Satin Lacy Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown 42"M&s Glossy Wet Look Liquid Satin Waltz Length Slip Nightie Negligee Gown Uk22Vtg 60s Double Layer Chiffon Bri Nylon Frilly Satin Babydoll Nightie Gown 38-40"Vintage Glamour 50s Dorothy O'hara California Black Satin Evening Gown Dress MBeautiful 'susan Small' Evening Gown Circa 1970Vintage Olga Gown Pegnoir Nightgown, Nylon Lace Robe Set #92280 #94280 Size M Glossy Wet Look Liquid Silky Satin Chiffon Bow Slip Dress Nightie Gown Uk22-24Opulent Early Edwardian Floral Print Gown W Balloon Sleeves W RufflingVintage 50s White Chantilly Lace Wedding Formal Cocktail Dress Gown Vintage 60s 70s Sheer Floral Lace Empire Boho Hippie Wedding Dress Gown S MVintage 80s David Nieper Silky Poly Satin Lacy Bow Nightie Negligee Gown 38-40"Amazing 1930s 1940s Vtg Rare Silk Dress Gown / Wedding Bridal W Mink Fur SmallVtg Shadowline Aqua Blue Peignoir Robe & Nightgown Gown Set Plus Size 2x EucStunning 1940's Ruth Mcculloch Taupe Lace GownVtg 40s Ivory-white Nylon Lace Sleep Dress Gown Wedding Classic Nightgown MVintage 50's Black Ivory Pattern Dress Gown Cross Neck Pinup Large BombshellVtg 60s Double Layer Chiffon Bri Nylon Satin Eyelet Lace Babydoll Nightie Gown36Vtg 70s St Michael Nylon Lacy Satin Bow Waltz Length Nightie Negligee Gown Uk10Vintage Robe Chiffon White Sheer Peignoir Nightgown Gown Lace Bridal Gift I SizeVtg Sz M Bust 38" Very Long Floor Length Aqua Nightgown Empire Waist Lacy GownFlapper 1920’s Silk Satin Wedding Gown W Beading & Long TrainMr. Blackwell Sequin Evening Gown Vintage 1970M&s Glossy Wet Look Liquid Satin Waltz Length Slip Nightie Negligee Gown Uk14Vtg 80s St Michael Pink Liquid Silky Satin Lacy Nightie Negligee Gown Uk14-16Vintage 1960's Pucci GownVintage 80s Silk Stunning Iridescent Caged Back Ruched Fit & Flare Gown Sz Xs Vintage 50's Black Flower Dress Tulle Gown Top Neck Harry Keiser Pinup BombshellM&s Gold Glossy Wet Look Liquid Satin Lacy Slip Dress Nightie Negligee Gown 38"#1186, Lovely 1962 Wedding Gown Of Lace & TaffetaVintage 50s 80s Pinup Bombshell Pink Ruched Chiffon Prom Tea Cocktail Dress GownVtg Olga Red Nightgown Feminine Sweep Nylon Bomshell Lingerie Gown Negligee M LVtg 80s David Nieper Peach & Cream Silky Satin Lacy Nightie Negligee Gown Uk12Vintage Satin Wedding Gown 1930-40's Era Long Train Nice Satin & Veil Hand MadeVintage 90’s Ombre Pink Taffeta Beaded Ball Gown Sz SVintage 60s 50s Sheer Floral Lace Sheer Skirt Wedding Tank Dress Gown Retro M Vtg M Val Mode Long White Nylon/chiffon Backless Floor Length Nightgown Gown Vtg Nwot Undercover Wear Black Nylon Full 192" Sweep Nightgown Gown, Sz S? Vintage Luxite Full Length Baby Blue With Lace Gown Nightie Sz 38Vintage Night GownVintage 60s 50s Sheer Floral Angel Empire Sheer Wedding Tank Dress Gown M - L