I love dresses — seriously. If I could wear a dress every single day of the year, I absolutely would. And so when presented with an opportunity to attend an event requiring an extra special fancy dress, you better believe, I will be there.
Maybe you’ve got a fancy event yourself coming up that calls for formal attire. If you’re an online shopper like me, perhaps you’re wondering what are the best websites to snag a beautiful formal dress for your upcoming event.
As luck would have it, you’ve landed on the blog of a former pageant queen, who happens to be a formal dress aficionado. In this guide, I’ve rounded up a list of some of the best online stores and websites for formal dresses. I’ll list some pricy ones for the ladies who’ve got some money to blow and inexpensive budget-friendly sites for formal dresses as well.
Types of formal dresses — for the record.
Before we get to the list of websites for formal dresses, I thought it might be helpful to just clarify the different categories of formality. This will help you choose a dress that’s not only lovely looking but also appropriate for your formal event.
White Tie, Black Tie, Formal/Black-Tie Optional
White Tie is the most formal wedding attire possible (think: White House state dinners). Women should wear a formal floor-length evening gown, no exceptions.
For black-tie formal, women should wear a formal floor-length gown that does not reveal the ankles at the hem of the dress, but if the wedding seems a bit less formal, a sophisticated cocktail dress may also be acceptable. Women may also wear elegant pantsuits.
As far as women are concerned, there’s not much of a difference between black-tie attire and black-tie optional attire, although Mae says it’s more acceptable to wear a dress that shows the ankles (which is not true of a black-tie dress code).
Cocktail, Semi-Formal/Dressy Casual, Festive
A small step above semi-formal though not as formal as black-tie optional or formal, cocktail attire is a popular dress code choice. It’s a balance between elegant and comfortable, and typically is more formal than a day wedding but more casual than a night celebration. Instead of a floor-length dress, women should opt for a tea-length, knee-length, or midi dress.
For a semi-formal or dressy casual try a below-the-knee dress or a dressy skirt and top. An elegant pantsuit is also appropriate. Floor-length gowns, however, would be inappropriate.
Online Stores and Websites for Formal Dresses
Alright, now that we’ve got a basic understanding of the different levels or categories of formal dresses, let’s get into the best places to buy formal dresses, shall we?
1. My Top Pick: Rent The Runway
To avoid putting yourself into a major expense, one invaluable beauty pageant tip I recommend using a clothing rental subscription service such as Rent the Runway to get high-quality stylish pieces for a fraction of the cost.
When I’m in need of a formal dress for a special occasion, my top pick is always Rent The Runway. With Rent The Runway you can wear the most beautiful and expensive designer dresses for a fraction of what it would cost for you to buy the dress outright. And for a dress you will only wear once or twice, this is the most cost-effective option.
When I competed in major international beauty pageants which required me to be prepared with numerous formal dresses for many different dresses, I borrowed quite a few dresses from Rent The Runway. I’ve always had a stellar and easy experience with them and will continue to use the service as long as it’s offered and I need a fancy dress. If you’re in New York City, they even have a physical store you can go into and try the dresses on.
Showcasing top designers such as Sherri Hill and Jovani, New York Dress is a great website for formal dresses for prom, pageants, weddings, sweet sixteens, and quinceaneras too. NewYorkDress.com has an unrelenting love for exquisite gowns and a desire to make high fashion truly accessible. Their main store is based in New York City, but they ship across the USA.
3. TB Dress
If you’re looking for formal dresses on a budget, TB Dresses is a great website for you. This website showcases cheap formal dresses in all different styles, colors, cuts, and lengths for all different special occasions. Tbdress.com offers various formal dresses for sale, including formal dresses under $100 or above.
4. Red Dress
Another budget-friendly option for inexpensive formal dresses is Red Dress. Whether you’re destined to reign over a gala with old Hollywood style glamour or be the dancing queen of that rockin’ cocktail party, you’ll show everyone the best way to dress it up in one of the breathtaking formal dresses found on Red Dress.
Couture Candy is targeted towards a younger crowd shopping formal gowns and formal dresses for prom and pageants. You can also browse their selection of dresses by categories such as formal dresses for mother of the bride, bridesmaids, military ball, sweet sixteen, holiday, and bar mitzvah. They also have options for plus-sized women.
BCBGMAXAZRIA is a brand, an aesthetic, and an attitude, inspired by the evolving landscapes of culture, art and design. This is by far on of my favorite places to shop semi-formal and cocktail-style dresses that are classy and unique.
Jovani is well known in the world of pageants to make beautiful formal dresses for various occasions. But you don’t have to be a beauty queen to wear this brand. In addition to dresses perfect for pageants and prom, under an exquisite directive, Jovani has created a vast selection of delicate wedding guest dresses that represent formality and all of its facets.
*Although you cant purchase Jovani dresses directly through them, using their website, you to find local stores that carry formal dresses, including Jovani, of course.
Speaking of the aforementioned Jovani, Alexandras Bridal Boutique is one of the exclusive retailers that carry their designs. While Alexandras Bridal Boutique appears to specialize in wedding gowns, along with Jovani, they also carry other formal dress brands on their website.
We have nearly every prom dress in every size and color from every prominent dress designer. This is extremely important in the prom industry because it has such a short selling season. If you are in a pinch in March or April looking for the hottest selling style, Peaches will have that gown for you because we order a huge quantity to begin with.
10. Mia Bella
Mia Bella Couture is your premier red carpet, bridal, special occasion, and prom dress store located in San Diego, CA, and Scottsdale, AZ. Whether you are shopping in-store or online, Mia Bella is always a personal experience with a professional consultant who will be able to offer you fashion tips and suggestions based on each individual’s style, body type, and needs.
We design sophisticated garments with flattering silhouettes, premium materials, and exceptional craftsmanship. Our pieces are for those who light up any room with an air of elegance.
12. Camille La Vie formally eDressMe
Camille La Vie is a major shopping destination for prom dresses, homecoming dresses, wedding dresses, and dresses for all party events. We offer a captivating collection of special event dresses and formal accessories that can be found under one fabulously chic roof!
13. The Dress Outlet
Are you looking to shine at prom and get the latest fashion in evening dresses? The Dress Outlet has a plethora of prom dresses formal dresses and ball gowns. From many designers such as Jovani and Mac Duggal we got them all at lowest price guaranteed dont pay full price for any prom dress until you have shop the outlet.
14. Golden ASP
With 1000s of prom dresses in stock and online, you will be thrilled with the variety Golden Asp Boutique has to offer. Whether you are looking for a stunning red prom dress, a radiant white prom dress, a sleek black prom dress or even a multicolored prom dress – we have it! Consistently recognized as the Best Prom Dress Store in the Philadelphia area, Golden Asp Boutique will help you select from top designers like Faviana, Clarisse, Colette for Mon Cheri, Jovani, Ellie Wilde, and many others.
We keep working hard to give you the best shopping experience we can. Browse easily throughout our website or simply enter a search term if you’re looking for something specific. We understand that shopping for your wedding, prom, or special occasion is a difficult undertaking, therefore we offer you a Shopping Guide and the Measurement Guide/Popular Search.
16. Prom Girl
PromGirl was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to bringing teen prom and special occasion fashions to a new level of choice and sophistication. We have proudly grown to be the number one prom resource in the country and have become known as The Online Prom Superstore and the place to find the perfect prom dress.
17. Windsor Store
Women come to Windsor to find that perfect look that makes them feel beautiful and we have been there for them for all of life’s important moments – your first kiss at the dance, graduation, the big interview and the wedding party.
Our exclusive styles are made with you in mind. We buy and design sophisticated, chic, and modern styles we know you’ll love. We invest in superior construction and high-end finishes to make your Lulus purchase a true representation of affordable luxury.
Bhldn is a brand by Anthropologie that specializes in formal dresses for special occasions — particularly weddings. This website is great for brides, bridesmaids, mother of the bride, wedding guests, and more.
Black tie? Black tie optional? Cocktail? Bhldn makes it easier to dress for any (and every!) dress code with festive formal wear for all occasions. If you’re heading to an elegant black-tie wedding, find a formal dress on Bhldn with details that stand out from the crowd.
20. Davids Bridal
Davids bridal is a great site for brides and their bridal party — but the website has even more to offer. Davids Bridal is an international destination for weddings, proms, quinceañeras, and more.
Now that you’ve found “the one”, it’s time to start a whirlwind of planning and making major decisions, but you don’t have to do it alone. Here at Azazie, we still get inspired by love, and new brides, every day … we are in the wedding industry for a reason. Whether your style is modern or classic, elegant or bohemian, we have stunning wedding dresses for you at equally amazing prices.
Fame and Partners is a contemporary collection of made-to-order essentials for the modern woman. Conceived to celebrate diversity and designed with our (almost) zero-waste sustainable manufacturing platform, we offer unparalleled choice without harming the Earth.
Showpo is Australia’s leading global fashion company focused on the next generation of young women — but worry not American ladies, they ship worldwide. Showpo exists for women who want to embrace who they are by having fun with fashion and a sprinkle of memes.
24. JJ’s House
JJ’s House is the global leading online retailer for wedding gowns, special event dresses, wedding party dresses, and accessories. Customers can browse the vast online selection and choose their favorite dresses with great satisfaction. JJ’s House prides itself on exceptional customer service, high quality and affordable prices.
25. Simply Dresses
Look and feel your best in a beautiful formal dress by Simply Dresses. Whether you want to be simply stunning or elegantly low-key, find the formal wear that’s just right for you in this collection of long evening gowns and formal dresses.
Saved By the Dress is an online boutique featuring casual and formal women’s fashion. From our warehouse in sunny Miami, Florida, we’re on a mission to inspire beauty from the inside out. Whether you’re shopping dresses, tops, bottoms, or accessories, 10% of all of our net profits always goes to charities supporting kids and communities in need.
When I’m in need of a fabulous outfit I know is going to fit great, be super stylish, and is sure to be a hit, Revolve is one of my favorite websites to shop. Along with jeans, boots, cute tops, and accessories, you will also find some really unique formal dresses perfect for a dressy casual, festive, or semi-formal event.
28. Net A Porter
Since its launch in June 2000, NET‑A‑PORTER has delivered incredible fashion for incredible women. With more than 800 of the world’s most coveted designer brands, including Gucci, Chloe, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant, Prada, and Stella McCartney, 200 specialist beauty brands, and new arrivals on site three times a week, NET‑A‑PORTER is the world’s premier luxury fashion destination.
29. The Outnet
Find your perfect formal attire, whether it’s a glamorous black-tie evening dress or a stand-out cocktail dress – prepare to dazzle. The Outnet is very similar to Net-A-Porter in that they carry a wide array of high end designer brands such as Herve Leger, Marchesa Notte, Roberto Cavalli, and more in our edit of gorgeous evening gowns.
Today the FARFETCH Marketplace connects customers in over 190 countries and territories with items from more than 50 countries and over 1,300 of the world’s best brands, boutiques and department stores, delivering a truly unique shopping experience and access to the most extensive selection of luxury on a single platform.
Macy’s has been a top department store for many years for good reason. You can find anything in this store — including a formal dress for any special occasion.
32. Saks Fifth Ave
If you’re not on a tight budget, Saks Fifth Ave is a great store to find a lovely formal dress for any event.
Whether you’ve got a presentation at work or a wedding to attend, Nordstrom has got the perfect dresses for you. Look for this season’s pretty prints, rich textures and stunning silhouettes.
Bloomingdale’s is one of the best known department stores in the United States and has been for over one hundred and fifty years. It sells high end products across a range of different departments.
35. Neiman Marcus
Neiman Marcus represents the finest and most unique merchandise the world has to offer. Neiman Marcus sells women’s, men’s, and children’s apparel, handbags and accessories, designer jewelry and precious jewels, and home and gift galleries.
36. Lord & Taylor
Whether you need a stunning dress for prom, a little black dress for an evening out, a summer dress for exotic locales, a bridesmaid dress that will steal the show or even a white wedding dress for your special day, we are happy to help you find a dress that takes your wardrobe to the next level.
37. Bergdorf Goodman
Bergdorf Goodman Inc. is a luxury department store based on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It’s the leading fashion authority and a singular destination for the most discerning customers from around the world.
The go-to online retail destination for modern style, Shopbop offers a comprehensive, hand-picked collection of clothes and accessories from the top contemporary brands and designer labels. Interestingly, in 2006, ShopBop was acquired by Amazon.com, the world’s largest internet retailer, enabling Shopbop to expand its services to enhance the customer experience.
At StyleBop, shopping becomes a luxurious experience. In addition to high-quality designer fashion and the latest trends from the world’s hottest fashion capitals, you can look forward to high-quality, inspiring content. Alongside blouses, pants, and blazers, on the StyleBop website, you will also find a selection of formal dresses.
SIn the dresses category, you will find high-end brands such as Victoria Beckham, Etro, and Dianne Von Furstenburg. The formal dresses on this website are perfect for a cocktail party or semi-formal wedding.
Reformation is not nearly the first that comes to mind when you consider websites for formal dresses. Although you certainly won’t find ball gowns on the site, you can definitely find formal dresses that would be well suited for a formal dressy casual daytime event or a cocktail evening event — especially if you’re style is more laid back as opposed to super glamourous.
41. Ted Baker
As with Reformation, Ted Baker to me is a great website for formal dresses more in the cocktail or semi-formal category. You can expect bold prints and conservative cuts from this brand.
Say hello to an instant style upgrade. From pretty floral skaters to beautiful statement midis, our women’s designer dresses are sure to put your style firmly in the spotlight.
42. Moda Operandi
Moda Operandi is an online store for formal dresses if you’re not on a tight budget. Their selection is beautiful but pretty pricey. Moda Operand curates leading and emerging designers from around the world, bringing the best of their in-season assortment and the entirety of their next season collections to a global audience.
Best Websites For Formal Dresses — Take Away
There you have it ladies — a list of some of the best stores and websites for formal dresses for an upcoming wedding, gala, ball, prom, homecoming, or any other formal event.
What are your favorite shops, online or otherwise, for formal dresses? If these are some sites to shop formal dresses that you think should be included, don’t be shy, share them down in the comments below.