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What is a ball gown?  A woman's elaborate full-length dress suitable for wearing to balls and similar social gatherings.

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A ball is a formal dance party. Social dance forms a large part of the evening; actual ballroom dancing may or may not occur.

A ballroom or ballhall is a large room inside a building, the designated purpose of which is holding large formal parties called balls. Traditionally, most balls were held in private residences; many mansions contain one or more ballrooms. In other large houses, a large room such as the main drawing room, long gallery, or hall may double as a ballroom, but a good ballroom should have the right type of flooring.

A ball gown or ballgown is a type of evening gown worn to a ball or a formal event. Most versions are cut off the shoulder with a low décolletage, exposed arms, and long bouffant styled skirts.  Such gowns are typically worn with a stole (a formal shawl in expensive fabric), cape or cloak in lieu of a coat, couture or vintage jewelry and opera-length gloves. Where "state decorations" are to be worn, they are on a bow pinned to the chest, and married women wear a tiara if they have one. Although artificial fabrics are now sometimes used, the most common fabrics are satin, silk, taffeta and velvet with trimmings of lace, pearls, sequins, embroidery, ruffles, ribbons, rosettes and ruching.

The term goes back at leat to the 1850's.  In previous years, the same type of dress might have been called an evening dress, having very similar features; low-cut neckline, a tight bodice, a large skirt and sometimes-bare arms.  The ball gown at this time had similar features, a full skirt supported by a petticoat, a tight waist achieved by a corset or bodice with a stay to keep the subject upright and with perfect posture, off the shoulder style and with bare arms.

The first forms of the 21st century term “Debutante ball” or “Cotillion” emerged in the mid 19th century with what was called a “coming out ball”. These events were meant to show off the women who were now of marriageable age.

In the United States, a promenade dance, most commonly called a prom, is a semi-formal (black tie) dance or gathering of high school students. This event is typically held near the end of the senior year (the last year of high school).  The prom dress can be similar to a ball gown.

If you are buying a ball gown, you may also want to learn about glass slippers.  We know someone very special that wore glass slippers with a beautiful ball gown.

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