The History of the Evening Dress
Posted on 20 April 2017
Although formal court dress has existed for centuries, there is consensus among dress historians that evening dress began to form its own unique category in the mid-1820s. It is probably no coincidence that this form of dressing emerged at the same time the Romantic Movement in art and literature surfaced as an influence in European and American cultures.
Evening dresses saw a surge of popularity as the cocktail dress became the most desirable piece in a woman’s wardrobe. The cocktail dress, like cocktail culture, emerged after World War I as social changes allowed women more freedom and independence to engage in traditionally male dominated activities such as frequenting clubs and lounges.
By the 1960s, a plethora of options in evening wear had emerged, for everyone, not just the elite. Mini-skirted straight dresses were made from metallic fabrics or brilliantly patterned fabrics, and surfaces may have been trimmed with sequins, beads, or plastic bits.
By the late 1960s and into the 1970s evening dresses had returned to floor length. Pantsuits with full-legged trousers and palazzo pants paired with a coordinating top also became stylish and versatile evening wear options.
By the late 80s and early 90s, evening dresses were short and hugged the body, they were often strapless or had tiny shoulder straps. Basic slip dresses made from soft crepe fabrics became popular and have seen a rejuvenation in recent seasons as 90s style has come back en vogue.