Updated on November 3, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
- A short history of Gowns
- Types of gowns
- Gown according to the occasion
- Evening gowns
- Morning Gowns
- Gowns according to the silhouette
- Ball Gown
- Mermaid gown
- A-Line Gown
- Sheath gown
- Gowns according to the skirt style
- Bouffant skirt gown
- Circular skirt gown
- Full Skirt Gown
- Bustle gown
- Bias cut gown
- Asymmetrical Gown
- Tiered gown
- Panel gown
- Gowns according to the bodices
- Strapless gown
- Backless gown
- Cami gown
- Empire waist gown
- Maxi Gown
- Gown differing in the neckline shape.
- Halter neck gown
A short history of Gowns
Gowns have been in the thick of women’s fashion from time immemorial. In the past, gowns were the prerogative of the nobility and they proclaimed the wealth, family status and social standing of the wearer. It became aspirational for women to wear the best of gowns; each strove to dress herself better than the others in the courts of the kings across the world. Elaborately decorated gowns made of the most costly fabric with beautiful embroidery, embellishments, and trimmings became the norm for every day, not just special occasions.
For a long time, the gowns seen in European courts featured voluminous skirts with many layers of petticoats and hoops inside to keep the shape intact, long trains, tight bodices with tightly laced corsets, draped outer layers, high and low necklines, and elaborate sleeves. Expensive fabrics like silk brocade and taffeta were used to make the gowns.
During the 18th century a high waisted style called Empire line with gathered skirts was popular with very low necklines and short sleeves in thin flowy fabrics. After the French revolution in 1780 a fashion for naturalism lead to gowns being made in simpler silhouettes, more attuned to the natural shape of the female figure.
During the 19th century, the old favorites with full skirts came back. In the 1870s Bustle was very popular, attached to the back of the gowns.
During the 1890s gowns with very long trains, elaborate trimmings and puffy sleeves (leg of mutton sleeves) were popular. In the 1900s the full skirts and tight bodice came back in fashion.
Then gradually the corseted shape changed to a loose flapper style. During the 1930s fitting bias-cut gowns gained traction. By 1940s the classic voluminous skirts and tight waist came back in gowns and this continued for some time.
1980s was an age of exaggeration and hence the gowns showed lots of ruffles, pleats and puffed sleeves.
Today as I see it, anything goes as a gown, so long as it enhances the beauty of the wearer.
Types of gowns
Gown according to the occasion
Formal evening gowns are long dresses suitable for wearing on formal/special occasions and are usually made of expensive fabrics, with beautiful embellishments and meant to make the wearer stand out among the crowd.
Morning gowns are casual long dresses worn during the day.
Gowns according to the silhouette
Ball Gown is the most common silhouette in gowns – with a fitted bodice, tight waist and a very full, floor length skirt, with or without a train.
In this type of gown the skirt is tight fitted at the hips and thighs but flares out from the knees.This is achieved by cutting panels which flares or by attaching a different fabric from the knees. The gown is also known as a trumpet gown.
In this style the gown has a fitted bodice and the skirt flares gently from the waist to the skirt hem, creating the shape of a capital letter A. This is usually achieved with princess line panels so it is also called princess line gown
This has a body hugging fit all throughout.
Related post : 12 different dress silhouettes.
Gowns according to the skirt style
Bouffant skirt gown
This is a gown with a very full skirt . This gown usually has a gathered skirt with a very puffy look – because of this the waist can look very small. The bouffant look can be achieved by making the skirt in many layers of tulle fabric or by using hoops or petticoats inside and/or using lot and lots of gathered fabric.
Circular skirt gown
This gown is fitted at the waist but the skirt is very flared. The skirt of this gown is cut as a circle skirt to achieve this.
Full Skirt Gown
A full skirt is gathered at the waist but is not as full/puffy as the bouffant skirt gown.
This is a vintage style gown with an extra attachment added to the back of the gown (where the bodice meets the skirt)- usually, this is a train or a gathered fabric giving the appearance of fullness at the back. It is usually attached with a bow on top.
Bias cut gown
This is a gown cut with the true cross grain/bias of fabric so that it fits the body perfectly and has a good drape, without adding volume at the waist or hips and being tight-fitting at the hem. There is a fluidity and body-hugging fit to the fabric of skirt that makes this gown very attractive on most body shapes
This gown has an asymmetrical hemline.
A gown with many layers of skirts.
The gown is made by joining panels of fabrics.
Gowns according to the bodices
This is a gown with a bustier/corset bodice without straps or sleeves. Also known as a corset style.
Related post : 15 Different types of corsets.
The type of gown with a backless bodice.
This is a camisole style long dress, with thin spaghetti straps and a plunging v neckline
Empire waist gown
In this gown, the fitted bodice ends just under the bust and the gathered waist starts from there, looking at a high waist.
This is a casual gown in a flowy fabric, with a fitted bodice and loose skirt.
Gown differing in the neckline shape.
Halter neck gown
A halter neck gown will have a band encircling the neckline connecting to the sleeveless bodice leaving the shoulders and part of the back bare.
Gown Trivia : The ball gown used in the Disney Movie Cinderella has more than a dozen fine layers of fabric, more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals and it took some 18 tailors more than 500 hours to complete it to its mind-blowingly beautiful appearance – no CGI at work – just simple hard work and the creative genius of a designer, Sandy Powell. But that is not the most amazingly expensive gown you will ever see. There are gowns in existence which will cost way more than an average man’s lifetime earnings.
Reference for Cinderella gown : wikipedia.
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