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    

Beautiful Antique Victorian Silk Taffeta Blouse Skirt Dress Gown Hand SewnVintage 1980s Heavily Embellished Silk Golden Goddess Gown Sz LVtg 3x Rare Size #92270 Olga 200" Sweep Navy Blue Nylon/spandex Nightgown Gown!Vintage Early 1960s Georgia Peach Beaded Debutante Gown Sz Xxs Ca 1912 Edwardian Titanic Era Beaded Gown As Is Sm Nice Antique Victorian Black Satin Cream Lace Beaded Sequined Dress Gown 1901 XsVtg M #92270 Olga 190" Sweep Gleaming White Nylon/spandex Nightgown Femme Gown Vintage Joseph Ribkoff Gala 100% Silk Black Beaded Gown Dress Medium - N29Vtg Olga Pink Chiffon & Lace Peignoir Gown Robe Set Nightgown Sz 38Vtg Intime Salmon Pink Double Chiffon Wide Lace Sweep Peignoir Gown Robe Set LVintage 60s Mike Benet Scarlet Siren Sequined Sweetheart Formal Gown Sz XxsFrank Usher Original Vintage 80`s Evening Dress Gown Ball Re-work Repair Gothic Vtg 50s White Lace Full Skirt Wedding Dress Gown Long Sleeves Bustle Crinoline MVintage 90s Emerald Green Heavily Embellished Silk Showgirl Gown Sz LVtg 80s Victorian Southern Belle Civil War Prom Formal Costume Gown Dress MVtg Victorian Point D'esprit Lace High Neck Costume Dress Gown Reproduction MSylvia Ann Vtg 70s Sheer Chiffon Pink Prom Party Maxi Dress Sequin Long Gown XlVtg Nylon Nightgown 180 Inch Sweeping Spandex Dancing Gown Negligee Lingerie MedVtg St Michael Silky Satin Waltz Length Slip Dress Negligee Nightie Gown Uk16Vintage 1980s Victor Costa For Lord & Taylor Mermaid Emerald Drama Gown Sz SVintage Victorian Edwardian 80s Does Dress Slip Gown Lot Queen Annes M SteampunkVtg Olga Nylon Nightgown Gown Negligee Dancing Gown Bodysilk Lingerie 92077 MedmVintage Frank Starr Original 1950's Red Satin Evening Gown LargeGorgeous Vintage Olga Pink Floral Nightgown Stretchy Purrfect Sz S/m+ VariableVtg 60s Baby Pink Sheer Nylon Fine Lace Chiffon Satin Nightie Negligee Gown Uk14Vintage Lucie Ann Pom Pom Peignoir Robe & Gown SetBhs Glossy Wet Look Satin Pretty Lace Slip Dress Negligee Nightie Gown Uk14L Long Tall Pink Satin Vtg Lingerie Slip Gown Dress Renaissance Angelic SleevesVintage 90s Emerald Green Beaded Silk Sheer Panel Cage Back Runway Gown Sz MTrue Vtg 1940/1950s Cotton Dressing Gown Polka Dot Seersucker Navy BlueVintage 1950s Wedding Dress White Satin And Tulle Long Gown Size Small MediumVintage 90s Brocade Embellished Black On Black Structured Gown Sz SVintage Ceil Chapman 1950s 60s Beaded Silk Evening Gown With Floral SequinsVintage 80s Wedding Dress Wedding Gown Size 10Rare Short Vtg Olga Bodylace Nylon Stretch Lace Nightgown Gown Sweep Lingerie LVtg 70s Red 100% Silk Dragon Embroidered Kimono Dressing Gown Dress Robe M/l/xlOff White Candi Jones Vintage Gown Size 4/6 Regular 1965-1976(mod,hippie,disco) Vintage 90s Velvet Embroidered Sheer Panel Drama Gown Sz XsLiquid Satin N2xl Long Lacy Purple Sweeping Vtg Slip Chiffon Negligee Lingerie Night GownVtg 70s Red Soft Velour Ethnic Embroidered Dressing Gown Dress Caftan Robe MVintage 70s Formfit Rogers Long Silky Princess Nightgown Gown~xs/s~lace Ruffles~Vintage 90s Perfectly Plum Princess Glitter Floral Open Back Gown Sz SRare! Vtg M-l Olga #9657 Stretch Appeal Floor Length Pink/ivory 140" Sweep Gown Vtg 60s Bubble Gum Pink Lisette Dbl Nylon Chiffon Gown Robe Peignoir Set M/lOlga~gorgeous~long Vintage Gown & Robe Set~white~s2xl Long Lacy Blue Sweeping Vtg Slip Chiffon Negligee Lingerie Night GownVintage 90s Ice Princess Platinum & Diamond Beaded Keyhole Gown Sz MLong Olive Green Nylon Lingerie Night Gown Size L 1940's Satin Wedding Gown Ecru Emboidered Lace & Pearls Cathedral Chapel TrainVintage 90s Cache Bugle Beaded Silk Open Back Midnight Runway Gown Sz L Exquisite Antique Edwardian Silk Velvet & Chantilly Lace Dress/gown, 34-28-36!Russell's Eugene Vintage GownVintage Sears Formal Length Full Slip (long Night Gown) - Size 34 - Ivory NylonVintage 90s Sheer Panel Silver Embellished Gown Sz XsVintage 1950s F Ormal Prom Dress Gown RedTrue Vintage Pastel Pink & Cream Formal Empire Waist Embroidered Ball Gown DressVintage 80s Bustier Dress Gown W BeadsLovely Vintage Fernando Sanchez Lacey Nylon/brushed Cotton Nightgown Sz M/l Original Drawing Sketch 40s Ny Designer Dinner Dress Gown Multi Color Comb. 6265