The guys have it easy: either they’re the service member and they’re wearing their dress uniform, or they’re the date and they’re in a nice suit or tux. They barely have to use any brain cells to figure out what to wear, but for the ladies, there’s a lot more effort involved!
The bottom line is you want to look classy, not trashy. You should wear what you feel confident in, but remember this: this isn’t some Hollywood awards show. If people are gawking because of what you’re wearing, or if you’re risking a wardrobe malfunction with every move, you’re doing it wrong.
- Gown length
There’s and easy rule of thumb to make sure the length of your gown isn’t an issue: keep it below the knee. Floor-length is the most popular military ball gown length and your safest bet—and let’s be honest, how many chances do you get to wear a floor length gown, other than your own wedding? Take advantage of it!
Below-the-knee or tea length is also perfectly acceptable. Can you wear a dress that’s above the knee? Sure. Are people going to talk about it? It’s a strong possibility. If you’re afraid to bend over for fear of giving your own private show, you’ll want to pick a different gown.
Some dates like to go matchy-matchy with their service member’s uniform and choose navy, red, black or cream for their dress color. This admittedly looks nice in photos and keeps your dress worries to a minimum, but it’s certainly not a requirement.
Any solid color (EXCLUDING neon) is a safe bet. Jewel tones, like emerald, magenta and royal blue, look great and complement most skin tones. Metallic neutrals like gold, silver and bronze are also classy and look chic with simple accessories.
A unique pattern is a great way to make a bold statement without looking tacky, but it’s also a fine line between looking good and looking garish. There are lots of gorgeous gowns in classic patterns like floral, lace and watercolor. Save louder patterns for your bathroom wallpaper.
Your shoes complete your ensemble, but remember—you’re going to be on your feet a lot of the night. There’s the standing portion of the ceremony, moving through the receiving line, and of course tons of dancing.
Pick a pair you’ll feel comfortable moving around in and one that’s not going to turn your feet into a blistery disaster before the clock strikes midnight.
Pro-tip: pack a pair of comfy flats for the after party!
- Attire on a Budget
On a military budget, spending hundreds of dollars on a gown is often out of the question. Lucky for us there’s the internet, and a ton of amazing, classy options at bargain prices.
Craigslist has some awesome listings come military ball season, many of which have been worn only once (and a good tailor can work wonders making a second-hand dress look like new).
If you’re dying for a designer label, Rent the Runway has one-of-a-kind gowns that are yours for one night only at a fraction of the price.
Finally, a classic black gown may be the best investment ever. You can wear it year after year and switch up your look by changing your hair, shoes and accessories, and no one will know (or care) that it’s the same dress you sported the year before.
Stay tuned for our next installment: what to wear for the guys!