With a name that represents the celebratory occasion and the glamour, an evening gown brings to mind high society gatherings, celebrations for friends and family, ceremonies or even film and music awards and also even a touch of exuberance. As opposed to an everyday dress that may be designed with practicality and economy in mind, an evening dress benefits from more luxurious fabrics, intricate tailoring and glittering or ornate detailing, features that mark it out as something a little special.
In the days where your dress style was perhaps the only opportunity you had to make your impression on an event, the evening gown certainly had the ability to make that mark. It would be chosen to exhibit just the attributes the wearer wanted to portray, be they wealth, beauty, grace, opulence or individuality. These days occasions may be less formal and the opportunities to make ones mark are more varied, but when clothing was the only option, things were taken to the limit.
Seasons have a large factor on the type of evening wear a woman might select. A shorter, more revealing number might be an option in the warmer months, whereas a fuller skirt and warmer corset-like bodice might be the preferred choice for the winter occasions. Hence the range of different evening dress styles is comprehensive. Alternatives include high-hem tight skirts to loose flowing skirts, with or without sleeves, straps or strap-less. How we might come across or purchase one of these gowns is also as varied these days.
Just as today’s dress retailers come in all shapes and sizes, the vintage era also had a choice of provider. There were the ready-made options as there are today, with the vintage equivalent of today’s high street and shopping mall names well represented. But there were also the more expensive alternatives, including one-off our couture designs that some women could even afford to have individually commissioned. If you are lucky enough to come across one of these examples in a vintage store today, you can expect to pay for the privilege of acquiring it, unless that is, no-one has worked out the heritage of the item in question yet. And just as they do today, designers will make use of famous occasions like award ceremonies and high society magazines to showcase their wares on the most iconic celebrities of the day.
For many people it is purely finances that make the choices difficult. As with modern fashion, quality and good styling do not come cheap. The vintage clothing stores however can represent a means of making your budget go the extra mile, and the online vintage stores help you extend your circle of reach much further, even to other countries perhaps. It is wise not to place too much emphasis on fit, size or the fact that a garment may have been tailored for someone else.
Plan of having your newly acquired vintage dress altered to fit anyway and that way the choice becomes greater still, just make sure the sizing is within alterable range. And we all shrink and expand anyway over time so alterations are par for the course for many of us any, regardless of the vintage of our fashions. And perhaps for some the visit to the dressmaker for that final fitting is all part of the occasion, feeling that something has been specially made for you helps to make you feel more special in yourself too.
When having a dress altered to fit (you would be lucky to find a vintage dress that fits you exactly and there won’t be a choice of sizes), it is useful to think ahead about your footwear. You’ll most likely be opting for shoes with higher heels so make the alterations with the extra leg length and posture change in mind. Also get used to wearing the dress and moving around in it whilst at home.
You may be surprised at the restrictions some designs bring with them, particularly with tight-fitting dresses. Get used to sitting in the dress, standing, walking dancing even getting in and out of vehicles, better to make the mistakes and realise any challenges away from the event itself. Stairs may also represent a challenge you may not be expecting as could going to the bathroom. All these test movements will also place stresses on the dress that the aging yarns and fabrics may not be able to cope with, so it is far better to experience any breakages in a place where they can be overcome and don’t cause any embarrassment.