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    

Antique Victorian 1900's Ivory Lace Wedding Gown Dress Train Accessories As Is 1800's Beautiful Unique All Hand Made Vintage French Lace Wedding Dress Gown Vintage 50's Floral Lace Bride Wedding Dress Prom GownFabulous True Vintage 1930s Gold And Brown Crepe Gown. Incredible! HollywoodVintage Antique 1920's Flapper Dress Tiered Blue Lace Yoke Velvet Ribbon GownVtg 50s 60s Emma Bomb White Pearl Silk Bridal Gown Wedding Dress + Coat Cape S Vintage 80s Black Gold Sequin Bead Trophy Dress Gown Cocktail Party Medium SilkVintage Edwardian Titanic Era Cream Embroidered Net Lace Wedding Gown Dress Vintage 1940's 50's Taffeta Striped Evening Gown Formal DressVtg Ivory Bridal Shadowline Silky Peignoir Robe Olga Sweep Nightgown Gown Set MVictorian Ivory Silk Satin & Lace Wedding Gown Dress-xxs!Vintage Antique 1920's Flapper Dress Crepe Embroidered 20's Yellow GownVintage 1930s Sheer Mint Green Floral Embroidered Glass Button Gown Dress As IsVintage Olga Twist Wrap Silky Nylon Nighty Nightgown 166" Sweep Gown Lingerie L Vtg Mid-late 40s Rose Pink Nylon White Lace Sleep Dress Gown Nightgown M/l Vtg Pink Olga Peignoir Robe For Nightgown Negligee Gown L Xl 94270Vtg 1930s-40s Column Gown Outrageous Sleeves Cut All The Way Down The Back!! FabSensual Purple Sheer Nylon Night Gown Peignoir Lingerie Size XxxlVtg Sz L-xl Bust 50 Long Ivory Nylon 135" Sweep Nightgown Olga?? Pristine Gown Nadine Vintage 1960's Blue Halter Top Tulle Prom Dress Gown Broken ZipperVintage 1950s 60s Prom Dress Gown Chiffon TooleVintage Art Deco Gatsby Flapper Peach Silk Nos Long Night Gown Floral Trim/tagsVintage / Retro 80s Gorgeous Beaded Large Lapel Gown / Dress M MediumVintage 70`s Retro Garbo Art Deco 20`s 30`s Long Flowing Evening Gown Dress BlueVintage Robe 70s Sheer Chiffon Sexy Black 192” Full Sweep Soft Nylon Gown ~ LVtg 70s Angel Goddess Sorbet Bridal Gown Prom Maxi Wedding Festival Dress L Vintage Nightgown Shadowline White Silky Lacy Sweeping Gown L Xl Bust To 46"Vintage Red Satin Swing Ball Gown Evening Dress 50s Old Hollywood Corset SmallVintage Dress Flapper Gown Party Satin Maroon Antique Party Prom Long Gown Ball Show Stopper True Vintage 1930s Crepe Satin Powder Blue Gown.Vtg Large Long Pink Shadowline Nylon Nightgown Roses Long Sleeves Perfect Gown Antique Victorian Edwardian Ivory Taffeta Wedding Dress Gown Beaded AppliquDj Vtg Fabulous Sweep Black Olga Gown Nightgown Spandex Body FormVtg 50s 60s Rare Hot Pink Lace Bridal Gown Prom Maxi Wedding Festival Dress SEdwardian Baby Blue Linen Full Length Embroidered GownVintage 1930s Satin Night Gown Spaghetti Straps Lace On Bodice Shorter LengthDj.vtg. Silky Smooth Liquid Satin Bridal Couture Gown Nightgown Set Sz.26/28Tto65 - Vintage Vanity Fair Nightgown - X-large - Blue Nylon Gown - XlVtg Sweetheart Fitted Purple Cocktail Chiffon Party Prom Madmen Dress Gown 50s Vintage 90's Floral Lace Beaded Bride Wedding Party Dress GownVintage 1960s Hippie Maxi Dress Gown Ethnic Caftan Pants Suit Outfif M LVtg Rare Jenelle Sheer Black Over Pink Chiffon Nightgown Negligee Gown M L TallVintage Oleg Cassini -black Tie,white Roses- Heavily Beaded Evening Gown Size 14Young Edwardian Arpeja 70's Black Print Empire Maxi Dress 30s Style Gown As-is SVtg Seafoam Green Mint Sheer Cocktail Prom Party Gown Maxi Spring Dress 50s Xs/sVtg Peach Satin Rayon Long Wide Ecru Lace Bias Bra Nightgown Gown Size S/mVintage Blitz Dress White Collar Polka Dot Land Girl Era 40's Ww2 Swing Gown S1950's Lillie Rubin Heavy Victorian Style Pearl Beaded Gold Gown Sz SmallVintage "pin Up" White Lace Wedding Gown Never Worn- Amazing!! Size 3/4 X Small New Antique Edwardian Cotton Lace Underwear Slip Night Gown Dress Chemise XlRibbons & Lace Vintage Satin Night GownMary Mcfadden, Size 8, Marri Pleats, 100% Poly, Never Worn, 70's Evening Gown1960's Women's Vintage Mod Backless Long Halter Scarf Evening Gown/dressVintage Shawdowline M Medium Pinup 50's 60's Peignoir Set Chiffon Gown Robe 38 Vtg Liquid Satin Pink Valentino Intimo Saks Couture Nightgown Gown Lingerie Mike Benet Vtg Southern Belle Super 312" Btm. Magnificent Gown! 1 Of A Kind WowDj.vtg Amazing Nylon Royal Blue Silky Sweep Couture Gown NightgownVintage Black 1950s 1940s Pin Up Lace Night GownVtg 60s Bright Peach Orange Lace Rhinestone Buttons Lounge Gown Maxi Dress S MShort Black Vanity Fair Gown. Hard To Find Color! Xxl