Finding an amazing dress for a formal event can be tricky. Luckily, there are loads of different vintage dresses out there that also double as formal dresses – it’s just a matter of finding the right one.
If you need some help finding the right vintage but formal dress for an upcoming occasion, then this is the place for you. Here, we are going to be checking out some of the best vintage dresses which you can wear to formal events.
So, check out the dresses below and find the right one for you!
First, we just want to define what we mean by ‘vintage’ dresses.
There’s a common misconception that vintage clothing refers to clothes that were made during a different time period in history and are being worn again today. However, this is not always the case.
The term ‘vintage’ clothing can also refer to clothes that are styled or designed after clothes worn in a previous time period.
They could have been sewed and finished last week, but the design and style has been inspired from clothing from decades, if not centuries ago.
The dresses we have included below are dresses you can buy today but take their style from dresses from the past. For example, the first dress is a flapper dress inspired by fashion from the Roaring 20s but the dress itself was not actually made in the 1920s.
Now that’s cleared up, let’s move on and check out these amazing vintage dresses!
The 1920s may be a century ago but the incredibly unique fashion from the time still leaves its mark on today’s fashion. However, there is nothing as stylish and glamorous than a vintage dress from the Roaring 20s.
Flapper dresses are well known for their amazing shape and glitzy glamor. They help create a lean silhouette rather than focusing on curves, use intricate yet stunning art-deco patterns, and plenty of sequins to help you stand out from the crowd.
This vintage flapper dress from Unique Vintage also takes further inspiration from the fashion trends of the 1920s.
Pearls have been delicately added to the fabric, as inspired by the fashionista icon Coco Chanel, and fringe decorates the dress’s hem as homage to the Charleston dress.
We would recommend you wear this dress to formal occasions that require a bit of glitz and glam to help channel the party mood of the 1920s. This includes events like a classy cocktail party, awards ceremonies, reunions, Christmas parties, and more.
However, the champagne color of this dress may make it unsuitable for wedding receptions and engagement parties – after all, you don’t want to be confused for the bride!
Another type of flapper dress from the Roaring 20s is the Charleston dress and it looks stunning for formal events.
Classic Charleston dresses are generally more fitted than other flapper dresses, and have lower necklines with straps to fit over the shoulder. From the neckline to the hem, the dress is covered in fringe and this creates a dazzling effect as you dance and move.
Today, a Charleston dress is considered a little too formal for the nightclub but still a great choice of attire for cocktail parties, classy gatherings, and more.
So, this 1920s inspired fringe dress is a great choice to go with if you want a vintage formal dress in your wardrobe.
Unfortunately, it is only available in white – and thus unsuitable for weddings (unless you’re the bride) – but it’s still a gorgeous vintage dress (Also check out Vintage Homecoming Dresses You’ll Love) nonetheless.
If you desperately want this dress in another color, then try shopping around to see if there are any other fringe dresses you can find in a similar style.
The spaghetti strap is a lot older than a lot of people actually think. Although most people assume it came into popularity during the 1960s, the spaghetti strap was already popular in evening and formal wear as far back as the 1940s.
The strap evening dress was especially worn by very rich and very fancy ladies during incredibly high-brow events.
Think Rita Hayworth at the Oscars – it’s very likely that actresses would wear dresses that were to the floor, with a defined waist, and low neckline with thin straps.
These dresses would also feature the iconic leg split – allowing women to flash a little flesh with each confident stride.
It’s a very glamorous style of dress that is perfect for classy, sophisticated events that require formal wear. While other dresses on this list are great for parties, they may not be ‘elegant’ enough for events where you want to make a serious impression.
So, this spaghetti strap dress is the perfect vintage-style dress for such events. It’s incredibly elegant and perfectly gives 1940s Oscars vibes. From the spaghetti straps to the long slit, this dress is perfect for high-brow formal events.
Not all formal wear in the 1940s was spaghetti straps and leg slits. Some women at the time preferred to wear more demure attire for their formal events, and so if you are not comfortable wearing the previous style of dress, this dress may be the better choice for you.
This dress takes its inspiration from the 1940s formal dresses that featured high necklines with collars, short sleeves, and a skirt that ended mid-calf.
It’s a lot more plain compared to vintage dresses from the Roaring 20s but plain and humble clothing was very popular due to the hardships of the Second World War. However, smaller touches of luxury prevailed such as pearl buttons and silk materials.
So, this vintage dress perfectly captures the classic features of Second World War clothing (such as the high neckline, the defined waist, long skirt and sleeves) and adds touches of formal wear with pearls, rich colors, and elegant material.
The middle of the twentieth century was the peak time for the American Housewife. She appeared in all kinds of advertisements cooking, cleaning, and completely other household chores – but by night, she would transform into the perfect party hostess.
1950s evening wear was defined by dresses with large, full skirts that ended mid-calf or at the knee. All of that material would collect at the waist line, and the upper body would be extremely fitted with a modest neckline and short sleeves that ended at the elbow.
This kind of style gives a very innocent look – and it’s perfect for formal occasions.
For a dress in this style, we’d recommend this 1950s Gam dress. It has the exact silhouette of evening gowns from the 1950s but has a modern twist with a use of delicate lace material and deep navy color.
It’s the kind of dress that’s suitable for all kinds of occasions – wedding receptions, engagement parties, award ceremonies, anything! So, it’s the perfect all-rounder to keep in your wardrobe for any occasion.
Another dress that perfectly captures the vintage style of the 1950s is this swing dress.
It still features the full skirt that was popular during the type but has an off-shoulder neckline. The black and pale pink color palette is also incredibly sophisticated, making it perfect for formal events and cocktail parties.
It’s a super sweet dress that is vintage and still stylish even by today’s standards.
This dress feels like it stepped right out of the 1970s but is a perfect little dress for formal events that border on casual. For example, if you are looking for a fun dress that can be worn at cocktail parties, then this is definitely a dress to consider.
The babydoll dress is a type of dress based heavily on the nightgown often used as a type of lingerie. However, overtime, it also became the name of a style of dress known for its super high hem, low plunging neckline, and large oversized sleeves.
It’s a very retro style of dress and immediately calls back to the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century.
This dress clearly takes inspiration from the babydoll style but the wacky floral patterns and bright color schemes are gone. Instead, the fabric is a soft black velvet and the sleeves are sheer, decorated with black polka-dots.
This gives it a far more formal feel although the high hem may make it unsuitable for very serious occasions.
Despite this, the pure black babydoll dress is perfect for fun, groovy parties. Throw on a pair of platform heels, grab a little clutch, and do up your hair in a beehive-esque style to further strengthen your vintage outfit style.
So, there are tons of different vintage dresses out there which take their style from trends in history.
These dresses range from cocktail dresses to wedding reception dresses, from parties to highly sophisticated events – so no matter the occasion, you can have a vintage dress for the moment!
Check out the dresses above, and use them as inspiration to find the perfect vintage formal dress for you.
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