Everything You Need to Know About Dress Shapes and Styles to Choose the Right Ball Gown

It’s the ultimate fairytale gown.  Who could forget Cinderella making her grand debut in blue, or Belle’s voluminous ball gown in Beauty and the Beast?  Characterised by a low-cut neck, tight bodice and full skirt, the traditional ballgown is the epitome of formal attire, a hallmark of occasions for dance and celebration.

If you’re considering a ball gown either as a wedding dress or for a black-tie event, an appreciation of the history of the dress will help guide you towards the right style and incorporate a little of the nostalgia of the dress.

In the mid 1800’s, the ball was a desirable form of entertainment among the middle to upper class, to bring people together and introduce young men and women of marriageable age.  Typically, the ball gown style featured the wider, lower cut neckline and fuller, bell-shaped skirt, with embellishments such as lace, satin ribbon and pleating. The ‘bustle’ was introduced around the 1870’s, fitted to the lower back of the skirt for added fullness.

Ballgowns of the 1900’s were elegant and ornate.   Many dresses were flared along the bottom to accommodate the movements of ballroom dance.  Women still wore corsets in structured gowns and a tiny waist was very much admired. Bare shoulders were considered an acceptable style for a dance gown and long gloves were worn.  Bodices and skirts were usually made as separate pieces and hooked together when worn.

The 1930’s saw the introduction of the deep and wide neckline and a movement to shorter sleeves and straps.  In the 1950’s, women wore very formal gowns that swept the floor and stiff petticoats were worn to give dresses their bell shape.  Knees were always demurely covered. Fast Forward to the swinging 60’s and there was a spin-off of shorter, more colourful styles that were easier to dance in.  By the 1980’s, the glamour of the evening dress was back in with bold colours, glitter, embroidery, sequins and beading.

With over 30 years’ experience, Modes Bridal and Eventwear stores cater to a wide market, from the teenage ball dress, to the more corporate black tie, through to the latest top-quality styles for the most discerning of shoppers.  

Examples of the more popular ball gown styles of last season include the low back, shoe-string strap and off-white colours, such as nude or shell pink.

For school-ball gown shoppers, dresses are available to suit a range of themes: Vintage, 1950’s, Gatsby, Casino Royale and Frozen (see examples below). Fabric choices range from mikado (luxurious silk) and brocade to silk, tulle, chiffon, linen and polyester.

Printed and single-shoulder styles, the tulip skirt, illusion neckline and a range of colours are available.   The sculptured nature of mikado provides added structure, whereas lighter fabrics can be worn with a multi-layered petticoat, or extra tulle can be incorporated inside to gain maximum volume, such as within this low neck, split front gown.

Over 200 bridal ball gown styles are available, with a choice of either a full gown or separate pieces (bodice, ball gown skirt and belt) which can be pulled together for a truly personalised look.  With sizes ranging from 6 through to 24, ball gown brides need not settle for traditional white or ivory. Pastel pinks, pale blues, pastel nude and hints of green are among the shades popping up at Modes Bridal in the latter half of the year.  Although necklines of the Victorian era tended to be low and off the shoulder, if you’re after a more modest look, the detailed ‘V’, sweetheart, illusion and pitched collar neckline styles offer attractive alternatives.

If you’re after a tailored finish, the professional workroom at Modes enables personalised adjustments, such as a higher back or added fullness to be made in store.

Although the ball gown has undoubtedly changed over the centuries, flattering to most body shapes, today’s styles continue to emphasise feminine curves, offering a wider choice of necklines, colours and fabrics.  
Whether it be for a wedding, school ball or other formal event, if you’re looking for a ball gown, have a look Modes collections online via our Bridal Boutique or our Eventwear site. Or talk to our professional advisory team on 09 520 2730 for Eventwear and 09 520 6070 for our Bridal Boutique.



Modes Bridal and Modes Eventwear are now both at 26 McColl Street, Newmarket.

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