Tips for Selecting a Military Ball GownUpdated: March 31, 2020
Military ball season is in the air and we’re just as excited as you are! Is it your first time headed out with your soldier or airman? Are you excited to take your SO to the ball with you?
But what are you going to wear? There are simply thousands of choices and it can be hard to narrow it down. Let’s take a look at several tips to help you look your best, sparkle, and shine.
Though it’s wonderful to show your assets and we are definitely body positive, you’ll want to stick to something a little more conservative around your work fellows. Remember, you’re heading out for a military event, not a night on the town. And yes, your superiors are watching.
If you’re intending to impress, look for traditional A-line gowns and cocktail dresses that come below the knee. If you aren’t certain if your event allows a certain style or a certain color, it is always better to ask than to be caught unawares at the door.
We’re all for showing who you are in your dress, so feel free to touch it up with things that really show off your interests. A few feathers for bird lovers might be an appropriate touch, for instance.
Avoid Extravagant Dresses
We don’t want you to walk into the room sideways. A giant dress, huge puffy sleeves, or a skirt that you can’t sit down in is a huge no-no. If you want to be a princess, you don’t want to do it when you’re elbow to elbow with several other people.
While balls are wonderful and a great opportunity to get to know everyone, they can also be somewhat cramped in the seating arrangements or held in relatively small venues. It’s better to plan ahead and keep extreme dresses on the rack where they belong.
Want some poof without problems? Chiffon is easy to smooth down or fold beneath your seat if you need to squeeze into a tiny area. Yet, when allowed to pop out, this cloth is a perfect choice for the princess-y look without the princess skirt problems.
In almost all cases, you’ll be seeing your ball partner in their dress uniform. No matter the color, try not to match them. Dark blue or military green partners are lost among the crowd and you’ll want to stand out enough that your ball partner can find you.
That said, you won’t want to look for screaming pinks and neon yellows, either. We recommend looking for a color that works well with their uniform but matches you, too. The following are good picks for common dress uniform colors:
Blue: Most of these are very dark blues. Typical matches include powder to sky blue, creams, and amber gowns. Not only do these show off most skin tones well, but they also tend to come in a wide variety and are easily found.
Green: Again, we’re looking at dark and medium greens. Cream is another good match here, but we’re also very fond of yellows and burgundies. A wine or merlot may also be a nice color against a green uniform.
Beige: If your ball partner is in beige, you have a much wider array of colors to try. We tend to advise against the red spectrum because it can be a little overwhelming here. Olive greens look surprisingly pretty with beige uniforms, as do blues and purples.
White: Essentially, white uniforms can work with anything but we suggest avoiding dark colors and black. The monochrome look is pretty common on the dance floor between couples and ball buddies in white uniforms can lose you among the others.
Classic Black: As above, we recommend against white due to the classic monochrome being ever popular. In this case, feel free to pop with brighter colors such as rich reds and vibrant blues. We’d still suggest keeping the pink to a minimum.
If you don’t have time to try on the dress before you buy it, or you’re buying it online, make sure that you find something in a style you’ve worn before. Just because you’re in great shape doesn’t mean you’ll want to spend the evening stuffed into a mermaid dress or something that keeps slipping down your shoulders.
If possible, try on everything first. However, we know that most people shop online and that makes this impossible – especially if you’re overseas and the mail takes a month to deliver. If you’ve never been in a gown, the class A-line looks good on almost everyone and, when properly sized, is pretty comfortable.
Keep it Simple
We’re not here to judge on glitz or glam, but do try to keep it under control. Someone who sparkles so much that they’re glittering during the dedication video package is probably wearing too much. Remember that military balls are a formal affair, not a party. Though some may take that direction later in the evening, it tends to be more reserved and conservative. Your dress should reflect that.
If you want to shine, we recommend you leave that to your accessories. As of this writing, sequin purses are very in. So are glittery earrings and huge sparkly bracelets. If you want to add something extra, look for it in ways that are easily removable. A necklace that is a little over the top is easily tucked away in your purse. Earrings that are larger than anyone else’s can be switched out for more conservative pieces in the bathroom in seconds.
Additionally, if you intend to accessorize it is very smart to bring along more conservative versions. You don’t want the FRG’s leader’s eyes on you. Though we try to ignore it, drama can happen fast because of behavior or appearance at a ball. The military teaches us to be prepared. Make sure you are.
Be Ready to Boogie
For our first-timers, military balls tend to include a cake, a dedication or a ceremony, dinner, and dancing. There may or may not be other events, but these are pretty standard. That means you’ll have time to get out on the dance floor and shake your thing!
However, if you haven’t caught on yet, this isn’t the time to just run out and twerk the second the music starts. Get a good feel for the group you’re with. Some military bases are full of fun and are really into party time. Others want waltzing and tend to prefer a calmer dance floor.
We recommend you go with the flow. Even if you don’t know how to waltz, enjoy learning how as you watch the others. But if they pump up the tunes and people are breakdancing, feel free to join in.
When and Where
We’re going to break this down into CONUS and OCONUS. For the newbies, that means the continental US and, essentially, everywhere else.
CONUS: Visit local dress shops if you can. This will give you the most time to find the perfect gown and to get any alterations finished with plenty of time to spare. We recommend purchasing your dress at least 30 days in advance in this case.
OCONUS: If you’re relying on the mail to bring your dress, order at least 60 days in advance. This allows time for your dress to arrive and for needed alterations to be made. In this case, you’re most likely ordering online.
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