Gowning Around

A Society Pillar
772 Madison Ave.

The designer’s understanding of his customers—he’s as much a fixture on the scene as they are—guarantees there will always be a reliably glamorous selection. De la Renta also knows that his older clients don’t necessarily want to wear back-baring slip dresses, so there are fitted bodices, three-quarter sleeves, and billowy skirts that tactfully disguise any less-than-flawless spots on a Park Avenue dowager’s figure.

An Artsy Mom
484 Park Ave.

Her address is Upper East Side, but Dresner buys for any cool fortysomething woman in the city. She was among the first to pick up Proenza Schouler, for example, and she’s been a longtime fan of experimenters and minimalists like Jil Sander, Dries van Noten, and Narciso Rodriguez. Here, the emphasis is on gowns that are unfussy but still have personality, like a streamlined black jersey Narciso Rodriguez or a fluid green wrap-front Stella McCartney.

An Aspiring Socialite
723 Madison Ave.

House designer Gilles Mendel established his cred with the young and beautiful through his family’s fur business, where he managed to make mink a hip fabric. Then he branched out—or under—turning his hand to sexy yet still gently romantic gowns, constructed from airy silks and fluttery tulles in figure-hugging shapes that flatter his twentysomething customers’ carefully maintained curves.

The Little Princess
811 Madison Ave.

Finding evening clothes for girls that aren’t sappy and satin or scratchy and tulle-filled is tough, but Bonpoint has a consistent stock of gala-worthy dresses in jewel tones, made from silky velvet or rustling organza, cut in age-appropriate silhouettes like classic high-waisted styles or straight little frocks, so the little princess will be picture-perfect at the beginning of the night, but still be comfortable enough to play tag with her brother under the table.

Gowning Around