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What is a formal or evening dress?

A formal or evening dress is a style of women’s clothing suited to black tie, white tie and even semi-formal occasions. Traditionally, a formal dress was floor length, but modern takes on the style include those designs that are tea length or ankle length, and even some dresses that hit above the knee. Formalwear is usually made from luxury fabrics like silk, chiffon, lace, satin or velvet, and may or may not feature embellishment like beading or embroidery.

A short history . . .

The history of the evening or formal gown is long and storied. Going back centuries, formal gowns were the domain of royalty and aristocrats. Designed for wear at court, women’s dresses were woven from sumptuous and expensive fabrics, embellished with beads, lace and embroidery, and required restrictive undergarments to give them shape. In the 18th century, as societies revolted and a middle class emerged, eveningwear became de rigueur. Over time, the silhouette of the evening or formal dress has featured full and fitted skirts, high and low necklines, various sleeve designs, and different lengths.

What styles are available in women’s formal or evening attire?

The modern definition of women’s formalwear includes quite a few variations on the traditional evening gown. Today we see mermaid, sheath, A-line, fit and flare, empire, trumpet, princess, and maxi silhouettes, to name a few. There are strapless, halter, sleeveless, short sleeved, and long sleeved versions of formal gowns. Many formal and evening dresses are long, hitting the floor, while others are cut at the ankle, mid-calf, knee, or just above the knee. Some have full skirts, while others are much more form fitting, or have a straight drape.

What’s the occasion for an evening or formal gown?

In the past—like a long time ago—the upper classes dressed for dinner, and so women wore evening gowns every night. Today, they are usually reserved for special occasions, like black or white tie events, proms, and weddings. Lucky is the girl who gets the chance to dress in formalwear, as it’s an opportunity to accessorize and groom like you’re going to walk the red carpet.

What goes with an evening or formal dress?

A formal dress calls for formal accessories. No ordinary shoe and bag will do. Style up your evening attire with some fancy heels, a clutch, and elegant jewelry. Don’t forget that special dresses call for special undergarments.

 

Shop formal and evening dresses on sale from top designers like Halston Heritage, Tadashi, Rachel Zoe, Marchesa, and BCBG Max Azria.  

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OUT OF STOCK
Lulu Body-Con Dress
French Connection
$148.00 $88.80
80
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $88.80
67
OUT OF STOCK
$139.00 $83.40
61
OUT OF STOCK
Studded Sheath Dress
MICHAEL Michael Kors
$130.00
61
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $120.37
Not all sizes/colors
53
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $74.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
55
OUT OF STOCK
$178.00 $54.99
from J. Crew
46
OUT OF STOCK
$99.00
45
OUT OF STOCK
Embroidered Minidress
Free People
$128.00
43
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $100.80
42
OUT OF STOCK
$89.00 $67.44
Not all sizes/colors
42
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00
38
OUT OF STOCK
Minetta dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$448.00 $134.00
38
OUT OF STOCK
$4,995.00 $874.12
38
OUT OF STOCK
Stayton Off the Shoulder Dress
French Connection
$98.00 $58.80
37
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Sweeter Sweater Dress
French Connection
$98.00 $58.80
36
OUT OF STOCK
$3,529.00 $1,058.00
36
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00 $76.80
35
OUT OF STOCK
Viven Dress
French Connection
$158.00 $94.80
35
OUT OF STOCK
Voile Trapeze Slip
Free People
$88.00 $35.20
from 6pm.com
34
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $58.80
31
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Alma dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$421.00 $252.00
31
OUT OF STOCK
Blossom T-Shirt Dress
French Connection
$98.00 $58.79
30
OUT OF STOCK
Embroidered Minidress
Free People
$128.00
29
OUT OF STOCK
Tommy Lace-Up Midi Dress
French Connection
$118.00 $70.80
29
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $88.80
29
OUT OF STOCK
$108.00 $48.00
from REVOLVE
29
OUT OF STOCK
$89.00 $64.96
Not all sizes/colors
29
OUT OF STOCK
Rubi Lace Mini Dress
Free People
$128.00 $76.80
28
OUT OF STOCK
Drop Waist Knit Dress
French Connection
$128.00 $76.80
28
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $44.99
from 6pm.com
28
OUT OF STOCK
$89.00 $42.99
Not all colors
from Athleta
27
OUT OF STOCK
$39.50 $15.80
from 6pm.com
27
OUT OF STOCK
$88.00 $35.20
from 6pm.com
27
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $58.80
26
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Anne cross-back denim dress
Stella McCartney
$580.00 $174.00
26
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $88.80
Not all sizes/colors
26
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00
25
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00 $44.00
from REVOLVE
25
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $82.80
25
OUT OF STOCK
$298.00 $178.80
24
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $82.80
24
OUT OF STOCK
$198.00 $118.80
24
OUT OF STOCK
Carrie dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$298.00 $89.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
Short Sleeve Flared Wrap Dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$378.00 $138.66
24
OUT OF STOCK
$295.00 $213.28
Not all sizes/colors
24
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $95.58
Not all sizes/colors
24
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Nomad Child Dress
Free People
$148.00 $59.99
from 6pm.com
24
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $71.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
$248.00 $148.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
$378.00 $226.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
Polly Off the Shoulder Dress
French Connection
$118.00 $70.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
Danni Metallic Bandage Dress
French Connection
$198.00 $118.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
Polly Off the Shoulder Dress
French Connection
$118.00 $70.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
Asymmetric Neck Midi Dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$328.00 $114.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
$134.00 $79.99
from Macy's
23
OUT OF STOCK
$78.00 $41.52
from 6pm.com
23
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00 $80.00
from 6pm.com
23
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00
22
OUT OF STOCK
$355.00 $141.98
22
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $58.80
22
OUT OF STOCK
$395.00 $138.00
22
OUT OF STOCK
$68.00 $46.75
Not all sizes/colors
22
OUT OF STOCK
$178.00 $89.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
22
OUT OF STOCK
Whisper Light Dress
French Connection
$158.00 $94.80
21
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Spotlight Bandage Dress
French Connection
$188.00 $112.80
21
OUT OF STOCK
Evening Dew Sleeveless Romper
French Connection
$148.00 $88.80
21
OUT OF STOCK
$4,950.00 $1,485.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
Darling dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$498.00 $149.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
Ripple Mini Dress
Free People
$148.00 $72.00
from REVOLVE
21
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $43.00
from REVOLVE
21
OUT OF STOCK
$188.00 $79.99
21
OUT OF STOCK
$445.00 $311.50
Not all sizes/colors
21
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $65.31
Not all sizes/colors
21
OUT OF STOCK
ASHLEY DRESS
Tory Burch
$448.00 $229.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00 $44.99
from 6pm.com
21
OUT OF STOCK
Slip Strap Maxi Dress
Calvin Klein
$158.00 $70.99
from 6pm.com
21
OUT OF STOCK
Hagen Halter Border Dress
MICHAEL Michael Kors
$160.00 $72.99
from 6pm.com
21
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $58.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
21
OUT OF STOCK
Sweater Maxi Dress
French Connection
$128.00 $76.80
20
OUT OF STOCK
$395.00 $138.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
$8,698.00 $2,609.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Leyland dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$598.00 $179.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Yesenia Dress
BCBG Max Azria
$248.00 $110.00
from REVOLVE
20
OUT OF STOCK
$40.00 $25.99
Not all sizes/colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$68.00 $43.07
Not all sizes/colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $44.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
20
OUT OF STOCK
Open Back Ribbon Trim Dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$598.00 $358.80
20
OUT OF STOCK
$285.00 $113.98
20
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
$478.00 $191.20
19
OUT OF STOCK
$365.00 $146.00
19
OUT OF STOCK
Carpreena dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$898.00 $269.00
19