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Doing Some Formal Entertaining This New Year's Eve? Try a Hostess Gown

Condé Nast Archive

An Adele Simpson hostess gown, circa 1945

Between the towering platform stilettos and try-not-to-breathe body-conscious dresses, New Year's Eve is a notoriously uncomfortable holiday. According to The New York Times, however, holiday-season block parties used to call for a far comfier wardrobe.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, hostess gowns were the garment of choice for many ladies of leisure. With their bold prints, billowing sleeves and floor-sweeping hems, these maxidresses allowed hostesses to mingle with guests and serve canapés without sacrificing comfort. As women became more interested in personally preparing home-cooked meals for their dinner parties, however, the hostess gown was gradually phased out. After all, their polyester fabrication didn't make them the smartest choice for slaving over a hot stove.

But this season, with caloric overindulgence and our taste for glamour at an all-time high, we think it's time to bring this midcentury staple back into rotation. We've rounded up some modern takes on the hostess gown that'll look sharp...and leave you room to breathe.

For the minimalist (relatively speaking): a softly draped, black-and-white version.

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