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Special Occasions, Cocktail Dresses, and Formal Dresses
at Elegant Plus

Featured editor's selections throughout the Elegant Plus Shopping Guides, Trend Reports, and  Fashion Flash Looks include designer clothes which are noted in the captions by designer label.  The Shopping Guides for dresses are some of the most popular at Elegant Plus and cater to a wide variety of styles  and budgets.


Although Elegant Plus earns a small fee on all purchases made through the shopping recommendations below, it is a completely free shopping resource for the consumer, and many times we are able to provide links that offer consumer discounts and free shipping offers upon landing on the partner retailer's site. All selections are available at time of posting and purchases can be made directly from the retailer on the associated shopping link. All of the shopping guides include designer selections which are noted with the designer's name in descriptions.


More readily available during both the prom & homecoming seasons, and the holiday party season, plus-size formalwear is in demand all year.  More formal dresses are needed for gala events and many weddings.  Cocktail dresses are popular options for both wedding guests and work-related parties.  And, special occasion dresses can be worn for everything from Easter Sunday Brunch to graduation parties.  Yet, these are some of the most difficult dress styles to find in plus sizes in most brick-and-mortar retail locations.  Designer dresses are often more formal with cocktail and evening gowns most readily available in larger sizes during the winter holiday and spring/summer wedding and prom seasons.


Some of the most extensive individual in-depth shopping guides at Elegant Plus are devoted to full-figured special occasion dress needs.

Special Occasion Plus-Size Dress Shopping

Some of the best and deepest plus-size special occasion and cocktail dress selections on-line are at Nordstrom and Macy's in size 0 to 24W.  Both cater to trendy to contemporary style women, with more mature and conservative offerings in the mix as well.  Price points range from moderate to more upscale.  Look for names such as Gabby Skye, Pisarro Nights, Komarov, Alex Evenings, Ralph Lauren, Jessica Howard, and Australian contemporary plus label City Chic. Nordstrom also offers extended misses sizes in cocktail dresses, formalwear, and wedding styles from 0 to 18 in its main collection with an especially good selection of bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride styles.

 Dillard's and Lord & Taylor both offer many styles with sleeves, with some of the most luxurious evening gown labels such as Terani Couture, Mac Duggal, Soulmates, and Tadashi available at Dillard's in size 14 to 24W, alongside more moderately priced brands such as Adrianna Papell and Jessica Howard.    Saks Fifth Avenue has one of the best collections of upscale designer labels in special occasion wear from brands such as Kay Unger, Marina Rinaldi, and ABS by Allen Schwartz in size 14 to 22W.

Neiman Marcus is the place to shop for the truly special upscale, designer dress for women who wear size 0 to 18. Shop the main collection for the best selection, with a few extended sizes to 24W available in the women's plus collection.  Look for labels such as Carmen Marc Valvo, Lela Rose, Tadashi Shoji, Kay Unger, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, and many others that show at global fashion weeks.

 For those looking for more mature cruise or mother-of-the-bride cocktail styles Draper's & Damon's carries dresses and mix and match cocktail separates from brands such as Alex Evenings in size 4 to 26W.   Young and trend conscious women will find the cocktail and formal dress selection at Asos appealing with options ranging from moderately priced to slightly pricier in size 0 to 24W, with labels such as Chi Chi London particularly popular. As a Fast Fashion retailer styles tend to sell out quickly, and it's advised to grab looks you want immediately.   A similar situation is true at Mod Cloth which has begun stocking more party frocks in vintage styles in size S to 4X.


Lane Bryant has added special occasion dresses from other designers to their on-line offerings.  Included are brands such as Adrianna Papell, ABS by Allen Schwartz, and Gabby Skye.  Curvy British counterpart Evans is equally well stocked with stylish occasion options from brands such as Lovedrobed, Little Mistress, and Gemma Collins.  Newcomer Eloquii offers a contemporary collection of fashionable dresses for a variety of occasions including more casual formalwear.  All three work in sizes up to 28W.


Extended Plus-Size Special Occasion Wear

Plus-specialty bridal boutique Sydney's Closet, carries wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, mother-of-the-bride gowns, and prom dresses designed specifically for the plus figure in size 14 to 44W. 

Meanwhile, Ulla Popken is a sure bet for beaded cocktail dress looks for size 12 to 38W.  Lace cocktail dress styles are particularly popular at Kiyonna in size 10 to 32W.   eShakti customizes dresses with different necklines, sleeve lengths and hem lengths with some beautiful occasion wear in both the main collection and under the weddings tab.  Styles sell out quickly and often have a vintage flavor for sizes 0 to 36W.

Those on tighter budgets will find both jersey maxi dress styles and some party and cocktail dress styles available at Sealed with a Kiss in size 1X to 6X.  Patterned maxi dresses at Avenue can also make good special occasion choices for more modest budgets in size 14 to 32W.  Trendier special occasion and party looks can be found at Torrid in size XL to 5X.


Value and Moderately Priced Plus-Size Special Occasion and Formalwear

Another resource is direct from wholesale websites which offer much lower prices, customization services, and much quicker shipping times than most specialty bridal boutiques can offer.  These are especially good for wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, prom gowns, and evening wear for other formal occasions.  Some of the best include TB Dress and Light in the Box.  Most offer sizes to 26W with customization fees for larger or petite and tall lengths.

Amerimark is value priced and particularly appealing to classic, older shoppers. Many dresses with sleeves for all occasions are available from casual to formal.  Labels here include Anthony Richards and Alfred Dunner with some styles available not just in plus-sizes but also petite plus. 

Dress Barn has a deeper selection of dresses available on-line than in most locations, including a year round selection of modestly priced special occasion, cocktail, party, and formal dresses in size 0 to 24W.   Styles are classic to contemporary.


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