It's fifteen minutes before party time. You've mixed the perfect rum punch, lit some votives, and have a stellar steak salad mixed with fresh ingredients from the Hollywood farmers' market — yet, you're still standing in front of the mirror in your bra with half your closet on your bed, trying to decipher the night's wardrobe riddle. Yeah, we've been there.
When playing hostess for even the most casual of get-togethers, all eyes are on you. And like it or not, your sartorial choice sets the tone of the evening — it's a barometer against which all of your guests' fashions will be judged, too. You want to look great, maybe make a style statement, but at the same time not dress to outshine your invitees (or make anyone feel badly who might be, ahem, a tad underwhelming).
All this is where the historically situated hostess gown came into play in the early 20th century. These frocks were designed as the answer to the aforementioned pre-fête fashion crisis, granting a look that set you apart from the party, looked fabulous, and yet still allowed you to be totally at ease (so your guests would be, too).
While few designers these days market their designs as "hostess gowns" per se, there are a potpurri of party-perfect options out there for every style of gathering. Whether it's a Venice barbecue, Malibu cocktails, or a formal Hancock Park dinner for six, we've found something you can be so sure of, that you can set it out the night before and buy yourself some extra time for more fun hosting queries like what flowers to buy and whether to splurge on that $20 rosé.