5 Reasons Why I Loathe Evening Wear

evening gowns, evening wear, fashion lists

To prove my point about all strapless evening gowns looking the same, I've chosen 12 boring-as-hell evening gowns from the fall winter 2011 catwalks, and I dare you to guess who designed them. It is cheating if you use the makeup, hair, or backdrop to identify the designer. Answers at the bottom.

Evening wear is the bane of my existence. Here’s why.
1. The catwalks are full of evening wear. But why? How often do we wear evening wear? Hardly ever. I’ve worn full length evening wear twice: a my graduation, and to Jason Matlo’s birthday party (because I have a full length Jenny Packham bias cut dress with a train that I know I will NEVER have another opportunity to wear!) I like the catwalk to be full of interesting separates, knitwear, day dresses, and great coats, stuff real people can actually wear on a daily basis. Not frouffy dresses.

evening gowns, evening wear, fashion lists
2. Evening wear is too frequently strapless. I HATE strapless dresses. Not all of them, but most of them. Not enough people seem to realize that you need to have great shoulders to look good in strapless, and not everyone has them. It is like a crop top, would you wear one if you didn’t have a perfectly flat, toned stomach? No. So if you don’t have beautifully shaped shoulders and a collarbone that looks “nice,” then don’t wear strapless. And don’t think you NEED to wear strapless just because you are getting dressed up. The cap sleeve is totally underrated!

evening gowns, evening wear, fashion lists
3. Evening gowns all look the same. Ok, not ALL of them, but so many of them. Imagine a long, tight, strapless dress in a fabric with a sheen. It is full length, maybe with a flared hem from the knees. Now, guess who made it? It could be ANYONE. ‘Cause they almost all design one of those.
4. The red carpet is all about evening wear. And the red carpet seems to have such an impact on fashion (well, “they” say it does) but who cares if Angelina Jolie wore a long sleeve? Or Gwyneth Paltrow wore Pucci? Does this impact my life? No. But a bloody good pair of jeans that cost less than $200 sure would.

evening gowns, evening wear, fashion lists
5. My students all want to design evening wear. It is crazy. I ask them, “How many evening dresses do you have? How often do you wear evening dresses.” The answer is usually not many and not often. So why not design a nice shirt? Or a modern jacket? Why don’t students want to design clothing that is cool? I hate when a student with great personal style designs dresses for a tacky mother-of-the-bride, instead of something they themselves would actually wear. I don’t allow much evening wear from my students, because it usually looks lame, and is VERY rarely interesting. And strapless evening dresses are basically banned in my classes, unless someone is doing something that we haven’t seen before. And THAT is very difficult to do.

Images from Style.com.

Answers (from left to right):
Top row: Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Ungaro
Second row: Donna Karan, Maxmara, Oscar de la Renta
Third row: Prabal Gurung, Ralph Lauren, Elie Saab
Bottom row: Bottega Veneta, Carolina Herrera, Giambattista Valli

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  • http://highpointshoulder.tumblr.com/ HPS

    Haha this is great and a point not often made if at all!  When I was in design school my teachers would also frown upon those who ‘dreamed’ of doing evening wear because let’s face it becoming a high end designer is tough shit.  Practical innovation in evening wear is a rare feat indeed.

  • http://etherfields.blogspot.com/ L.L.

    Well evening wear to me still speaks to the elegance of the bygone eras. Yes it is true that very few people have the occasion to wear it but I think life without glamour is very depressing. 

    Marchesa on the other hand….it has wonderful workmanship but it’s rather boring 

  • Anonymous

    I will definitely agree that life without glamour IS boring. But make evening wear something special and unique, not the same strapless dresses we see everywhere. Alexandra Suhner Isenberg

  • AnaO

    I don’t quite agree, but I can  see your point. Most evenings I can rather be seen in pyjamas that in a Valentino gown. 
    On the other hand, a wealthy but not billionaire woman is, I suppose, more likely to invest in a designer dress for a very special occasion than to pay for a Gucci T-shirt or, well, pyjamas. So it probably makes sense for designers to create lots of evening wear.

  • Anonymous

    I sort of agree with you, but I think a wealthy (but not billionaire) woman would invest in a great cocktail dress, not a full length evening gown.

  • http://www.imtheitgirl.com/ anya

    I feel like the evening wear is there for Hollywood’s sake. I don’t think designers sell many, but a red carpet appearance is worth a million bucks, I guess.

    I suppose women also buy them for fundraisers and such, but they can’t be that profitable (all more reason why you should tell your students to stop designing them).

    PS. I hate strapless too! 

  • Katherine

    I must be a rare exception. I have no connection to Hollywood, Bollywood, etc., have never watched the Oscars or any other entertainment industry award, yet I regularly wear evening dresses and even full-skirted ball gowns with long gloves, and even a tiara on occasion. BTW, my tiara is not costume jewellery, but a family heirloom, passed down through at least five generations.

    My husband and I attend roughly a dozen black and white tie functions per year, hence I wear a long gown every couple of weeks on average.
    I very much appreciate the designers who create beautiful evening wear, and I know many others who do so, too.

    Please consider that there are many countries, especially in Europe, that value formality and host a plethora of formal events. Austria and its capital Vienna with more than 350 white or black tie balls comes to mind, as do London, Paris, Prague, Budapest, Munich, and many other cities. Having attended many of these events, I can assure you that a cocktail dress, no matter how stylish, will not suffice, and will most likely result in a woman being denied entry. There are literally hundreds of events where a long gown is mandatory and a prerequisite for being permitted to join the festivities.

    Fashion is international, and many of the brands and designs on US catwalks are not necessarily geared towards Americans, but an international audience. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with the author and others who state that the same old strapless styles are boring and really rather unflattering on most women. My solution is to buy the occasional new designer creation, and supplement my collection with fabulous vintage finds, such as a beautiful 1950s silk taffeta Dior evening coat purchased in a Paris charity shop for under 100 Euros.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I agree with you Katherine, there are events that call for full length gowns and all the accessories. But they are rare, and few people attend them regularly. One of my biggest frustrations with evening wear is that many of my design students often want to design evening wear, but I feel that more effort should be put into clothes we wear every day. There is a ton of beautiful evening wear out there, and I feel the market is almost saturated, whereas there is a lot of room for more great day wear brands that people can wear every day.