The Best Formal Dresses That Are Good Enough to Get You on the Red Carpet

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From princess elegance to over-the-top designs and sleek, sexy styles, formal dresses come in all shapes and sizes. That means trying to find the perfect dress can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. You want something that matches your personal style, accentuates your best features, hides the ones you’re not so comfortable with, and fits you like a glove. You need to choose colors, fabrics, patterns, and accessories. However, once you’ve found your match, you’ll feel like a million bucks. Whether it’s a party, charity event, awards evening, wedding, or other special occasions, we’ve lined up the hottest formal dresses in 2022. Whether you’re a classic elegance type of girl or prefer a styled-up LBD, we’ve got a great match that’s good enough to get you on the red carpet.

Comparing the Top Formal Dresses of 2022 in Detail

YMDUCH Off Shoulder Dress  —  Best Overall

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Key Features

  • Made from polyester and spandex to provide a stretchy, body-hugging fit that feels soft and comfortable
  • Available in US size small (4-6), medium (8-10), large (12-14), extra-large (14-16), and XXL (18)
  • Available in black, white, navy, royal blue, dark green, wine red, yellow, and red

This gorgeous off-shoulder floor-length gown creates a sultry silhouette with its elegant yet curvy fit. The waist-hugging gown features a thigh-high split and slight flare towards the bottom, making it suitably trendy for a range of formal occasions. The dress is available in a range of single-tone colors, which means it is the perfect option to dress up or down as needed. Opt for bright yellow as a summer show stopper or pair the black with diamonds for an elegant evening look. The white option is suitable as a wedding gown with a simplistic style, offering the ideal neckline for diamond accessories and earrings.

Ever-Pretty Sleeveless Dress  —  Most Versatile

formal dresses reviews

Key Features

  • Made from a sheer chiffon outside layer and fully lined polyester for increased comfort, temperature control, and soft flowing elegance
  • Dresses have a zipper closure and are not padded
  • Sleeveless with front and back v-neckline
  • Available in US size 4 to 26

With an incredible range of sizes and colors, Ever-Pretty v-neck gowns are suitable for everything from summer high tea to formal evening events and weddings. The lighter colors are ideal for bridesmaids while the burgundy, black, and navy dresses instantly resemble formal evenings full of bow ties and diamonds. This sleeveless dress with gorgeous plunging v-neck and ruched waist is also available in light and dark floral prints that are perfect for semi-formal events such as christenings, graduations, award ceremonies, and weddings.

Miusol Floral Lace Dress  —  Honorable Mention

formal dresses reviews

Key Features

  • Made from 100% polyester
  • Back zipper closure
  • 58-inch length
  • Available in US size small (4-6), medium (8-10), large (12-14), extra-large (14-16), and XXL (18)
  • Available colors include pastel pink, light blue, black, dark green, red, magenta, light and dark purple, and navy

This lace-top dress exudes timeless elegance. The half-high collar and cap sleeve lace design has a vintage flair with flowing chiffon from the waist down to floor-length. The dress is suitable for bridesmaids, elegant formal occasions, and even prom. Its enduring design is suitable for women of all ages and the high lace detail makes it a gorgeous choice to pair with both up and down hairstyles.

Knitee Cocktail Dress  —  Best Cocktail Dress

formal dresses reviews

Key Features

  • Made from 95% polyester and 5% spandex
  • Back zipper closure
  • Mid-length pencil design with ruffled slit and sleeves
  • Available in US size small (4-6), medium (8-10), large (12-14), extra-large (14-16), and XXL (18)
  • Available colors include black, teal, navy, dark green, wine, spring green, yellow, rust, and a range of pastel shades

Knitee presents a stylish cocktail party pencil dress with a twist. The deep v-neck is ideal for dressing it up with a sparkling necklace, while the ruffled sleeves and slit bring pizzaz to a classic style. Although the design is knee-length, the darker colors are ideal for formal occasions, while lighter and brighter shades are suited to cocktail parties, weddings, and nights on the town.

KOH KOH Gown  —  Also Consider

formal dresses reviews

Key Features

  • Made from high-quality polyester spandex material
  • Hand wash or gentle machine cycle
  • 54-inch length
  • Sizing chart provided for the perfect fit

Available in more than 20 colors from extra small to 4XL in size, there is a gorgeous sleeveless Koh Koh gown for every style and size. The flowing gown drapes beautifully from top to bottom with an elastic waist. Ideal for summer, the material is soft, stretchy, lightweight, and comfortable. Due to its comfortable fit and stretch quality, this dress is perfect for expecting mothers who need to attend either formal occasions or year-end functions. But, the pastel color designs are a little less formal and other options on our list, so this dress can be worn even for day-to-day wear.

Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Perfect Formal Dress

Choosing a formal dress can feel like a mammoth task. Not only do you want to make sure your dress suits the occasion, but you also want to feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful, all while reflecting your own style. In this guide, we’ll help you simplify the process of choosing a great formal dress for any occasion. Whether it’s a cocktail party or ballroom affair, these tips will offer insight into the styles that are most flattering to your body type and other factors to consider when putting your ensemble together.

The Most Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Formal Dress

Body shape

The first and most important thing to consider when looking for a formal dress is your individual body shape and the styles that compliment your shape best. Choose a gown that enhances your best features in a way that makes you feel comfortable. To start, let's identify your body shape and the silhouettes that compliment your figure best.

  • Apple Shape: If you have an apple shape, your torso and shoulders are wider than your hips and legs. Simple styles with limited fabric embellishments and ruffles will suit you best and offer a slimming effect. Steer clear of two-tone dresses. Consider halter and cross-over necks, empire waists, bias-cut skirts, and A-lines as your most flattering options.
  • Pear Shape: Pear shapes have a narrower upper body and wider hips or waist. Go for a halter neck style or a neckline with pretty details. A cinched waist or subtly flared skirt can also provide a gorgeous silhouette on your body type.
  • Hourglass Shape: If you have an hourglass shape your bust and hips are similar in width with a slender and narrow waistline. Avoid high necklines with embellishments but opt for off-shoulder, sweetheart, scoop, or v-necks instead. Fitted dresses with tapered waists are a great option for you as well as wrap dresses.
  • Petite: If you are short and have a small build you want to wear something that will elongate your look. Of course, high heels are the first way to do that. In addition, wear mid-length to short dresses that are well fitted. Petite frames can generally pull off high necklines really well for a flattering elongated look.

Most importantly, you need to feel comfortable in what you are wearing. These are not hard and fast rules but rather general style guidelines. If you don’t feel comfortable in it, try something else. A-line skirts and v-necks are usually flattering to most body types, so if you are feeling uncertain, these are great go-to styles for anyone.

Budget

The cost of formal dresses can range vastly depending on the fabric, designer, and details, among other factors. If you plan on using the dress fairly often, opt for a classic and elegant design that is not trend-forward, so that it will last for some time and always be a masterpiece. In this case, you may want to spend a little more, as good quality will go a long way.

If your dress is for a once-off occasion, remember that you probably won’t be wearing the dress again and overspending on your budget may not be worth it. When calculating what you want to spend for your big event, keep in mind that your outfit budget will also need to include tailoring fees, shoes, accessories, and perhaps hair and make-up. Also, make sure to get some shapewear for a really enhanced silhouette.

When it comes to designer gowns, the price may be higher but so will the quality. Experienced designers take extra care in putting together flattering fits and showcasing the best aspects of the specific fabrics used. They also consider how fabrics flow against the body and enhance the features of the wearer.

Size

Although we’ve given you a standard body-shape guide, the truth is that there is no standard size. You may fall into a broad proportional category, but when it comes to the exact fit, getting your dress tailored is highly recommended to really set you apart. Choose a dress size closest to your size and then have the details altered. This is also a great middle road when your budget doesn’t allow for a designer piece, as you can opt for a cheaper dress but alter it to perfection.

The one mistake most people make is choosing a dress size smaller than they actually are in hopes of losing a few pounds before the big event. Do not do this. It is better to tailor your dress a size down than be stuck with something that you can't get into.

Color

Colors may look beautiful on a manikin, hanger, or even your best friend, but does it suit your complexion? Always choose colors that suit your complexion when it comes to formal wear. There are times when it’s okay to wear your favorite color, even if it's not that flattering to your skin tone or shape, but a formal event is definitely not that time.

Colors have the amazing power of being able to enhance or destroy a beautiful look. Dresses often come in different colors. Get both a design and color that are flattering and don’t forego one for the other. The color you choose may also depend on the type of event you are attending. Some events call for more sophisticated and toned-down palettes, while others allow you to brighten up your look.

Go for timeless

Trends are fun and interesting, but they also don’t last. What is trendy today is old news tomorrow. If you’re looking for a piece you can wear more than once, go for colors and styles that will stick around for a long time. White, black, navy, and gold are safe colors that can easily be dressed up with elegant or trendy accessories, which makes them versatile. V-necklines and A-line dresses are classic styles and are generally flattering. Paired with a bold purse or dazzling accessories, these simple cuts can easily be spruced up.

Fabric

Fabric choice will influence everything, from how the dress flows and fits to the warmth it provides and how it needs to be cleaned. Consider whether the fabric is soft and gentle or rigid and crisp. Ensure the fabric you choose suits the style of your dress and the way you want it to drape around your features. Clingy fabrics may make small frames look even smaller while layers, dramatic elements, and ruffles can add extra pounds to bigger figures. Keep the weather in mind, too. If you want to use the dress for various occasions, choose a fabric that can easily be dressed up or down according to the season.

Accessories

Accessories are a great way to transform a dress for different occasions. They make it easy to wear the same dress more than once but look entirely different at the same time. Consider your shoes, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, sashes, belts, clutches, and even hair accessories. When choosing accessories, consider whether your neckline already features embellishments. If your dress is already quite elaborate, keep your accessories to a bare minimum, as adding too much can make you look cluttered and confused. A fairly plain dress, however, can do with a dazzling statement piece to round off your look for perfect elegance.