Ever felt that sense of dread when you’ve been invited to a big, beautiful event but suddenly realise you’ll have to find something fabulous to wear? Or maybe you’re a regular at those kinds of gorgeous forays and relish the chance to dress up. Either way, it’s always nice to have a gown or two in your arsenal to pull out on such occasions. Something sensational and timeless and, of course, that makes you feel like a million dollars.
Whether the dress code is more refined black-tie or the ritzier, more glamorous white-tie, or even if you’re just looking for a full-length gown to see you through many seasons of festivities and weddings (or perhaps, a dress for your own nuptials), below, we’ve rounded up 30 of the very best gowns to shop now. From more affordable ASOS versions to all-out Taller Marmo numbers, there’s something for every budget.
Team Who What Wear has over a decade of combined experience working in the industry as stylists, fashion editors and merchandisers, and having dressed stars for glamorous magazine covers and red carpet events, we can, by now, pinpoint the traits of an enduring gown that turns heads but always feels elegant—one that is unique yet timeless and appropriate for the majority of formal occasions. Our advice? Look out for unique, elevated details—things like a cape effect, a feathered trim or an interesting neckline. Even an unexpected colour (of course, black and white remain the most classic, but opt for a bright hue that looks incredible on you and you’re bound to be remembered) or textured fabric. Either that or channel Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and go extremely minimalist.
Keep scrolling to see the 30 best gowns that we, as stylists and all-round “fashion people,” would happily wear for elegant affairs this year and for many to come. If only our invites hadn’t got lost in the post…
A timeless Who What Wear favourite that needs no introduction.
Proof that you don’t need to break the bank to find a dress that looks elegant and polished.
Reformation isn’t just our go-to for celeb-approved casual dresses. There are exceptional evening options too.
Evening dresses just don’t get better or more enchanting than The Vampire’s Wife.
Sorry, little black dress. We’re all about the other LBD now (that’s long black dress).
Pure perfection in this season’s trending shade of hot red.
Full throttle spakle that ticks all of boxes.
If you’re looking for a figure-enhancing dress that flatters curves, Solace London should be top of your list.
Sleek, minimal, and undeniably chic.
Needle & Thread are experts in designing romantic dresses with plenty of attention-grabbing drama, and this dress is a case in point.
Just as cute as a button.
Calling all maximalists: We just found a bold gown you will love.
Sashay through the night in this understated monochrome number.
Whether bridal party or white-tie ball, this unforgettable chiffon gown is perfect for a night of making memories.
Forget “Valentino pink,” we’re all about these pretty florals.
I’m obsessed with this avant garde silhouette.
If the thought of stuffy “formalwear” breaks you out in a cold sweat, allow us to share this playful, vibrant dress packed full of personality.
Saloni gowns suit any dress code.
Everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Rihanna has been spotted in Norma Kamali, and from the fit of her dresses to the affordable price tag, it’s easy to see why.
Take note, winter brides. This satin dress is perfect for a low-key, intimate ceremony.
The most elegant silhouette.
Just wait until the light hits this Nadine Merabi gown and watch it come into its own.
If this isn’t a dress guaranteed to get you on the dance floor, nothing is.
All this dress needs is a boxy, oversized tuxedo jacket to shoulder-robe and a mini top-handle bag.
Unapologetically gilded, full-throttle glamour.
Why zip yourself into confining body-con when you can be poured into this liquid-looking silk number instead.
An entrance look fit for royalty.
This could just as easily be a bridesmaid dress as it could an evening dress. Or a cocktail dress. Or a date-night dress. Or an opera dress. Or a ball gown.
A contemporary take on occasion dressing.
Who says occasionwear requires a full length dress?