Gowns vs Dresses: Difference Between Dresses and Gowns

Dresses versus gowns; it can be quite confusing a part of the English language. Dresses and gowns are often used interchangeably as a word, but they are not the same attire at all. It’s almost like a riddle. All gowns are considered dresses while all dresses are not gowns. Gowns are often more formal in nature, although, the shape of them may differ. You might still be wondering what’s the difference between a dress and a gown, and we hope to clear up a little of the confusion for you now.

dress vs gown

The Dress

When you think of a dress, you’re right if you’re picturing a short mini skirt or long, flowing maxi for summer. You’re equally right if you pictured an A-line flirty outfit or a simple sheath worn under a blazer for work. This is just one of the reasons it’s so confusing. All of those outfits are considered a dress even if they are worn for a variety of occasions.

There are two things that turn it from a dress into a gown. The event is one of those things, and so is the material. While you might wear a maxi in a light cotton to the beach, as soon as you make the same dress out of chiffon, it becomes a gown you’d wear to an event.


The Gown

What comes to mind when you say gown? It’s likely not the previously mentioned mini skirt. When people say gown, they’re likely talking about the dress worn to a formal event like a charity dinner party or a gown worn to a wedding. You don’t have to be the bride to wear a wedding gown, either. Maid of Honor gowns are formal attire that can be worn to a wedding, too.

Men can wear gowns, too. For example, a gown can be worn for specific moments or professions. A gown or a robe can be worn by a judge in a court room. Gowns are worn by males at graduations, too. Dressing gowns are worn by men, too.


Adjectives Make a Difference

The adjectives attached to the word gown or dress helps to differentiate between the two. A wedding gown versus a summer dress, for example. One is instantly more formal than the other even if they have the same silhouette. You could have an empire waisted summer dress or an empire waisted wedding gown.

  • Evening gown
  • Summer dress
  • Club dress
  • Wedding gown
  • Dressing gown
  • Party dress


The Invitation

When it’s not a wedding with you wearing a bridal gown, the type of dress to be worn will depend on the invitation itself. For a charity event that says “black tie,” you’ll wear an evening gown versus a dress. An evening gown is lined, made of fine materials, and has intricate details on it while a dress is made from lighter, less expensive materials, and it’s normally not lined or covered with fancy details. A gown is not often a short outfit, either. Most gowns are formal, which requires that they flow to the floor.

black tie event invite

Wedding Dress versus Wedding Gown

Now that we’ve cleared that up a bit, let’s tackle the difference between wedding dresses and wedding gowns. It follows with the same concept. Whether it’s wedding gown, wedding dress, bridal dress or bridal gown, they mostly follow the same rules of the event itself. If you are having a casual, beach wedding, you would purchase a wedding dress as opposed to a wedding gown. A gown is a beaded, brocade corseted affair with lining and expensive materials. A wedding dress might be a short, chiffon A-line dress that’s clearly for a wedding, but has less formality than a gown.

At a wedding, the type of event will also dictate what others will wear aside from the bride. If you’re the maid of honor or mother of the bride, you’ll pick a dress or gown depending on the formality or casualness of the ceremony. You wouldn’t wear a formal gown to a casual backyard wedding.

casual wedding gown for beach wedding

Use The Right Wording

You should keep this wording in mind when you’re shopping for your wedding attire. When you say you want a dress for a party, you’ll likely get a less formal outfit than if you were thinking wedding gown. Word choice is important, but you can also figure it out based on the type of event you’re attending.

For your wedding, keep the type of event in mind. Casual event equals casual wording for the wedding dress. For a formal event where you want to spend money on rich, fine fabrics and beaded beautifulness, you’ll want a formal wedding gown. When you talk among friends and family, you can use the words any way you choose, but when you’re searching online or ordering your wedding dress, keep the proper words in mind, so you can get the right kind of dress and lower your frustration levels.

Going With Minted for My Save the Date!

When I was looking for a super affordable - but elegant - solution for my Save the Date's and invites, I researched a LOT of different options. Finally, I settled on Minted.com and was THRILLED with how it turned out. Check them out!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Jeanette Kierstead

Jeanette is an accomplished writer, who has created thousands of helpful articles on many subjects, but she has a special passion and curiosity for gemstones and precious jewelry. She also loves helping brides find new discoveries online and think outside the box when it comes to wedding planning and ideas. She knows how stressful the wedding plans can be, but she's here to make sure you love your ring and your day equally!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below