Tips & Types of Evening Dresses


All dresses speak of the attitude and taste of the woman who wears it. The color, the cut, the shape and just about anything about the appearance of the dress speaks for itself. This effect is more pronounced for dress worn on formal occasions. Evening dresses are perfect examples of one such dress which are most noticed and talked about.

What is an Evening Dress?

An evening dress is classically called an evening gown for its long flowing form and wearing to a formal occasion. It can be full length to ballerina or tea. They are most usually tailored from rich fabrics like silk, velvet, organza, satin or chiffon. Another variation of an evening gown is ball gown. Though they are termed interchangeably but ball gowns are full skirted and bodice fitted whereas evening gowns can come in a variety of shapes like trumpet, A- lined, sheath or mermaid. They may have a dropped waist or an empire. However, both of them are considered evening dresses for formal occasions. They are men’s equivalent of semi formal black tie and formal white tie events.

History of Evening Dresses

Evening dresses are also known as court dress based on its roots in royal courts of 15th century. The fashionable and fashion-conscious rulers of the period preferred the ladies of the court to wear extravagant dresses. Rich fabrics and fibers showcased the nobility, and clothing was an identifier of social rank and status. Over time the rigid social rank system changed, and wealthy merchants and notables started visibly displaying their success. Silk weaves were first to become fashionable for wealthy who could afford. Evening dresses for court festivities were usually made of rich woven silk and adorned with expensive furs to demonstrate the wearer’s social status.

The extravagance and lush 16th and 17th centuries created a rich environment for feminine formal evening dress. The Italian Court culture was the best in style and elegance all over Europe. Later with cultural development in France, the focus shifted to French royal courts. With French influence the gowns were created with rich silk weaves, such as satin, taffeta and velvet in the 18th century.

During the period of evolution, a ball or evening dress was associated with courts only. From late 18th century onwards, the term “evening or ball gown” was coined, as balls and formal dances as the dances and festivities spread over to masses as well.

Evening dresses styles changed drastically during the 19th century. Over a very short period the dresses changed from having huge sleeves in the 1830s, to off-the-shoulder and with wide flounces in the 1840s, to very low-necked in the 1850s, to having low necklines and short sleeves in the 1860s, to long and lean with a bustle and very short sleeves in the 1870s, to sleeveless, low-necked, and worn with gloves in the 1880s, to having a squared décolletage, a wasp-waist cut, and skirts with long trains in the 1890s. The change was more rapid than any other period of evening dress evolution in this century. The prime reason was the increase in demand with public and resultant innovation in fashion designing.

The explosion in popularity and most rapid pace of change came after World War I with the spread of entertainment industry, creation of fashion icons and their following by the fans.

Today, the evening gown designs and shapes are highly evolved with many different silhouettes and lengths, but the full-skirted ones remains the symbol of formal evening dress.

Evening gowns and dresses are worn at various semi-formal and formal functions like formal dinners, opera and theatre premieres, formal dances, evening wedding receptions, and charity balls by celebrities, rich & famous or anyone who is fashionable enough.

Types of Evening Dresses

Depending on your cut, shape, flow and silhouette evening dresses are generally classified into following types or styles:

Sheath Style Gown

The sheath style evening gown is designed to fit the body tightly. It is unbelted, carries a straight drape. It can be shoulder strapped or strapless.

Mermaid Style Evening Dress

The evening gown is shaped like a mermaid. Form-fitting at the bodice, the skirt is designed to resemble a mermaid’s tail. The skirt may of the different color or texture.

A-line Evening Gown

The A-line style evening gown is generally bell-shaped, Close-fitting at the top and widens tapering at the bottom, without gathers or pleats. This showcases a simple but elegant appearance.

Trumpet Style Evening Gown

It is tight-fitting until it reaches the knees, where it flares for an elegant appearance.

Empire Styled Gown

The waistline comes up to just below the bust, thereon the skirt hangs straight and loose, giving it a breezy style.

Dropped waist Evening Dress

The waistline in this dress is dropped below the actual waistline. The skirt can be variable, fitted or flared.

Princess Evening Gown

This evening gown is also tight, cut in single pieces, and hang in an unbroken line from shoulder.

A Few Tips for Evening Dressing for a Formal Function

  • The dress you wear can be from below the knee to floor length. When the event is a dinner and a dance, floor length dress is ideal. Formal fabrics such as silk and satin in darker colors will give you more formal appearance than lighter colors.
  • The most important point you must keep in mind when you’re opting for an evening gown is that you should wear a dress that is flattering for your figure.
  • Carry a matching small evening bag with the color of your gown.
  • Never ever wear a jacket over your evening gown
  • Always wear high heels matching with your evening dress color.
  • Wear your most beautiful jewelry.
  • Never wear a necklace if you wear bigger earrings if you’re wearing a necklace. It would compete with the neckline of your evening dress.
  • Wear festive hair and makeup. Let a professional do the job.


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