Evening dresses are dresses worn for formal, semi-formal or special occasions. They don’t necessarily have to be worn in the evening. An evening dress can be worn, for example, at a wedding that takes place during the day. Sometimes, they’re called cocktail dresses.
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The Changing Styles of Evening Dresses
An evening dress can have a long hem that falls to the ankle, or a hem that falls to the knee, or even above it.
At the turn of the last century evening wear was exquisite. Gowns trailed along the floor and were made of chiffon and silk, and were often trimmed with velvet or lace. Before World War I, they were a bit fussier, with draped strands of beads and jewels, fur trim, with an underbodice, an overbodice, and narrow “hobble skirts,” all in sumptuous fabrics.
As the decades went on, the hemlines of evening dresses began to rise. By the end of World War II, a woman could get away with an evening dress with a flared, pleated skirt whose hem fell to just below her calves. The fabrics were also allowed to be synthetic. By the 50’s, the bodice could be strapless. As the 60’s approached women were wearing evening dresses that were knee length and had scooped backs, but were still elegant. By the late 60’s, women could show up at formal events dressed in mini skirts made of plastic, and not be asked to leave. In the 70’s, women’s evening dresses could have a peasant look about them with long sleeves, exotic patterns and skirts that fell once again, to the ankles in the way of what was thought to be ethnic or peasant clothing. A certain amount of frilliness came back in the mid 80’s, popularized by celebrities like Princess Diana, but by the 90’s a woman could again be seen in the evening in a very short, blatantly sexy evening dress.
Now, an evening dress can be a floor length dress with an off the shoulder neckline and shoulder straps, ruched around the waist. Another embroidered dress, trimmed with lace, might look more like a strapless slip. A similar evening dress might have a bubble hem, with spaghetti straps, a fuschia colored belt beneath the bosom with a self colored bow, and a fuschia colored underskirt. Others, made out of satin like material, have halter tops and long, slim, pleated skirts. Another might have a black velvet, V-necked bodice, and a short, flared, purple taffeta skirt. Anything goes!