Sunday, 1 May 2011

Evening gowns


According to my list, when I start to build my wardrobe I should already possess a simple evening gown in black crepe and for the spring wardrobe an evening gown in a dotted fabric should be added. For the next spring, a blue evening gown is to be acquired, as the dotted gown clearly just lasts one season before it is to be made into a short dress. The blue one though, it is pointed out, is suitable for all seasons. Now having two evening gowns to change between, the authors clearly feel that the evening wardrobe is filled and for year three and four these two gowns will be used as well.



Remember that even if this wardrobe is for a relatively well to-do woman, it I still not a particularly fancy one. Clearly it is considered normal for an ordinary woman to have to evening gowns. Do you own two? And how often do you wear one? I have one that I made four years ago when I was invited first to a 1940’s party and then a big wedding the same month. I can truthfully say that I haven’t had occasion to wear it since. A pity, because I’m really pleased with it- I think I shall try to make an effort to wear it a bit more often. As I already have a blue 40’s evening gown I’m going to make a little shift and make do with it this year and then make a black one in year two instead.

Going back to the real 40’s, evening gown were used a lot more. Nowadays I think most people’s perception of formal wear is a big ball gown with a lot of clevage- the distinction between white and black tie are still around, but less people know, or care about the difference. The really fancy evening gowns are really just for the fanciest occasion and if you look at pictures from the forties there are a lot of rather simple evening gowns with very modest necklines. To be fair, the simple lines were probably due to fabric restrictions as they were responsible for allowing rather simple fabrics into evening wear, but the war influenced all fashions, after all. Still, you used long gowns far more extensively then than we do know. I won’t rehash all those occasions though, but simply point you to my previous post on the subject.

Rita Hayworth in a rather modest and oh so 40's evening gown.

10 comments:

Lady Cherry said...

I wish I had an evening gown too. Love the first pic.

Debi said...

I've made two in the last two months!!! And I actually wear them probably every couple of months (though I tend to dress up more than an average person)!!

Isis said...

Lady Cherry: Yeah, I like it too!

Debi: But you are exeptional, you know. ;) I love to dress up, but I have far too few occasions. Or rather, most of the times I really dress up, then I wear 18th century... But I will definitely do an effort to wear mine a bit more often. :)

Beth said...

Create the dress and the event will come! ;)

I actually have several evening gowns, but I look for 30's & 40's events to wear them to. Like you and 18th C. events. In my "regular" life, opportunities for evening gowns are not plentiful.

Rowenna said...

I admit--I wouldn't have much chance to wear formal gowns if my husband wasn't a Naval officer--so we have balls and stuff to go to. But making the dresses is enough fun in and of itself--even if it's just for dinner at home! Plus, better to have the dress already when the event rolls around, as I can never find a dress if I have an event :)

Isis said...

Beth: Yes, I guess that's how it works. :) Alas, there are precious little Golden Era events in Sweden.

Rowenna: Lucky you! :)

casey said...

I adore evening gowns in general, and would be delighted if modern life allowed one occasions to wear them more often! Although I have a couple in my closet, the events appropriate to wear them to are few and far between. Even my vintage cocktail dresses get very little use, since those are often considered too over the top--even for evenings at the theater or the like! (Though I staunchly refuse to dress down... haha!)

I think it is interesting, as you pointed out, that many photos of people in evening wear during the 40s were wearing rather "plain" gowns. Certainly compared to the extravegance of the 50s styles that would come, the dresses are more paired down and versatile for multiple events and seasons. Within the context of restrictions of course, this makes sense. I think too there was still the old concept that garments had to be multi-use and having something that just too up storage space in one's closet and rarely got worn was wasteful. Only the very wealthy could really afford that luxury. It's interesting how as fashion has gotten "faster" and cheaper, and people (at least in the US to a certain extent) have more disposible income, the larger and less practical wardrobes have become. Even I am guilty of having loads of clothes that don't get worn often (my "practical" wedding gown that I thought I'd wear again since it's really a 60s evening dress? Haven't worn it since.).

Anyway, sorry to go off on the rabbit trail! I've been mulling over the whole issue of practicality versus frivolity and waste within wardrobes lately. The 40s to me is one of those great examples of making small closets stretch and really utilizing what you have.

- Casey

Isis said...

Casey: Don't be sorry- I love it! I refuse to dress down as well. At my workplace people lives in jeans and t-shits and then there's me in skirt and high heels. :) I usually feel way over-dressed at parties too, when I compare to the other guests, but I like dressing up so I won't stop.

I love the fashion of the 50's, but I almost only dress like that for grand occsions. It feels so much more glamorous than the 40's. Which I feel works much better for an everyday wardrobe than the 50's. Probably because there was a war going on and utility was a major fashion trend.

People in general seems to have a lot of clothes, but I have always had a rather small one. A bit odd as I love clothes... I think it's a combination of truly hating clothes store (and rarely liking what they have anyway) and growing up knowing that there wasn't much money around for more than was neccessary. Somehow I have had a hard time permitting myself to buy clothes that are above "just what I need". The good side of that is that I never buy stuff I regret, though- I love all my clothes. :)

Auntie said...

I agree with both Casey and Isis, wishing I had more dress-up occasions in my day to day life. Sad to say, I'd fallen into the 'jeans and t-shirt' mode myself. Not only that, but I realized my lipstick was 2 years ols and not half used!!!! That's carrying 'thrift' a bit too far, don't you think? At 60 years old, I've decided to reform! I really like the concept of the 4 year plan, but I have some catching up to do with regard to things alresdy in my closet. NO MORE JEANS FOR ME! I will still wear my better t-shirts, but will replace them with proper blouses.

Isis said...

Auntie: I think it is easy enough to fall into the jeans and t-shirt mood. :) Everything else seems like too much effort, even if it is as easy to put on something pretty. :)

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