Formal Evening Gowns

"How to Find the Perfect Formal Evening Gown"


Formal evening gowns are the appropriate fit for formal wear, prom, homecoming, bridesmaid and 'black tie attire' occasions. They come in several gorgeous styles but usually share a similar trait which is the length: Long, swiping the floor.

White studded formal evening gown from Promgirl
Courtesy of Terani Couture/Promgirl

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Your choice of evening gown should depend on the formality of the event. If it's a conservative and formal occasion then covering up your shoulders with a shawl is a must. Otherwise you can go for sexy styles (such as side split, side cuts) that show off more skin and demand attention.

Dark colors are popular and acceptable choices for formal attire because they portray a sophisticated and classy image. But again, it depends on the formality. Also if you want to stand out from the crowd you can wear evening gowns in just about any color - or print for that playful summer look.

The chic fashionista Anna Villaruel says It might be a little tricky to pull off the long gown-look because if you don't pick the right style for your figure, it just won't look right. The trick is to find a gown style that will bring out the best in your body fiure and minimize the parts you're not too confident about.

Basically, work with what you've got - your body proportions and height.

Here's a look at what styles and trends you should invest your money in - plus fashion advice on how to select the perfect evening gown to flatter your body figure, coloring and personal style:

Set a Budget

Black prom formal evening gown
Courtesy of TJFormal


The first step is to set a budget. You'll find evening gowns in a variety of prices, ranging from $20 to $2000 depending on the dress' 'exclusiveness'.

Also leave some extra money for accessories such as a pair of high heels, evening purse, makeup, jewelry, shawl and hosiery.

If you're looking for a bargain, it's best to look in the off-season. Summer and winter (around January) are the best time to get great prices. The flip side is that trends change and it may be considered 'outdated' by the following season.

Study the trends and see if there are any details that will continue to rock the stage throughout the year. It's always a wise thing to be thrifty but finding a bargain requires patience.


Wearing it more than once?

Remember that the price of a gown often reflects the quality of the fabric, exclusiveness (the availability) and details. I believe that you'll get the most out of your money if you focus on formal evening gowns that are of superb quality and are simple in design (minimal on fluffy details) because they'll last longer than those that are plastered with the 'latest' embellishments that will be out of date in the next following season.

Department or designer?

Yellow jovani prom formal evening gown
Courtesy of Jovani/ edressme
5 star Cheap formal gowns found at mainstream department stores are a thrifty choice. However since they're so accessible you'll have to expect to find at least a handful of women wearing the same dress.

    Tip: Update the look with trendy accessories such as shoes, jewelry, shawl and a purse to make it more unique.

5 star I advise you to focus on stores that specialize in gowns and dresses. eDressMe and New York Dress are two examples of online stores that do exactly that. They carry a much wider range of dresses in including designer evening gowns.

5 star Designer evening gowns are definitely worth it if you want something exclusive and unique. The thing with many designer clothes is that they feature the facets many women are looking for such as flattering fit, neckline, color and details.

Always do some extra research when it comes to designer dresses. You could try a gown at a designer store nearby where you live, just to make sure it fits and looks good on you, and then buy it for a cheaper price on the internet.


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Assess Your Personal Style

Sexy mermaid prom formal evening gown
Courtesy of New York Dress
5 star Determining your body shape is quite crucial in finding the perfect evening gown.

Evening gowns are available in many designs such as halter, backless, strapless, but by knowing the shape of your body you'll know what gown styles will flatter your body figure.

For example, if you're very self-conscious about your wide shoulders (a so-called 'inverted triangle body shape'), you may want to find something that will slim them down and perhaps add more volume to your hips and thighs to balance out your body shape.

Are you petite (5'4" or shorter)?

The thing about long dresses is that they tend to swallow up petite women. If you're Petite you should opt for long slim dresses that sit close to their body especially around the hips and waist area to define the torso for a pulled together, feminine look.

Go to Shopping & Style Guide to Petite Clothing and Fashion

Select the right colors

Another important step when scouring for that perfect formal evening gown, is picking the right color for your complexion. The wrong colors can hurt your appearance, making you look pale and drab.

Like for example, not all reds flatter everyone. Blue-toned reds such as burgundy looks better on cool-toned women compared to warm complexions. Tomato red looks stunning on golden/peachy complexions with dark or warm golden hair.



More Fashion Advice on Dresses:

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One Size Does NOT Fit All

Red plus sizeprom formal evening gown
Plus Size Evening Gown via eDressme
When buying evening gowns online you should always know your body measurements and compare the numbers to the store's size chart.

Include the height of the high heel shoes when calculating the gown length. The hem should barely touch the floor.

    Tip: Purchase the gown in good time before the event so that you can make any necessary alterations at a tailor. Trust me on this, if you discover that a gown you bought doesn't quite fit a tailor can work wonders :-)

Consider buying a good shapewear to wear with your formal evening gown

Body shapers will eliminate lumps and bumps around the tummy, hips and thighs, and even give you an instant body tuck (depending on what type of shapewear you choose). This perfect for achieving that trim and sleek look for this special occasion! A-list celebrities like Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba 'cheat' when wearing their gowns on the red carpet, why shouldn't you? ;-)


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Keeping Up With the Latest Fashion Trends

Trends change so fast that many women have a hard time keeping up.

The thing is if you want to be able to wear a formal evening gown more than once, then you should choose simple and solid-colored designs. They're simpler to mix and match. You can easily create 4-5 different gown-outfits with one black A-line halter neck gown compared to a sequined mermaid styled dress.

One shoulder prom formal evening gown
Courtesy of Promgirl

Here are some details on formal evening gowns that never go out of style:
  • One shoulder (this detail seems to be steamier in some periods than others but it's still a timeless choice)
  • Halter (another classic neckline cut that will flatter all body shapes)
  • Strapless/bustier neckline (heart-shaped)
  • Spaghetti straps (wide shoulders and top-heavy should avoid thin straps as they can look like two fragile threads on your wide/full figure)
  • V-neckline (a very flattering and sexy neckline that flatter all shapes)


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How to Accessorize Your Formal Evening Gown

Sexy simple black strapless prom formal evening gown
Courtesy of New York Dress

If the occasion you're attending is very strict on the dress code then you should keep the accessories at a minimum to maintain a formal and sophisticated gown-look. Go for a simple color scheme of no more than 3 colors.

Here are a couple of guidelines on how to accessorize your evening gown:

  • Do not accessorize all visible areas. If you're wearing long earrings, keep your chest free from necklaces. If you're wearing stud earrings then you can add a statement necklace.
  • A timeless jewelry combo is stud earrings, solitaire necklace and a simple chain/crystal/or pearl bracelet.
  • If your gown is heavily embellished (or has an eye catching pattern to it) then you should keep the accessories very simple.
  • Always pick/buy a gown before you decide on your jewelry.
  • When buying formal evening gowns (offline or online) always keep the height of the high heel shoes in mind to make sure that the hem will barely touch the ground.
  • Choose stockings in a neutral color such as nude or black. If you want hose with a design, make it subtle.


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Shop Formal Evening Gowns Online

By browsing through online stores that specialize in formal gowns you'll get a quick and good overview of what the latest trends are and how you can wear dresses. Many stores hire professional stylists to create beautiful evening gown-outfits.

Here are some of my favorite online stores:
    Sexy navy blue prom formal evening gown
    Sexy Formal Evening Gown, Promgirl
  • eDressMe. Wide range of formal evening gowns, from designer to casual summer dresses.
  • New York Dress. Offering beautiful and sexy evening dresses within the latest fashion trends.
  • Alight. Nice selection of plus size evening dresses.
  • Promgirl. Large and lovely selection of gowns and dresses. Mainly focuses on prom gowns.
  • TJFormal. Dresses and gowns for the modern fashionista. You'll find special occasion dresses from Sherri Hill, Jovani and more.



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More Shopping & Chic Inspiration at the TCF Blog:
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