If you’re attending a military ball for the first time, you’re probably wondering what to expect. And, you’re probably also stressing about what to wear. Is a petite formal dress a good option? Can you wear sequins and puffy sleeves? What type of jewelry should you accessorize with? And what shoes should you choose? Since it’s a formal occasion, make sure you dress your best. After all, your partner is going to be in their best uniform. So, you will want to match— but remember not to outshine them.
It can be confusing to navigate the fashion world to pick the perfect outfit for a military ball. Luckily, you can make this a stress-free search. With the right attire, you can focus instead on brushing up on the military ball etiquette. There are no real rules, but it’s best not to commit a faux-pas at such a high-pressure event. Read on for an easy guide to dressing and preparing for a military ball.
Opt for longer dresses.
At a military ball, your best option is a formal dress. Don’t even look at a short skirt. And, it’s best not to consider a jumpsuit either — no matter how stylish it looks. Think of the sort of dress you would wear to a formal dinner or cocktail party.
A full-length dress isn’t a necessity, but it’s the safest option for your first time. Don’t worry too much about the fabric. Anything from lace and chiffon to silk and satin will work. As long as it’s not day-dress cotton, anything is fair game here. Also, make sure whatever you pick is well-fitted, but not too tight.
If you think longer styles don’t suit you, you could pick a shorter hem. However, make sure it floats well below the knee. Pick petite formal dresses over a flare dress or one with too many embellishments. Say no to too many sequins, and avoid a sexy plunge or casual cowl neckline. Ditch any options with over-the-top, puffy sleeves. And, even if you pick a full-length dress, avoid any Angelina Jolie-like thigh-high slits. Think of an elegant ball gown that compliments your body type.
The style and shape of the dress you choose matters. However, this will not matter if you walk in wearing a loud leopard print gown. Remember, this is a formal event, so avoid any flashy patterns. Petite dresses in floral prints are sometimes okay. However, these are too informal for a military ball. A soft print is the safest option if you can’t stand solid colors.
Saying no to gaudy patterns doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with color. It’s a bad idea to have a dress with three of four different colors splashed on it. Color blocking is not always military ball appropriate. However, you can opt for a gradient shaded gown or complementary shades.
You should stick to solid colors for the most part. However, you can pick any color you like. Muted tones may be the safest bet, but a military ball is a colorful affair. Pick bright reds, slinky silvers, deep blues — you’ll be fine as long as you avoid any neon shades.
Put on your dancing shoes.
People often focus so much on appropriate attire that they forget about comfort. It’s most important to wear comfortable shoes. There’s no point picking the perfect shoes, only to be unable to stand in them. A military ball will include some dancing and lots of socializing. So, make sure that you take your shoes out on a test run before the event.
If you’re wearing a full-length dress, you should wear an appropriate heel. Even for petite dresses, heeled shoes are a good idea. While there’s no rule against flats, make sure your shoes are as formal as your outfit. Sky-high heels will look inappropriate. Wedges and boots may be in style, but they’re not military ball attire. Instead, pick elegant pumps, slingback sandals, or mid-high stilettos.
Select elegant accessories.
Your high-carat engagement ring doesn’t have to be your only accessory. A military ball is a formal event, but it’s also a fun, celebratory one. So, don’t be afraid to sparkle. Some well-placed gemstones can dress up your outfit. Of course, a no-fail option is to dazzle the crowd in some real diamonds. And, remember not to go overboard.
Don’t worry if you can’t afford to buy natural diamond jewelry to match your dress. Ask a jeweler to show you synthetic diamonds instead. Or, pick cubic zirconia. Even if you choose a store that offers free returns, don’t spend too much money. Remember, it’s a special occasion, but you don’t want to go into debt for the perfect accessory.
Your best option may be lab grown diamonds. These are sometimes also called synthetic diamonds in the diamond industry. Lab diamonds have the same physical properties and chemical properties of a natural diamond from under the earth’s surface. Also, they’re cheaper, more ethically conscious than a mined diamond, and they are the most eco-friendly option. A lab diamond necklace or bracelet can be an excellent addition to your elegant military ball attire.
Claire Peters is a contributor to the Los Angeles Post-Examiner and Baltimore Post-Examiner.