Types of Dresses: How to Choose a Dress for Every Occasion [2021]

types of dresses

There exist many types of dresses. Nowadays, you must know a bit about them since you shouldn’t wear whatever you want for every occasion. What I mean is that some styles are more appropriate than others for a wedding or a business dinner, for instance.

Learning about dresses is key to choosing the right one for your body shape. Some dresses are better than others to highlight or hide certain parts of your body. If you have no clue about what to wear for specific occasions, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, I’ll tell you all about dress types and styles. I’ll start with the basics, and then I’ll focus on more advanced details. Sounds interesting?

Let’s get started!


Dresses, Frocks and Gowns

Many people fail to distinguish between a dress, a frock, and a gown. If you’re among them, do not panic! I’ll start with the basics. In this chapter, I’ll provide key details as to what a dress, a frock, and a gown are. Ready?

What is a dress?

A dress is a one-piece garment usually worn by a woman or girl. It consists of a skirt with an attached bodice. It covers the top of your body and generally part of your legs, though it may hang down over your legs too.

Dresses can either be formal or casual. Besides, a dress skirt can be of any length. Dresses can have sleeves, straps, or leave your shoulders bare. Anyway, a dress is a piece of clothing whose hemlines differ depending on fashion, the weather, and the likes of the person who’s wearing it. 

100 Years of Dresses | Glamour
by Glamour

Dresses have changed a lot throughout history. What I mean is that historically, dresses parts could include items such as corsets, stomachers, or petticoats, which no longer form part of a dress.

Parts of a dress

Generally speaking, the parts of a dress are as follows: bodice, skirt, sleeves, hemline, neckline, train, and straps. Not all dresses necessarily have to be composed of all these parts. For instance, not all dresses have straps. Some have sleeves, and others leave your shoulders bare.

woman in dress

Here is a list of the main parts of a dress:


A sleeve is the part of a dress that covers your arm. Sleeves can be short, mid-length, or long. Besides, sleeves can be tight or loose depending on the style. Sleeves have an opening at the end so that your hand and arm can pass through.

There exist lots of different types of sleeves. Yet, they’re mainly classified into two groups: set-in sleeves and non-set-in sleeves. 

The former refers to those sleeves that join the side seams of the bodice at the underarm. Examples of set-in sleeves are bishop sleeves, peasant sleeves, angel sleeves, Juliet sleeves, and puff sleeves, among others. 

Non-set-in sleeves are sleeves that form part of the bodice. For instance: kimono sleeves, raglan sleeves, and dolman sleeves. As you may well have already noticed, there’s quite a lot of variety as regards sleeves. 


The bodice refers to the part of a woman’s dress above the waist. In other words, the bodice is the part of a woman’s dress that covers your body from your neck or shoulders to your waist. 

Historically, this term refers to a tight-fitting sleeveless garment for the torso and bust, which was common in Europe during the 16th to the 18th century. These days, it just refers to the upper portion of a dress to set it apart from the skirt and sleeves. 


The skirt is the bottom part of a dress. It covers your body from the waist downwards. Its hemline can vary from micro to floor-length. A dress skirt can be above knee length, knee length, floor length, mini, ankle-length, etc.

women wearing different types of dresses

Besides, a dress skirt can be of many types to suit your body shape and fashion style. It can be asymmetrical, straight, A-line, pencil/tube, mini, layered, godet, wrap, high-low, tulip, bubble, etc.    


The waistline of a dress is what joins the bodice and the skirt. The waistline is responsible for the dress shape. It is generally used to accentuate different features. The waistline sets how a dress works on your figure. 

Not surprisingly, there exist different types of waistlines. The empire waistline is the one that is placed just below the bust of a dress. The natural waistline sits at your natural waist. The dropped waistline sits at the top of your hips. 

woman in formal gold dress

V and U shaped waistlines are not straight, but they have V or U form in the front or back of a dress. Finally, if a dress has no waist seam, it’s called princess seam. 


The neckline is the top edge of a dress. A dress neckline is the part people notice first. It adds a bit of character to your dress. There are several types of necklines. For instance, jewel, asymmetric, halter, U and V necklines, boat, round, strapless, high neck, etc. 


The hemline refers to the line that is formed by the lower edge of a dress. It matters since you must know the ideal dress length for specific events. Hemlines have dramatically changed over the years.

young woman wearing a dress

The appropriate dress hemline has to do with factors such as your age, the occasion, fashion styles, and your own choice. There exist many types of hemlines. For example, floor-length, ankle, midcalf, below-knee, above-knee, handkerchief, asymmetrical, high-low, etc. 

Besides, a dress can be classified according to its hemline as a mini dress, midi dress, maxi dress, tea-length dress, floor-length dress, and calf-length dress. I’ll explain dress types more in detail later on in this post. 


The dress train is the long back portion of a dress that falls behind the wearer. These days, trains are only common in pretty formal evening gowns and wedding dresses. There are several types of wedding dress trains. 

For example, cathedral train, chapel train, court train, royal train, sweep train, and Watteau train. Trains can either be long or short. Trains are meant to trail behind the dress wearer. There are many styles available, which option to opt for depends on the event, place, and the preferences of who’s wearing it.  


Straps consist of a length of fabric that sits over your shoulders and is used to support your dress weight. Shoulder straps are generally made of the same material as the dress. Straps can be quite thin, in which case they are referred to as spaghetti straps. 

woman from the back

The latter is pretty common in cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Anyway, straps can come in pairs, or they can form part of a single strap dress. They aren’t meant to support much weight.

What is a frock?

A frock consists of a one-piece garment with a skirt and a cover for the upper body. Unbelievable as it may seem, this word has been used since Middle English. Back then, it meant an item of coat-like clothing for both men and women.

These days, the word frock is more widely used in the UK than in the USA. There are those who use the words dress and frock interchangeably. However, they have different connotations. 

young woman wearing a short dress

A frock is a loose outer garment, similar to a gown that is worn by women and children. Besides, a coarse shirt-like garment is also considered a frock. The latter is worn by some workmen over their clothes.

Interestingly, in Australia, the word frock is used with the phrase “to frock up,” and it means to wear a formal dress or gown for a special event. Thus, we can say that frock and dress are not exactly the same. 

What is a gown?

A gown is a formal dress. Besides, it’s a one-piece woman’s garment with a close-fitting bodice and a long flared skirt. It’s a full-length women’s formal and elegant dress. There are ball gowns, evening gowns, and wedding gowns.

A ball gown refers to a gown that females wear to a ball or a formal event. This type of gown is commonly worn at events like the debutante ball or “quinceañera.” Ball gowns are worn with jewelry and opera-length gloves. 

woman wearing a red gown

An evening gown is a long dress that women wear to formal events. It’s usually made of luxurious fabrics like velvet, satin, or silk. An evening gown can be any silhouette, such as mermaid, A-line, trumpet, and more. 

A wedding gown, also known as a wedding dress, is worn by brides when they get married. Its color depends on the religion and culture of the wearer. In Western cultures, the wedding dress is more often than not white. 

Now that you know the difference between a dress, a frock and a gown, it’s time we move on and talk about women’s dress types in more detail. Below, I’m about to explain women’s dress types and styles. Keep on reading to find out what dress to wear and be the perfect guest!

Types of Dresses and Dress Styles

In this chapter, I’ll tell you all about dress types and dress styles. I’ll start by explaining what kind of dresses you can wear for each and every occasion. Then, I’ll focus on historical dresses. And to conclude, I’ll cover traditional ones.
Interested? Let’s jump right in!

Dresses for every special occasion

Knowing what to wear for every special occasion can end up being such an ordeal for many women. There are times when you just don’t have a clue as to what to wear. What’s worse, there are occasions when you don’t like the looks of you in any outfit. Isn’t it frustrating?

In this section, I’ll cover the most important types of dress for every special occasion. Besides, I’ll provide some outfit ideas you can use in case you get invited to an event and are clueless as to what to wear.

Versace Spring Summer 2021 | Fashion Show
by Versace

It’s always confusing to figure out what you’re supposed to wear as a wedding guest, or to a cocktail party or a business dinner, to name a few. However, the right outfit can make you shine and save the night.

If, on the contrary, you show up over or underdressed, you’ll get unwanted looks. It’s annoying being the center of attention simply because you’re not dressed appropriately. Feeling identified? Do not panic; no one is perfect! Let me help you, and you’ll be the perfect guest!

Formal dresses 

There are various types of formal events. Thus, formal attire comprises several dress codes. You must understand the differences between them to choose the right outfit for each occasion. 

White tie is the most formal dress code. Women are expected to wear a floor-length ball or evening gown in dark colors. These days, long gloves are optional. There exists a variation of white tie when the event takes place before 6 p.m. It’s called morning dress, where women can wear slightly shorter dresses if they wish.

formal red dress

Black tie is a bit less strict. Women may opt for a dressy cocktail dress or a floor-length evening gown. Black tie optional is a bit less formal. This time, women are supposed to wear a cocktail dress.

formal stylish dress

To make a better choice, you should bear in mind the event location, time, and the dress code specified in the invitation. Make sure your dress is made of a luxurious fabric like taffeta, satin, or silk. Do not forget to wear the right accessories. 

Here are some formal dress outfit ideas:
  • Off-Shoulder Formal Dress
two women wearing off-shoulder dresses

An off-shoulder dress is perfect for many formal events during the spring and summer seasons. You can wear it to a wedding party or a graduation party, among others.

  • Mid-length Sleeve Two-Piece Formal Dress
woman wearing a green mid-length dress

This two-piece dress is ideal for a formal event in which you want to stand out but don’t want to show too much, like a business event, for instance. Since it’s got sleeves, it’s more appropriate for in-between or colder seasons, such as spring or fall.

  • Mermaid Long Formal Dress
blond woman in a blue mermaid long formal dress

This stunning outfit will allow you to highlight your body shape. It is appropriate for formal evening events. It’s quite festive too. So, it could be worn during the festive season. A wedding, graduation, or a Christmas celebration are occasions when you could wear such a chic formal dress. 

  • Prom Formal Dress
young woman wearing a pink dress for prom

This long formal dress is ideal for a prom. It doesn’t show too much, and its color is perfect for warmer weather when graduations generally take place. If combined with high-heels and a small purse, it will no doubt help you call others’ attention and shine on such an important night.  

  • One Shoulder Formal Dress
one shoulder white dress

Who doesn’t have a one-shoulder dress in her wardrobe nowadays? Such a dress is not only fashionable but elegant. As you can see in the picture above, the woman is wearing a one-shoulder formal dress with a long sleeve, which makes her shine quite easily. 

  • Full Sleeves Formal Dress
full sleves red formal dress

A full sleeves formal dress is worn in colder months during the winter season. It’ll help you feel warmer but sophisticated. Paired with dress shoes and the appropriate hairstyle, a full sleeves formal dress can no doubt make you shine on cooler nights. 

  • Evening Formal Dress
classy woman wearing a formal dress while drinking tea

An evening formal dress like the one shown in the picture is ideal for evening events such as a formal dinner. As you can see in the image above, the dress is classy and elegant, so it’s appropriate for any formal occasion. 

  • Wedding Formal Dress
young beautiful woman wearing her wedding dress

A formal wedding dress is a must for any traditional wedding. If you’re about to get married in a formal setting, such as a cathedral, you must get a formal wedding dress. The formality of the event has to do with your own choice, the wedding location, the number of guests, the type of wedding, the time of day, etc. 

  • Ball Gown Formal Dress
woman wearing a golden formal dress for a ball gown

This puffy tulle long formal dress can only be worn for really formal occasions like a wedding or a prom. Such a perfect evening ball gown dress will make you feel like a princess and shine in the eyes of others. 

Semi-formal dresses 

Semi-formal attire for women includes lots of options. That’s why it can be a bit tricky to decide what’s appropriate for each and every occasion. To make things easier, you can just opt for a polished and fashionable knee-length dress. Still, you’ve got other options such as a chic suit or a dressy pantsuit with a cool top. 

Semi-formal, as the name suggests, is a mixture of what’s sophisticated but relaxed. Thus, it’s more casual than any of the formal dress code options I mentioned above, such as white tie or black tie. 

Not surprisingly, there are many semi-formal outfits. When planning what to wear, you must take into account the type of semi-formal event you’re attending. It’s not the same going to a semi-formal party or a business event. 

Here are some semi-formal dress outfit ideas:
  • Off-Shoulder Knee-length Dress
semi formal dress
Photo: Ussama Azam

This is a perfect semi-formal party outfit. Think of a semi-formal wedding, for instance. Since it’s not a formal event, you can wear big earrings and let your hair down. It will make you feel relaxed but sophisticated.

  • Chic Dress
chic dresses

Any of these two dresses is semi-formal but chic. You’ll feel smart and confident wearing any of them. The one on the left is even appropriate as an office outfit. The one on the right might be too short for that. Still, the two dresses are semi-formal but elegant. 

  • Knee-length Midi or Maxi Dress
young woman wearing a knee-length mini dress

As you can see in the image above, this outfit is great for a semi-formal wedding. The woman is wearing high-heel sandals as the perfect complement, and her hair is free but stylish. 

  • Sophisticated knee-length Evening Dress
two women walking in the street wearing dresses

A sophisticated knee-length evening dress is ideal for a semi-formal dinner. Think of a dinner with someone you want to impress. It could be with your in-laws, for instance. 

  • Long Semi-formal Dress
pink beautiful semi-formal dress

A long semi-formal dress can be worn for many occasions. From a semi-formal wedding to any evening event like a business party. Just make sure your dress choice is appropriate for the location, time of day, and place. 

  • Gold Semi-formal Dress
golden semi-formal dress

A gold semi-formal dress is more likely to be worn during the festive season. It’s ideal for special and celebratory events, such as a Christmas party. The one in the photo is no doubt sexy since it emphasizes the girl’s body shape. Thus, it’s more appropriate for events with family and friends. Probably, it’s too revealing for a business party celebration. 

Business dinner dresses

When you dress for a business dinner, choose outfits that make you look conservative and professional. If you want to give a good impression, ensure your business attire is polished before you leave for the event. 

blond young woman wearing a business dinner black dress

Not surprisingly, the type of attire will depend on the business dinner you’re attending. If it’s just after work, you may wear the clothes you wore during the day. Yet, if it takes place later in the evening, you’ll better opt for a formal business dress. 

Business dinner attire for women needs to be somehow conservative as regards your dress length, color, and fabric. Make sure your skirt or dress length is knee-length or below. 

You must avoid wearing any outfit with low necklines. You don’t necessarily have to wear a dress. You may also wear pants or a suit skirt with a blouse. Your outfit’s choice should be based on the event’s location and time.

If you’re unsure about what you should wear for an event, you can always ask the host. It’s better to ask than to dress inappropriately. Pay attention to what industry leaders wear to business events. You may get some outfit ideas from them.  

Do not wear clothes that are too tight nor too loose. Opt for clothing that looks great on you and makes you look stylish. Ensure your clothes are neat and ironed. You can complement your outfit with dress shoes, some jewelry, and a cool purse. 

Here are some business dinner outfit ideas:
  • Chic Midi Dress
chic mini-dress

This chic midi dress is perfect for any business semi-formal dinner. It’s knee-length, and it doesn’t show too much. It’s elegant too. So, it’ll make you look smart in the eyes of others. You could pair it with a blazer to improve the look. 

  • Cocktail Business Party Dress
cocktail business party dress

This cocktail dress is great for a business evening party. There would be times when you have to attend business events in the evening. Make sure you look sophisticated enough. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. You should also observe how your peers dress. 

  • Pencil Dress with a Blazer
pencil dress with a blazer
Photo: Đoàn Tiến Hải

This pencil dress with a white blazer is perfect for any business dinner. It’ll make you look stylish and elegant. Together with a small handbag and a pair of dress shoes, it’ll make you shine. Just remember not to wear too much make-up!

Cocktail dresses

Cocktail dresses need to finish around your knees for the perfect length. You can wear other clothes to a cocktail attire event, such as two-piece ensembles or a pantsuit. However, a cocktail dress with some accessories and dress shoes is the best bet.

red glamorous cocktail dress

When dressing for a cocktail event, you must bear in mind the kind of party you’re attending to decide on your outfit. Before purchasing the perfect cocktail dress, consider your body shape.

For example, if your hips and thighs are larger than your upper body, you should look for an empire waistline dress. However, if you’ve got broad shoulders and petite hips, you could pick a dress with asymmetric hemlines. 

semi-formal gold dress

Besides, you should not wear a dress that’s too revealing nor carry an oversized bag. You could use a clutch instead. Cocktail dresses are suitable for formal and casual events. Depending on the event’s formality, setting, time, and weather, you may want to opt for one option or another. 

Here are some cocktail dress outfit ideas:
  • Little Black Dress
little black dress

A little black dress is an excellent option for any formal event unless it’s white tie. The off-shoulders option shown in the picture will draw others’ attention to the upper part of your body. 

  • Festive Cocktail Dress
festive cocktail dress

Such a festive cocktail dress as the one in the image above is ideal for the festive season. You can wear it for a Christmas party with family or friends, for instance. Indeed, it will do for any semi-formal event you may have. 

  • Sophisticated Cocktail Dress
sophisticated cocktail dress

This sophisticated cocktail dress could be used for a business dinner. It doesn’t reveal too much on the upper-part. Since the dress is pretty elegant, it has to be paired with a clutch and dress shoes. 

  • Sweet Floral Cocktail Dress
sweet floral cocktail dress

If you have to attend a garden party, you should consider wearing a floral cocktail dress. Garden parties tend to be casual or semi-formal. Thus, there’s no need to wear a long dress. You can combine your floral dress with a pair of sandals or wedge shoes. 

Casual dresses

Casual dresses are perfect for casual daytime, some casual evening events, weekends, business casual events, etc. You can dress up or down depending on the occasion. But mainly, the casual dress code for women is identified with being comfortable and effortlessly chic. 

young woman in a casual dress in the forest

Casual attire means not having to follow strict rules but follow your own tastes. Casual dresses tend to go well with any kind of footwear, even sneakers. You just have to pick a style with which you feel comfortable and relaxed.

Not all casual dresses are appropriate for any casual event. For instance, you’re not expected to wear the same clothing to a business casual event as to the beach or a girl’s night out. 

young woman and casual dress

Thus, as it happens with the other types of dresses I mentioned, each casual occasion will require different outfits. If you’re unsure as to what to wear, do not panic! I’m about to share some outfit ideas just below. 

Here are some examples of casual dress outfits:
  • Mini Dresses
mini dresses

Mini dresses are fabulous for casual events or everyday life. You can wear them at weekends if you’re going out with your friends or for a date. However, if the dress is too short, it’s quite unlikely it’s appropriate for formal occasions, such as a business dinner.  

  • Maxi Dresses
maxi dresses

Maxi dresses are incredibly comfortable. They’ll make you feel chic and relaxed. Since they don’t emphasize your figure, you can move freely and enjoy. The one in the picture is ideal for in-between seasons like fall or spring. 

  • Printed Dresses
printed dresses
Photo: Nicoletta Freer

Printed dresses are in vogue. Many women love wearing a dress with floral prints, polka dots, animal prints, etc. They give your look some personality. Most of the time, printed dresses go well with sneakers and a denim jacket.

  • Tunic Dresses
tunic dresses

Tunic dresses are more appropriate for the summer months. They’re a good option for going to the beach. Since they’re generally made of lighter fabrics, you’ll be able to enjoy the breeze and the sun. 

  • Bodycon Dresses
bodycon dresses

Bodycon dresses can be worn for any casual event. The one in the photo is not too formal. You can wear it with a pair of sandals and a small bag. Since the dress is relatively short, it’s great for summer events, like an informal dinner with friends. 

  • A-line Dresses
a-line dresses

A-line dresses look lovely on almost any woman. They’re not only comfortable, but they also help you to hide your hips if need be. You can either wear them with shoes or sandals depending on the event. 

  • Asymmetrical Dresses
asymmetrical dresses

Asymmetrical dresses are an excellent option for women who don’t have too many curves. They’ll focus others’ attention on the different dress part. The one-shoulder dress in the picture is an excellent choice for any casual or semi-formal event. 

  • Shirt Dresses
shirt dresses

Shirt dresses are quite fashionable nowadays. You can combine them with a cool belt and a pair of shoes to improve your appearance. A long-sleeved shirt dress is ideal for spring or fall. You probably won’t even need to wear a jacket

Party dresses

Party dresses consist of clothing that women wear at parties. Since there is a lot of variety as regards kinds of parties, the same happens with party dresses. Besides, some parties are more formal than others. 

impressive party dress

What I mean is that you’re not supposed to wear the same clothes to a beach party than to a business evening party, for instance. The occasion and the dress code specified in the invite will determine your choice. 

The weather and the location also have a say in your decision. In general, party dresses tend to be somehow elegant and dressy. They’re not as practical as normal wear or everyday wear. 

Apart from dress codes, there exist party themes, such as a 90s themed party. If you’re struggling to find the right outfit for your next party event, check the party dress outfit ideas below.

You’ll quite likely have to wear many party dresses all throughout your life. Yet, not all dresses look lovely in all body shapes, neither are all dresses appropriate for each and every occasion.

black party dress

For this reason, you must familiarize yourself with party dress types and pick the one that best matches your body and your preferences. Don’t be ashamed to use a shapewear item if you need it. It’ll help you enhance your overall look. 

Here are some examples of party dresses outfits for different occasions:
  • Halter Neck Short Party Dress
halter neck short party dress

Halter neck dresses look great on busty women as they don’t emphasize their upper part. The one in the image above focuses others’ attention on the back instead. It’s a great option for any party.  

  • Long-sleeved Mini Dress
long-sleeved mini dress

A long-sleeved mini dress is a classic choice for Christmas parties. Together with a pair of stilettos, it’ll make you shine. Make sure you do not over-accessorize yourself. And remember to socialize and smile!

  • Embellished Party Dress
embellished party dress

An embellished party dress will make you stand out. You can wear an embellished dress to any semi-formal party. If it’s long, you can even wear it to an evening event. Knee-length dresses are more appropriate for daytime celebrations or casual events. 

  • Metallic Party Dress
metallic party dress
Photo: Ussama Azam

A metallic party dress is ideal for the festive season. Many women love the look of metallic dresses. There is a lot of variety. Usually, they’re made of just one color as they’re extravagant enough.

  • Little Black Dress
little black dress

A little black dress is appropriate for any party you can think of. You’ll look great for formal as well as semi-formal or casual events. The long-sleeved LBD shown in the picture above is superb for the winter months. 

  • Strapless Party Dress
strapless party dress

A strapless party dress like the one in the photo is great for warmer weather. Many women love wearing strapless dresses since they’re generally pretty flattering. 

  • Long Party Dress
long party dress

A floor-length party dress is by definition more formal than a cocktail dress. Still, you can wear a long dress to some semi-formal or casual parties if you like. If the event is an evening party, you’re more likely to be asked to wear a long gown or evening dress. 

  • One Shoulder Party Dress
one shoulder party dress

The one-shoulder party dress in the picture is great for attending a semi-formal party like a casual wedding that takes place during the day. 

  • High-low Party Dress
high-low party dress

A high-low party dress allows you to show your legs on the front but hides them in the back. Such a dress style sometimes has a train like the one in the photo. It’s perfect for formal parties in which you want to stand out and be the ideal guest. 

  •  Pencil Party Dress
pencil party dress

A pencil party dress will make you look awesome if you have to attend a formal party such as a business dinner party. You can also wear it for a wedding party or an evening party. 

  • Sweetheart Party Dress
sweetheart party dress

A sweetheart party dress is generally extremely flattering on most women. The one with polka dots in the picture above is perfect for casual or semi-formal parties. 

Wedding dresses

Wedding dresses are those worn by brides at their wedding. The color and style depend on the culture and the bride’s preferences. In western cultures, most wedding dresses are sleeveless, strapless, and white. However, many wedding dresses in eastern cultures are red. 

wedding dress

Anyway, there exist many different wedding dress silhouettes: A-line, ball gown, sheath, mermaid, trumpet, empire, and tea-length.

A-line dresses are those which create a silhouette that resembles the letter A. It is for this reason that they can make you look more slender. Ball gown dresses are made of multiple layers of tulle to create a cumbersome dress skirt.   

woman in a wedding white dress
Photo: Taylor Heery

Trumpet wedding dresses are fitted from the bust to the mid-thigh with a flaring skirt. While sheath dresses highlight your natural body shape. Mermaid dresses are fitted and then flared. And tea-length dresses are wedding dresses whose hem finishes above the ankles. 

Below you’ll find some outfit ideas for all these wedding dress shapes: 
  • A-line Wedding Dress
a-line wedding dress

An A-line wedding dress can be worn by a woman with any body shape. It emphasizes the difference between the upper and bottom parts of your body. Besides, it highlights small waists. 

  • Ball Gown Wedding Dress
ball gown wedding dress

A ball gown wedding dress is the perfect dress for a formal wedding. If you’re getting married in a very formal setting like a cathedral, you’ll need to select a wedding dress that’s appropriate for the occasion. 

  • Sheath Wedding Dress
sheath wedding dress

A sheath wedding dress is a great option if you want to emphasize your body shape. It falls naturally around your body. The one with lace sleeves in the photo is just lovely. 

  • Mermaid Wedding Dress
mermaid wedding dress

A mermaid wedding dress is tight from the bodice to your knees. Then, it becomes loose and has a train in the back. It’s ideal to look smart, sexy, and sophisticated.

  • Trumpet Wedding Dress
trumpet wedding dress

The trumpet wedding dress differs from the mermaid one in that it starts to flare below your knees. However, a mermaid dress flares above them. Any of the two is a great option to contrast with a tight bodice.  

  • Empire Wedding Dress
empire wedding dress

An empire wedding dress is the one whose waistline sits just below your bust. It’s perfect for pear-shaped brides. It leaves some areas undefined and highlights your silhouette. 

  • Tea-length Wedding Dress
tea-length wedding dress

A tea-length wedding dress can be a great choice for a less formal wedding. Many women opt for tea-length wedding dresses if they get married for a second time. You may also want to show part of your legs and shoes. It’s ideal for more casual weddings. 

Wedding guest dresses

Wedding guest dresses are dresses that women wear when they get invited to a wedding. Choosing the right dress to be the perfect guest can be a daunting task. Some people read a wedding invite and are clueless about what to wear. 

pink dress for a wedding guest

As a guest, your wedding dress choice must be based on the wedding dressing code. Yet, that’s not the only aspect you have to consider. The location, time of day, and season are decisive too. 

You should dress up and go for a dress that makes you feel comfortable. Remember that accessorizing can make a great difference. But above all, avoid wearing a white, ivory, or champagne dress. You shouldn’t steal attention from the bride.

yellow long dress

Apart from that, guest wedding dress outfits can be very varied. Some weddings are more formal, in which case you should wear a ball gown or long evening dress. However, others are a bit more casual, such as a beach wedding. As regards the latter, you could perfectly wear a summer sundress or cocktail dress.

Here are some wedding guest dress outfit ideas: 
  • Full-length Ball Gown
full-length ball gown

A full-length ball gown like the one in the picture is mandatory if you get an invitation that says white tie dress code required. It’ll make you look smart and respectful in the eyes of the wedding couple. 

  • Long Evening Gown
long evening gown

A long evening gown is preferable when you’re asked to attend a black tie event. You want to look formal, but not too much. 

  • Cocktail Dress
cocktail dress

A cocktail dress is what you’re supposed to wear if the invite says cocktail attire or black tie optional. This outfit is less formal than the previous wedding guest options.

  • Summer Sundress Tea or Knee-length
summer sundress tea or knee-length

A sundress tea or knee-length is a fantastic choice for a beach formal or casual wedding. Some couples prefer that their guests feel more comfortable and don’t ask them to dress too formally. 

  • Cocktail Dress
cocktail dress

A cocktail dress is great for a semi-formal wedding. The one in the picture comes with a dark hat and a jacket to contrast with the dress color. 

Prom dresses

Prom dresses are those that girls wear at a high school or college prom. As you know, a prom is a formal dance that takes place by the end of the academic year. There are many prom dress styles, like one-shoulder, A-line, etc.

yellow prom dress
Photo: Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz

You must follow your college or high school prom dress code. Not all dress types are allowed. Many schools forbid wearing dresses that are too short or too revealing. Make sure your dress follows the prom requirements. 

Whatever dress style you choose, you can complement it with a small purse or clutch. Gloves are quite common too. However, you must accessorize wisely. Sometimes less is more. Make sure you do not wear too much jewelry or lots of accessories.

A prom dress is really important. It has to make a young woman feel as if she were a princess. Still, you don’t need to buy the most expensive dress to master that feeling. You just need to find a tailored dress that suits your body shape and personality.

young woman with a prom dress

If you’re struggling with the process, do not worry! I’m about to share the best prom outfit ideas with you in a moment. But before that, make sure you pick a dress that is appropriate for the season or prom theme. And do not forget to socialize!

Here are some prom dress outfit ideas: 
  • A-line Prom Dress
a-line prom dress

An A-line prom dress looks nice on any body shape. It’s preferred by many women who want to stress the difference between the upper and bottom parts of their bodies. 

  • Babydoll Prom Dress
babydoll prom dress

A babydoll prom dress will make you shine in the eyes of others. The one in the photo is knee-length, strapless, and with a tulle skirt. 

  • Ball Gown
ball gown

A ball gown is a formal dress that can be worn for proms. It’ll make you shine and look as if you were a real princess. 

  • Fit-and-flare Prom Dress
fit-and-flare prom dress

A fit-and-flare prom dress is tight on the top and loose on the bottom. The one-shoulder one in the picture is ideal for young women attending their prom. 

  • Off-shoulder Prom Dress
off-shoulder prom dress

An off-shoulder prom dress allows you to emphasize the upper part of your body and calls others’ attention towards it. Make sure your dress is not too revealing. 

  • Two-piece Prom Dress
two-piece prom dress

You may want to wear a two-piece prom dress. As long as its two parts match and you do not show your belly too much, you might be allowed to wear it. Black and white two-piece dresses combine perfectly well. 

  • Mermaid Prom Dress
mermaid prom dress

A mermaid prom dress is ideal for formal events. The one in the image above even has a train at the back. You’ll look fabulous with such a dress!

Bridesmaid dresses

Bridesmaid dresses are the dresses that bridesmaids wear to a wedding. It can be difficult and somehow controversial to choose them since not all bridesmaids have the same body shape, skin color, age, and features. 

three bridesmaids in pink dresses

Besides, bridesmaids’ dresses need to suit them in color and style. These days, bridesmaids don’t necessarily have to wear exactly the same dress. You should choose a dress with which your bridesmaids feel confident and comfortable.

Thus, it’s advisable that brides do not impose their own preferences but listen to their bridesmaids’ opinions, suggestions and tastes. Age difference is another aspect you must take into account.

If your bridesmaids are of different ages, you need to select a dress that is appropriate for all of them. Another issue to consider is who pays for the dresses. If they pay for their clothing, they have a say when choosing the dress. 

bridesmaids in green dresses
Photo: Omar Lopez

Petite bridesmaids tend to look nicer in sweetheart and V necklines. However, busty bridesmaids may look better in high necklines. And pregnant bridesmaids will look prettier in a dress with a flowy skirt. These are just examples of how different body shapes require different dress styles. 

Here are some bridesmaid dress outfit ideas:
  • Embroidered Bridesmaid Dresses
embroidered bridesmaid dresses

Embroidered dresses are perfect for bridesmaids. The ones in the picture look gorgeous! Embroidered dresses will help you shine. Embroidery adds a different touch to the dress. It‘ll help your bridesmaids look more sophisticated. 

  • Classic Navy Bridesmaid Dresses
classic navy bridesmaid dresses

Navy bridesmaid dresses are pretty classic but still loved by many women. Nany is a color that contrasts quite a lot with the bride’s wedding white dress. As you can see in the image above, not all your bridesmaids need to wear the same dress. 

  • Red Bridesmaid Dresses
red bridesmaid dresses

Red bridesmaid dresses will allow your bridesmaids to stand out next to you. They also have a role to play in your wedding. Thus, it’s crucial they feel pretty as well. 

  • Sparking Bridesmaid Dresses
sparking bridesmaid dresses

Sparking bridesmaid dresses are definitely in vogue. The long sparkling bridesmaid dresses in the image are astonishing. Together with the wife, they’ll shine on such an important day. 

  • Floral Bridesmaid Dresses
floral bridesmaid dresses

Floral bridesmaid dresses are more casual than the ones in the pictures above. They’re ideal for a casual or semi-formal wedding. Besides, if the wedding takes place in summer or spring, floral dresses are more than appropriate. 

  • Emerald-green Bridesmaid Dresses
emerald-green bridesmaid dresses

Emerald-green bridesmaid dresses are among women’s favorites too. Emerald-green is a color that looks nice in almost any woman, no matter whether you’re blonde or dark-haired.

Historical dresses 

Dresses have changed a lot throughout the ages. What’s more, they keep on changing. Not long ago, there wasn’t such a wide variety of options to choose from for women. Yet, today women have limitless choices. 

We must know about historical dresses and understand their evolution to value the freedom we have nowadays. Women in the past didn’t have a choice. Many had to create their own clothes and wear uncomfortable pieces of clothing like corsets. 

Dress Historian Analyzes ‘Historical’ Film Costumes
by Bernadette Banner

Today, we can dress as we like and change clothes almost every season. Below, I’m about to share information as regards typical historical dresses. I hope you find it interesting.

Let’s have a look at historical dresses and see how they’ve dramatically changed!

Pioneer women dresses

Pioneer women had to craft their own dresses themselves as well as clothes for their families. They used materials like cotton, muslin, and wool. Besides, they used scraps of fabric to make quilts. 

Pioneer dresses needed to be comfortable enough to work on the farm. Thus, hemlines were raised a bit. Women didn’t use a corset as it wasn’t at all practical – except for formal events. And an apron was often used to protect dresses underneath. 

Collars and cuffs were adorned with bits of lace if available. These women often wore petticoats. Most pioneer women complemented their look with a bonnet or wide-brimmed hat to protect themselves from the sun. 

Old West dresses

In the Old West, women’s dresses varied based on their status in society. Society ladies used to wear silk and finer fabrics. However, townswomen wore practical dresses made of cotton or wool. Farmwives used to make their dresses themselves. 

Besides, clothing might have fringes. It could also be embellished with beadwork. Wealthy women could afford expensive fabrics, whereas other women had to wear simplistic outfits. 

Old West dresses range from evening gowns to simple calico dresses. On top of that, due to the influence of Indian and Spanish cultures, women who could afford it often wore silver and turquoise jewelry. 

Civil War-era dresses 

Hoop skirts are what distinguish Civil War dresses. Some ball gown skirts could take up more than five yards of fabric. Besides, women used a corset. Civil War dresses also had crinolines to support the dress skirts. 

civil war-era dress

Wealthy women would change their clothing up to five times a day. There was a morning dress, evening dress, walking dress, etc. 

Dresses consisted of a full floor-length skirt with a closely-fitted bodice. Sleeves were full and in bell shape. The neckline was typically a bit dropped down the shoulder. And the waistline slightly above what we consider natural. Evening dresses sometimes had a train. 

Black was very popular since many women ended up being mourning widows. The Civil War lasted four years, and many people died. 

Victorian-era dresses

Victorian-era dresses were utterly feminine. They were designed to emphasize a small waist. Victorian women could wear up to seven petticoats to achieve voluminous skirts. Dress bodices were high-neck, long-sleeved, and closely fitted to women’s bodies. 

victorian-era dress

Trims and flounces became very popular due to the invention of the sewing machine. The same is true for lace. Clothing was available in bright colors. However, by the end of the era, women’s fashion was simpler and less extravagant. Looser dresses replaced tight-fitted ones. Yet, corsets were still worn to highlight a slimmer shape. 

Edwardian-era dresses

Edwardian clothing was more comfortable and versatile than Victorian-era dresses. Edwardian women wore natural-waist dresses that didn’t need hoops nor many petticoats. There even existed dresses that were straight sheath. 

edwardian-era dresses

Since the small waist was more admired than ever, Edwardian women’s dresses featured a bodice draped over the waist and a slimmer skirt over women’s hips. Lighter fabrics such as linen or cotton were employed.  

Softer colors became more popular. For instance, white was generally worn for afternoon events. Edwardian women used accessories to complement their look. Hats became larger and wider. Feathers were a must-have. Gloves and a parasol were typical of this era too. 

Roaring 20s women dresses

Women’s dresses were loose since a “boyish” silhouette was in vogue. Dresses’ skirt length was mid-calf for most of the 20s. Dresses were characterized by having many layers of sheer fabrics.  

roaring 20s women dress

The arms were often bare since women still wore gloves. Short hair with headbands was pretty popular among women. Shoes became visible, and they had to be chosen with special attention. 

Women no longer had to wear corsets. They use “flatteners” to reduce their bust lines instead. The 20s fashion was completely different from previous decades. 

Retro dresses

Retro dresses are dresses that have been made recently to imitate those which were made in the past. Some of the most distinctive types include wiggle dresses, Hawaiian print sundresses, shirt dresses, mini dresses, and peasant dresses. 

retro dress

Wiggle dresses are characterized to fit tightly through your bust, waist, and hips. They end just below your knees. They usually have slits in the dress back or front so that you can walk. 

Hawaiian dresses became popular due to the attack in Pearl Harbour. Typical Hawaiian dresses are sundresses with fitted busts and waists. Anyway, shirt-dresses top is like a button-up shirt with a pointed collar. These dresses are knee-length and usually have a belt.

hawaiian dress

Baby doll dresses are also considered retro. Most of them are made in an A-line style. Mini retro dresses hemline is usually several inches above women’s knees. Lastly, peasant dresses have necklines that are off the shoulder, empire waists, and full skirts.

Vintage dresses

Vintage dresses refer to dresses that were made in the 1920s or later, at least 20 years before the present. A dress cannot be considered vintage unless it was made 20 years ago or earlier. 

vintage dress

Many people fail to distinguish between retro and vintage dresses. They may look similar, but they are not the same. As I said before, retro refers to fashion that is new but pretends to look as if it was from another era. 

However, vintage clothing was manufactured in a bygone era. What’s more, vintage dresses should reflect styles and trends specific to an era. When we think of vintage, we refer to dresses that were manufactured in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s mainly.

vintage dress

Examples of vintage garments are flapper dresses from the 1920s, puffed and fluttery sleeves from the 1930s, straight tweed and wool plaid skirts from the 1940s, full skirts and petticoats from the 1950s, etc. Each decade has a unique style.

Traditional dresses

There exist lots of traditional dresses all around the world. A traditional dress consists of varied garments, jewelry, and accessories that were worn in the past and serve to identify a group of people or culture. 

Many people still wear traditional dresses on special occasions. Depending on the country or region, they even wear traditional dresses regularly. Anyway, traditional dresses matter since they’re part of a culture. People feel identified with their ancestors when they wear them. Traditional dresses can even have a special meaning, such as respect when you enter a religious setting.

We’ve all worn traditional dresses or at least seen someone wearing them. But, do we value them as they deserved? We should no doubt do so. Traditional dresses form part of who we are. 

Want to know more about traditional dresses? Keep on reading!

India – The Sari

The Sari is made of a single length of fabric, and it can be up to nine meters long. The Sari can be draped in lots of different ways. All of the Indian society wear it. You can find simple cotton versions that are woven in the street. The Sari is also present in more contemporary styles, and it forms part of the catwalk during India Fashion Week. 

indian woman wearing a sari

Spain – The Flamenco dress

The Flamenco dress is a flamboyant dress that ends in a cascade of ruffles. It is typically worn in Seville’s Feria de Abril and for dancing a Spanish style of dance of the same name. 

The flamenco dress used for dancing differs slightly from the others since it’s got a long-tail that the dancer uses to switch and frick as if the tail had a life of its own. 

spanish women wearing flamenco dresses

The flamenco dress is also known as sevillana dress or gypsy dress. It has a humble origin. Yet, it has become a benchmark of the Spanish culture and a fashion icon. What’s more, it has crossed borders and has been worn by women from all over the world.

The flamenco dress has evolved due to fashion. Still, it’s got some typical features like it is a long dress with a marked round or square neckline. And its skirt and sleeves are adorned with ruffles. It’s made of bright colors, and its most typical print is polka dots. 

Women wearing flamenco dresses always wear accessories such as flowers in the hair, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, a shawl, and combs, among others. You must wear it with heels and a fan so that the outfit is complete. 

Japan – kimono & yukata

Kimono and yukata are traditional Japanese garments. They both are full-length T-shaped robes with long sleeves and a decorative belt. Despite their differences, both share a common rule. You must wear them with the left panel over the right. The other way round is considered disrespectful as it is how dead people are dressed in the Japanese culture. 

japanese woman wearing a kimono

Kimono is a more traditional and expensive garment. This is due to the fact that it is made of silk or brocade. It’s got two collars, one close to the neck and the other one just below. Kimono sleeves length varies depending on the solemnity of an event. The kimono is made of a thicker material. So, it is better suited for the winter months. Kimonos are worn on more formal occasions such as weddings and graduations. 

japanese woman wearing a yukata

Yukata, on the other hand, it’s more casual and inexpensive. It is made of cotton or a synthetic material. Since yukata is less formal, you can experiment with colors, patterns, and accessories. A yukata only has one collar, and its sleeves aren’t longer than 50 cm. A yukata is made of lighter materials, so it’s more typical in the summer months. A yukata is less formal, so it’s typical in summer festivals and firework displays, for instance.

Africa – The kanga & the gomesi 

The kanga is a traditional type of dress that is worn amongst women in East Africa since the 19th century. It’s a colorful printed cotton fabric with a border along the four sides. The design of the central part differs from the borders. The kanga can be used as a skirt, apron, towel, head-wrap, dress, pot-holder, and more. It’s about 1.5 m by 1 m. 

african men wearing kangas
Photo: Bennett Tobias

The gomesi is a colorful floor-length dress. It’s typical of Buganda and Busoga. This brightly colored dress has a square neckline and puffed sleeves. Besides, it’s got two buttons on the left side of the neckline. It’s generally made of silk, cotton, or linen. It can require up to 6 meters of cloth. It can be worn as a daily dress or for special occasions like funerals and weddings. 

african women wearing a gomesi

Indonesia – The Balinese temple dress

If you want to enter a Balinese temple in Indonesia, you must wear a Balinese dress. A traditional Balinese dress is made of a sash and a sarong-style skirt known as a kain. What’s more, the full Balinese women’s outfit also includes a blouse. The whole ensemble is worn for temple festivals. 

women wearing balinese temple dresses in indonesia

Still, anyone who intends to visit a temple in Bali must wear a sarong or scarf, cover the upper body, take off the shoes, and pay due respect. You are not allowed to come in if you’re bleeding or if you’re pregnant.

Italy – The Sardinian traditional dress

The Sardinian traditional dress consists of a veil, a bonnet or shawl, a long pleated skirt, an apron, and an embroidered blouse. Traditional Sardinian women’s attire is vibrantly colorful and adorned with embroidery and precious jewelry, such as gold or silver with coral and pearls. 

Traditional Sardinian clothes determined the status of the wearer as well as their origin. There are more than 400 different models throughout Sardinia. Today, these clothes are worn during festivals and major religious holidays. 

Embroidery is still important nowadays. Many women spend hours working on silk and brocade embroidery. On top of that, some Sardinian women still wear traditional clothes in their everyday life. But, you can also have a look at the most spectacular dresses in Sardinia’s ethnographic museums. Being the Nuoro Folklore Museum one of the most representative.


That’s all for women’s types of dresses and dress styles. I hope you’ve found this guide insightful. I’ve covered dress types by occasion, history, and tradition. So, now you’ve got a better idea of what a dress is and how it has evolved and changed worldwide.

I’ve also shared some outfit ideas so that you can make a better choice next time you want to wear a dress. If you intend to be the perfect guest, you need to know a bit about dress codes for different occasions. 

Have you got any questions about this post? Let us know by leaving a comment below! I’d love to hear from you and help you with any doubts you may have. Do not forget to subscribe to our newsletter if you do not want to miss our upcoming posts.

2 thoughts on “Types of Dresses: How to Choose a Dress for Every Occasion [2021]”

  1. Super trabajo!!! Me encantó 💕😍 has logrado transportarme por el tiempo y las culturas🥰 las fotos y los videos geniales 🧡 bravo!!!👏❤🤗

    Locking forward to the next!🤗🧡

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