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    

#1205, Stunning 1900 Cream Silk & Handmade Brussels Lace Reception GownAntique Edwardian Embroidered & Beaded Cream Silk Wedding ? Dress Gown 1910 Sz S~ Exquisite Creme Silk Satin Antique Victorian Edwardian Dress Lace Gown ~ Sexy Royal Late 1920's Early 30's Dress Cobalt Blue Velvet Gown Deco Near Mint Vtg Handmade Crochet Cut Out Sheer Wedding Lace Supermodel Gown Maxi Dress Xs SVintage Cristian Dior Pink Crepe/lace Night Dress/gown Lingerie Fr 42 Uk 12/14 Vtg Rose Pink Olga Nylon Lace Lingerie 165" Sweep Long Gown Nightgown LVtg 30s Film Noir*avant Garde*art Deco Buckle* Black Rayon Crepe Dress/gown*mVtg Pink Olga Nylon Lace Nightgown Lorraine Double Chiffon Peignoir Sweep Gown LSz L Vintage Miss Elaine 100% Antron Nylon Nightgown Short Sleeve Gown ~ Elegant Creme Silk Satin Victorian Edwardian Bustle Gown Dress Good Size ~Vintage Ethnic Kimono Aztec Mexican Embroidery Festival Maxi Dress Gown 70s BohoVintage Pink 70s Sequin Bead Grecian Dress Boho Gown Ball Wedding Party Uk 8Vintage Lingerie Lot 12 30s-80s Chiffon Peignoirs Night Gowns Bed Jackets LaceGorgeous Vintage Hawaiian Tiki Gown With Train, Off The Shoulder, Custom Made!Vintage 1930's 40's Puff Sleeve Gown Dress +hat & Slip Nurse Uniform PristineGorgeous 1920's Flapper Beaded Opalescent Sequin Dress Gown Deco DesignVtg Original 1950s 1960s Pink Ruffled Tulle Bodice Prom Party Formal Gown Dress Vintage Antique Edwardian 1900s 1910s White Cotton Dress Lace Gown1930's Glowing Bias Cut Gown And Coat With Train Ivory Satin Wedding Red CarpetVintage 1930s Black Net Lace Dress Gown Art Deco Great GatsbyAntique 1920s 1930s Liquid Satin Wedding Gown Dress Train Bias Doll Fabric VtgVtg 1970s 70's Gunne Sax Hippie Boho Corset Lace Up Cotton Wedding Dress Gown MVintage 1930's Green Bias Cut Evening Gown With Draped Neckline W/ Beads Vintage Rayon Dressing GownVtg Miss Elaine Long Nightgown Gown 1xl Icy White Sheer Vtg Lingerie Gown New Vintage 20's 30's Great Gatsby Lingerie Negligee Gown Silk Lace Peach Rosette LVtg Bodysilk Olga Nylon Lace Short Sweep Gown Nightgown Peignoir Lingerie Set M3 Lovely Vintage Olga Night Gowns Lingerie Lot 2 Size Medium 1 Size Large SweepLot Of 6 Vintage 80s Prom Party Gowns Dresses Some Plus Size Clothes2pc Green Vtg 70s Sexy Disco Studio 54 Gown Chiffon Cape Blouse Maxi Dress S MXxl Sweeping Pink Vintage Slip Poly Chiffon Negligee Lingerie Night GownVt 30s Crepe Bias Cut Hollywood Glam Harlow Evening Gown DressVtg 70s Palest Mint Seafoam Green Nylon Lace Dressing Gown Boho Classic Robe M/lVtg 70s Deweese Plunging Halter Bra Dress Maxi Gown Mod Floral Pink Sherbet S/34Vintage Emanuel Ungaro Paris Parallele Silk Lace Chiffon Top Dress Skirt GownVintage 50s 60s Lisette Pistachio Green Lace Baby Doll Peignoir Gown SetGlamorous Vintage 1930's Pink Floral Print Rayon Bias Cut Nightgown Gown B-38 LLot Of 7 Ladies Vintage Robes & Niight Gowns 1950-1970 Pinup Rockabilly RetroVtg 50s Gold Lace Illusion Full Circle Tulle Skirt Dress Party Prom Wedding GownVtg 50s Scallop Full Skirt Sheer Chiffon Organza Prom Party Dress Gown Wedding MRose Pink Olga Bodysilk Long Night Gown- #9297- Nylon/spandex, MediumOlga Vintage Red Nightgown Massive Full Sweep Long Gown Negligee Lingerie Med MVtg Lucie Ann Ii Teddy Romper Gown Lingerie One Piece Sissy Gold Satin LargeVtg Large Vanity Fair Long Floor Length Vivid Blue Nylon Nightgown Femme' Gown! Vintage Blue Satin Smoking Robe L Usa Dressing Gown Silky Rayon House CoatS 22 Liquid Satin NOlga Grand Sweep Twist Front Gown Style #92400 Exquisite Silky Satin Gold Vintage Nightdress Gown Dress Size Uk 14 Sissy Tv CdVintage Sheer Nylon & Lace Dressing Gown Robe 1950s Green Satin Gown - Column Maxi Dress - Bead Trimmed - SVtg 60's Lillie Rubin / Don Luis De Espana Made In Spain Floral Full Length GownVintage Miss Elaine White Nylon Double Chiffon Robe Gown Bridal Peignoir Set SVtg Teddy Romper Gown Lingerie Lacy Nylon One Piece Sissy Nude Size 42Vintage 1960s Peach Pink Rayon Dress Gown Bridal Lace Waistband Small To XsmallVintage 90s Attached Tulle Burnout Mermaid Hued Beaded Gown Sz S* 1930s Vintage White Silk Satin Bias Cut Wedding Gown Dress Long Train Skirt Vtg.oscar De La Renta Satin Dressing Gown Lounging Gown Nightgown L/xl Bust 46"Vintage 60s Neon Abstract Patchwork Print Hostess Gown Lounge DressVtg 80s 20s Black Silk Sequin Beaded Art Deco Trophy Plunge Flapper Gown Dress