Dress for Success: Military Ball Edition

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Welcome to part 3 of My Best Military Ball Yet! Blog Series.  Since I know you’re all faithful readers, you’re up to date on what a military ball is and you’re familiar with the all the ceremonial traditions that take place at one!  If not, well… the links are right there!  Get to clicking!

Getting dressed for a military ball is both the most stressful and fun part for me.  I love looking for a gown, designing my over all look and seeing my husband’s face when he first lays eyes on me!

So What’s The Dress Code?

Before you go out shopping it’s important to know what you’re looking for in a dress.  First of all, there’s the dress code.  All military balls are formal affairs.  If you look up the regulations it states that it’s a white tie event.  That’s as formal as it gets.  Your service member will be in their ASU’s (if they’re in the Army) and if they’re a field grade officer or higher they’ll wear dress mess.  That’s that funny looking tuxedo like jacket with all the swirls and filigree.  Super formal.  So you should dress to match.

What Length is the Standard for a Military Ball?

Floor length gowns are a must.  I’ve seen people try to do tea length and it just doesn’t work.  Cocktail dresses stick out like a sore thumb.  Those high-low dresses work as long as the long part is definitely floor length.  Floor length, floor length, floor length… Did I mention floor length?!

Ok, OK! Floor Length, Check!

But what kind of floor length?  What colors?  The sky is the limit on how crazy you want to go!  Silk, taffeta, embellishments, sequins are all fair game.  Yup, I said it… sequins.  You can wear whatever colors you want!  I can’t tell you how often wives in my husband’s unit ask me what the “right” color is.  There’s no right color!  The Army formal uniform is a brightly colored beast.  It’s pretty standard to want to pick a color that doesn’t clash.  There ends up being quite a few blue and red dresses at the ball.  Keep that in mind if you want to stand out!  Though it’s definitely the safe route if you don’t want to make any waves.

Keep in Mind This is a Work Function for Your Spouse

Really the only restricting parameter is dressing for your audience.  At the end of the day this is a work function for your spouse.  What impression do you want to give his (or her) boss and coworkers?  This is completely a personal decision, but keep it in mind.  That’s all I’m gunna say about that…

Where Are The Best Places To Shop?

Now where to buy this dress that you now have in mind?  All of the major department stores have evening gown departments.  Another popular route seems to be the bridesmaids dress, so David’s Bridal and other wedding boutiques are worth a gander.  Unfortunately, gowns can tend to be expensive and often the best looking dresses are down right ludicrous!

You Can Also Rent a Gown!

That’s where my new favorite obsession comes in.  Rent the Runway has totally revolutionized how I dress shop  I have caviar tastes on a beer budget and there’s no way that I could talk my husband into investing 500-1000 dollars every year on a dress.  And honestly, I have no business even thinking about it.  But with Rent the Runway, I can rent a beautiful gown usually worth over $600 for as low as $70!  It’s amazing.  Plus, I don’t have to move a bunch of dresses every time we move because I’m never going to wear them again.

Did You Know You Can Rent a Military Ball Gown on Base?

Another rental option is the on post rental service.  This is an extremely affordable option, typically as low as $20!  I know on Fort Campbell it’s called the Backdoor Boutique but there’s a version of it on every military post.  People donate their gowns to the ACS (Army Community Service) thrift shop and they organize them for rental.  The rental fee covers dry cleaning.  You can find some really great stuff in there.  I’ve personally donated Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, and Badgley Mischka gowns.  I’ve started my search there more than once.  I recommend anything that helps keep the cost down as you may end up attending one of these events annually.  Or twice a year if you’re in a unit that does battalion and brigade balls.  Add a random division ball in there and that’s a ton of dresses!

What Accessories are Appropriate?

I suggest investing in a pair of black shoes and a pair of silver shoes.  Make them simple, make them strappy and have them be a reasonable heel.  Boom!  You now have shoes you can wear with every gown, at every ball, every year.  Same goes for evening clutches.  Every once in a while a dress requires a very specific type of purse.  Every other time a black or silver clutch will get the job done.  Once you make those initial investments you won’t have to buy shoes or a purse for a very long time!

Jewelry Can Complete an Outfit

As far as jewelry is concerned costume jewelry can go a long way.  Statement jewelry has gotten so popular these days that its dang near impossible to go shopping anywhere without bumping into a display!  I’ve gotten stuff from Target, Claire’s (‘member that place?!) and even jewelry parties that other spouses have thrown like Lia Sophia and Stella & Dot!  Amazon is also another great option.  If you look around and don’t wait until the last minute I guarantee you can have your jewelry game on point no matter your budget!

No Outfit is Complete Without Hair and Makeup

You’ve two very obvious options: get a professional to do it or do it yourself.  If you can afford it, go the pro route!  It’ll add an extra little bit of special to your day.  Everyone likes a bit of pampering.  It’ll also take the stress out of your day.  All you have to do is walk out of the salon and step into your gown.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Do it Yourself if You Want

If you’re super confident in your ability to do your hair and makeup, then do it!  Why spend the money if you know you can make yourself look like a million bucks!  Or maybe you’re just super picky and know that no one will do you up the way that you want it.

If you do decide to do everything yourself but you need some guidance, Pinterest is your friend!  I’ve always done my own hair and makeup and I Pin the heck out of the looks I’m going after.  You can find amazing tutorials and inspiration on there.  Like everything else, don’t wait until the last minute.  You’ll end up frustrated and unhappy with your finished product.  Take your time, practice, perfect.  You’ll be happy that you did!

I hope I’Dress For Success: Military Ball Editionve helped!  Come back soon to learn how you can plan out hotels, transportation, and childcare!

What’s the one “must” you learned from attending a military ball?  What else do you have questions about?  Let me know!






12 thoughts on “Dress for Success: Military Ball Edition

  1. Military has its own rules for almost everything so why not for dressing code as well. Renting a gown sounds brilliant to me, especially when formal dresses and gown cost a lot.

  2. Thank you for these tips! I love dressing up for our Marine Corps Balls every year. However this year we won’t be making it due to my husband’s previous obligations–he’s going to his mentor’s retirement party out of state.

  3. I LOVE the idea of renting a gown! So much more economical especially for us mamas whose bodies are always getting bigger then smaller it seems (funny how childbearing does that to ya!). Have never been to a military ball, but we have friends and family who are career military so have heard lots about them. YES ON THE FLOOR LENGTH GOWN!!!

    1. I’ve got about 5 different sizes of jeans currently hanging in my closet. I can’t imagine the graveyard of gowns I would have if I didn’t rent my dresses. I’m about 5 months pregnant in the photo on this post! I rented an empire waist gown and it was perfect!
      ThatCrazyMilspouse recently posted…Military Spouse ID RenewalMy Profile

  4. I love getting dressed up. I don’t have much of a reason recently, but it’s always fun. I know my mother-in-law said she always enjoyed the military ball and still goes to the high school one since my FIL teaches JROTC now that he’s retired.

    1. I never get tired of it! We go to 2-3 of these events a year and I’m always just as excited for it as I was for my very first one. How do your in-laws enjoy JROTC? I’m always curious to hear how others transition post military life. We are constantly trying to figure out what we want to do “when we grow up” aka when he retires lol.
      ThatCrazyMilspouse recently posted…Military Spouse ID RenewalMy Profile

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