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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
$148.00 $88.80
75
OUT OF STOCK
Studded Sheath Dress
MICHAEL Michael Kors
$130.00
66
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $49.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
62
OUT OF STOCK
Colleen Dress
Anthropologie
$400.00 $280.00
62
OUT OF STOCK
$315.00 $240.53
Not all sizes/colors
47
OUT OF STOCK
$99.00
45
OUT OF STOCK
Embroidered Minidress
Free People
$128.00
43
OUT OF STOCK
$90.00 $64.96
Not all sizes/colors
42
OUT OF STOCK
Minetta dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$448.00 $134.00
42
OUT OF STOCK
Lula Sheath Dress
French Connection
$148.00 $88.80
40
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $36.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
39
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $73.98
38
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00
37
OUT OF STOCK
$108.00 $49.00
from REVOLVE
36
OUT OF STOCK
$378.00 $226.80
34
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
Kieran Dress
Anthropologie
$395.00 $120.00
33
OUT OF STOCK
$78.00 $54.60
31
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $88.80
30
OUT OF STOCK
$89.00 $53.99
Not all colors
from Athleta
32
OUT OF STOCK
$89.00 $69.17
Not all sizes/colors
30
OUT OF STOCK
Kieran Dress
Anthropologie
$395.00 $120.00
30
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00
28
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00
28
OUT OF STOCK
$158.00 $94.80
27
OUT OF STOCK
$88.00 $49.99
27
OUT OF STOCK
$250.00 $111.99
27
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $58.98
26
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $96.60
26
OUT OF STOCK
$115.44 $88.80
Not all sizes/colors
26
OUT OF STOCK
$68.00 $45.78
Not all sizes/colors
26
OUT OF STOCK
Rasa Dress
Anthropologie
$280.00 $70.00
26
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00
25
OUT OF STOCK
$335.00 $169.98
25
OUT OF STOCK
JANE DRESS
Tory Burch
$428.00 $299.00
25
OUT OF STOCK
$178.00 $89.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
25
OUT OF STOCK
James Dress
Anthropologie
$240.00 $100.00
25
OUT OF STOCK
Rockport Skirt
Anthropologie
$160.00 $60.00
25
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
$198.00 $88.99
24
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $82.80
24
OUT OF STOCK
Ojai Dress
Anthropologie
$390.00 $120.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
Alana Dress
Anthropologie
$230.00 $70.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
$88.00 $44.00
from REVOLVE
24
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $44.00
from REVOLVE
24
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $84.00
23
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $70.80
23
OUT OF STOCK
EMBROIDERED DRESS
Tory Burch
$448.00 $309.00
23
OUT OF STOCK
$445.00 $274.50
Not all sizes/colors
23
OUT OF STOCK
Regina Dress
Anthropologie
$375.00 $150.00
23
OUT OF STOCK
Simone Mini Dress
Free People
$128.00 $67.00
from REVOLVE
23
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $58.80
22
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00
22
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00
22
OUT OF STOCK
Amara Dress
Tory Burch
$258.00 $129.00
24
OUT OF STOCK
$8,698.00 $2,609.00
22
OUT OF STOCK
Ripple Mini Dress
Free People
$148.00 $72.00
from REVOLVE
22
OUT OF STOCK
Rose Fit & Flare Dress
French Connection
$138.00 $82.80
21
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $90.55
Not all sizes/colors
21
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00 $45.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
21
OUT OF STOCK
$7,200.00 $2,160.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
$5,755.00 $1,726.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
Bristol Dress
Anthropologie
$200.00 $100.00
21
OUT OF STOCK
$69.95 $29.97
from Gap
21
OUT OF STOCK
$298.00 $167.00
from REVOLVE
21
OUT OF STOCK
Cut Out Midi Dress
BCBG Max Azria
$268.00 $151.00
from REVOLVE
21
OUT OF STOCK
Lace Midi Dress
French Connection
$168.00 $99.90
21
OUT OF STOCK
$40.00 $22.91
Not all sizes/colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$445.00 $325.40
Not all sizes/colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$188.00 $130.57
Not all sizes/colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$118.00 $75.99
from J. Crew
21
OUT OF STOCK
Carpreena dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$898.00 $269.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Zarita dress
Diane Von Furstenberg
$348.00 $174.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Jordana Dress
Anthropologie
$285.00 $200.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Romane Dress
Anthropologie
$240.00 $90.00
20
OUT OF STOCK
Yesenia Dress
BCBG Max Azria
$248.00 $110.00
from REVOLVE
20
OUT OF STOCK
$128.00 $84.00
from REVOLVE
20
OUT OF STOCK
Day Glow Midi Dress
Free People
$168.00 $100.80
19
OUT OF STOCK
$168.00
19
OUT OF STOCK
$129.00
19
OUT OF STOCK
Cap Sleeve Hi-Lo Dress
Halston Heritage
$445.00 $178.00
Not all colors
20
OUT OF STOCK
$148.00 $112.55
Not all sizes/colors
19
OUT OF STOCK
$268.00 $193.47
Not all sizes/colors
19
OUT OF STOCK
$395.00 $158.00
from Theory
19
OUT OF STOCK
Shelby Dress
Anthropologie
$280.00 $90.00
19
OUT OF STOCK
Jada Jumpsuit
Anthropologie
$415.00 $300.00
19
OUT OF STOCK
$248.00 $77.00
from REVOLVE
19
OUT OF STOCK
'Sundae' Stretch Minidress
French Connection
$148.00
18
OUT OF STOCK
Jude Flower Stripe Knit Dress
French Connection
$98.00 $58.80
19
OUT OF STOCK
Lace Sheath Dress
Vince Camuto
$168.00 $100.80
20
OUT OF STOCK
OUT OF STOCK
$68.00 $47.60
18
OUT OF STOCK
$175.00 $73.50
19
OUT OF STOCK
$298.00 $89.99
18
OUT OF STOCK
$138.00 $102.81
Not all sizes/colors
18
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $69.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
18
OUT OF STOCK
$98.00 $62.99
Only a few left!
from J. Crew
18
OUT OF STOCK
Aubrey Dress
Anthropologie
$280.00 $100.00
18
OUT OF STOCK
$108.00 $52.00
from REVOLVE
18