What do you wear at military balls? This is a question those who’ve never been to one will invariably ask, and what’s more, it can be a mystery even to those who have. The process of planning your gown for a military ball is further complicated by lack of clarity as to what to expect, how to act, and what traditions to observe. Even if you’ve been to many balls, it’s always good to freshen up your ball etiquette.
You’d be happy to know there are no actual rules for the partners of military service members. The person serving in the military must observe protocol rules. For his spouse or partner, it is a matter of common sense or best practice. So…
What Do People Wear at Military Balls?
Military balls are in the category of formal white tie events. Military men will be in fancy uniforms, dress mess if they’re field grade offices or higher rank, or blue or class A uniforms. If they’re in the Army, they might wear their ASU, which includes a fancy tuxedo jacket. Any men that are not members of the military can wear dark-colored suits or a tuxedo.
The Right Length is Crucial
Women should wear formal, floor-length dresses. In some cases, it may be acceptable to wear a knee-length or below-the-knee dress. At any rate, dresses above the knee are not suitable for military balls because they are considered semi-formal.
It’s best not to take the risk of wearing anything shorter than floor-length. Tradition is strong when it comes to this type of occasion. In the past, women had to have their shoulders covered during dinner and the official receiving line – that’s how strict the rules were! Today, this is no longer required, but your purpose as a military spouse or date is to honor the institution.
You shouldn’t wear dresses with sequins, rhinestones, or other loud, glittery embellishment. Don’t wear sheer garments or show a lot of skin. Avoid loud, busy patterns and bright colors. Opt for a solid color.
The Best Styles for a Military Ball
Formal gowns and dresses suitable for this occasion range from sleek, simple, ready-to-wear styles to glamorous haute couture gowns. Your choice will depend on comfort and personal preference. Below are the most popular styles for a ball.
As New York Dress has written before, ball gowns draw attention like no other formal dress design, in particular to narrowest point of the body - the waist. Sleeveless styles are very appealing and suitable for highly formal events. Your gown can feature detail like satin or fine lace.
A-Line Dresses and Gowns
The A-line style is perfect for formal occasions and flattering to every body type. You could opt for a gown with a fitted bodice, sweetheart neckline, and A-line shaped skirt flaring out from below the waist. Floral appliqués are a nice touch.
Column gowns are classic and elegant, simply ideal for any official and formal occasion. This design can be customized to individual body types and personalities. As the name suggests, the style elongates the frame and makes you look taller (hence “column”). Usually, column gowns are sleeveless without a fitted waist. Choose a sweetheart or high neckline and a skirt with a small slit. Extras like beaded fringe would not be out of place.
Column gowns have sleek, streamlined bodices and long, flowing skirts. Although flattering to the vast majority of body types, they are best for tall and slender women. They will make a fabulous impression at a military ball, especially if combined with tasteful, understated jewelry, good makeup, a flattering hairstyle, and a designer bag.
Women of all ages choose column gowns for formal events, but their convenience and comfort is appreciated by older women in particular. The clean, natural lines embrace one’s best physical features. Mature women who are confident and demanding in their fashion choices will naturally gravitate to column gowns. These elegant pieces of formal wear combine sophistication and grace in a look that is always current.
High-neck styles are the perfect choice for a white-tie occasion because they are both appealing and simple. A high-neck gown is tasteful, but it will never go unnoticed. Moreover, this neckline style is a good choice for well-endowed women who don’t want to draw attention to this feature. If you choose a high-neck dress to wear at your upcoming military ball, keep the rest of your outfit simple with minimal accessories so as not to detract from the neckline.
Fit and Flare
A fit and flare dress ensures you’ll feel confident and comfortable because this style is ideal for almost every size and body type. Fit and flare gowns and dresses exude serendipity and look great at white-tie events and other highly formal occasions. Some unexpected embellishments for this gown design include sweep trains and discreet flower embroidery.
We mentioned fancy dresses weren’t the most appropriate attire for military balls, but elements like contrasting lace, ornate appliqués, and sheer tulle are tasteful and not out of place at a formal event. At any rate, the dress should be designed in consideration of proportion, as New York Dress has written before. Adornments like life-like flowers and leaves will draw attention in a positive way. Beadwork and tasteful motifs embellish materials like silk, satin, or velvet for a look that shines. In terms of color, steer clear of neon, bright green or pink, and orange.
Affordable, Luxurious Military Ball Gowns from New York Dress
Do you have a particular style in mind? The next question is where to find the perfect dress for the military ball. One option would be your local department store. All major stores have evening dress departments, but the offerings there are sometimes overpriced. Outlets are a budget-friendlier option, but then you have the disadvantage of limited choice.
A popular route to go is an online retailer. New York Dress is the premier online marketplace for high-quality gowns and dresses for formal occasions. With more than 45 designers, NYD has one of the biggest and most affordable selections online.