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The Best Dresses for Formal Events

Dresses have been a popular item of clothing used for formal wear for centuries, with good reason. They’re classic, versatile, varied, colorful, and elegant. There is a dress style or design that will suit and flatter every height, size, and body type and work for every season and event, be it an important company party, small intimate dinner party, a wedding, or any other fancy affair. They’re easy to accessorize, and the same dress can take on a different look or style with the right accessories. They can also be simple or complex and dressed up or down, depending on the event in question. You can find styles that are chic, bold, sleek, soft, toned down, or some combination thereof, depending on your personal tastes or the event you’re attending. Here are some formal dress options for your next event.

Choosing the Perfect Formal Dress

Consider these aspects before buying a dress for your next formal occasion:

  • Length: Floor-length formal dresses are often thought of as the norm, and there are certainly many lovely long, elegant dresses from which to choose. However, don’t feel as if you’re limited to this length, especially if your formal event is held in a location with warm weather. There are plenty of mid-length or short dresses that are more than appropriate for formal events too.
  • Color: As with the length of formal dresses, a dress that is all black or another dark color is thought of as the standard model for these types of dresses. It’s a classic image, one that has held up for good reason. But just as with length, there’s no need to feel pigeonholed into this model. There are lighter colored, multi-colored, and even patterned formal dresses out there if you prefer something a little different.
  • Style: Like most dresses, formal dresses come in many different styles. Most of the variations come from the bodices and sleeves, of which there are almost unlimited options. You can find variety in the skirts as well. Besides the length, a layered skirt or a skirt with a slit or ruffles may lend an elegance or uniqueness to your dress.
  • Washing: Keep an eye on whether your formal dress is machine washable or if it is hand wash or dry clean only. Since formal dresses are often made with fancier material or have extra detailing, they are not always machine washable. It is possible to find one that is, so be sure to keep an eye out if that’s a feature that’s important to you.

Best Halter Dress: WOOSEA High Evening Dress

Here’s a sleek, tie closure halter top gown that will fit in perfectly at a wedding or cocktail party. Available in nine rich, solid colors, the fabric is stretchy and comfortable to better conform to your body’s shape without clinging too tightly or choking you. The high, wrapped waist gives you extra support around the middle. The long, A-line, mermaid-style silhouette is slimming and flattering, while the small slit in the leg is decorated with a subtle ruffle to give the dress extra flair without overwhelming it. The dress looks great with or without a coat, so you can wear it in any season, even with the sleeveless top.

Best Halter Dress

WOOSEA Women's High Neck Split Bodycon Mermaid Evening Cocktail Long Dress Burgundy,Small

A sleek halter dress with a flattering silhouette and subtle ruffled leg slit.

Best Design Options: IWEMEK Multi-Way Convertible Evening Dress

This tie closure formal dress has the first and last word in versatility. The two long shoulder straps can be rearranged into 24 different styles on the same dress; tie it into spaghetti straps, one-shouldered, halter top, and much more. Indulge your imagination or switch the straps to fit your mood or the event. Essentially you get 24 different formal dresses for the price of one. Its versatility doesn’t stop at the straps, as this dress comes in 39 different colors, from bold shades to pastel ones and everything in between. You also have two skirt length options, either down to your ankles or a high-low (cut shorter in front than in the back). The soft and breathable material will keep you comfortable all night, whether you wear it to prom, as a bridesmaid, to a cocktail party, a black-tie event, or any other formal event on your calendar.

Best Short Dress: MEROKEETY Sleeveless Lace Dress

All formal dresses do not have to be ankle or floor length. This lovely, lacy, knee-length number won’t look out of place at even the most high-class events. It has a zipper up the back for getting dressed as quickly and easily as possible. The singular lace pattern, boat neckline, soft cotton lining, and open back combine for the perfect blend of comfort, distinctiveness, and elegance. You also have the option to choose from between three different sleeve options, sleeveless, cap sleeves, and half-length sleeves, as well as 17 different colors. Wear to cocktail parties, weddings, office parties, and more. It’s hand wash only.

Best Short Dress

MEROKEETY Women's Sleeveless Lace Floral Elegant Cocktail Dress Crew Neck Knee Length for Party

A classy and elegant knee-length dress with a signature, lovely lace look.

Best V-Neck Dress: Miusol Deep V-Neck Maxi Dress

This classic floor-length formal maxi dress is suitable for weddings, black-tie affairs, evening parties, and other similar occasions. It has a zipper closure and is made from high-quality polyester for a dress that is comfortable but still elegant and formal. The classic deep v-neck will flatter all body types, while the sleeveless bodice and see-through back add a certain enterprising factor that is still appropriate for all formal events. It’s available in seven different colors, from black to pale pink to bold red and more. Hand wash it only in low temperatures.

Best V-Neck Dress

Miusol Women's Casual Deep- V Neck Sleeveless Vintage Maxi Black Dress, A-navy Blue, X-Large

A floor-length formal dress with a sleeveless bodice and lace back for a slightly more daring take on a classic look.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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