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.
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.
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.
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.
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.