It’s Ball Season, Ladies!
It’s that time of year again ladies – and whether you’re other half is affiliated with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, chances are you’ll soon be headed to your nearest high-end department store or bridal shop in search of “the dress”. Maybe you’re a newbie and you’ve thought about your impending military ball all year, or maybe you’re a veteran spouse with four kids, soccer practice, dance 3 nights a week and 10 loads of laundry that just won’t seem to wash themselves and the ball-referenced headline of this blog just sparked your first ball-related thought since last year’s ball (guilty!).
What to, and Not to Wear
Either way, if you’ve decided to attend the military ball with your spouse this year, you’re going to have to brush up on military ball etiquette – and some of the biggest offenders are those who missed the memo on what to wear, and more importantly, what NOT to wear, to the military ball. You might think choosing a dress for the ball seems pretty straight forward – but believe it or not, what qualifies as appropriate ball attire can be quite subjective (depending on who you ask) without a guide that outlines the expectations of the organization for which you’re in attendance.
As a Marine Corps spouse of almost 12 years, I’ve been to a few military balls.
I’ve seen the most elegant, floor length gowns that perfectly compliment the service member’s dress uniform – and I’ve seen the most atrocious “don’t you dare sneeze or everyone in this room is going to see ALL of your assets” prom-style nightmares there ever were. Ladies, trust me – you do NOT want to be the latter. Not only will YOU have pictures, but chances are, other people shocked by your wardrobe choice will have them too (I promise). So how do you avoid being “that girl” at the ball? We’ve compiled a list of DOs and DON’Ts to guide your ball dress journey.
- Opt for a floor length dress. This is definitely the expectation, but for whatever reason, it’s never expressed in the way it should be. All of us could use the reminder, but new spouses are often the most frequent offenders of the dress code due to a lack of clearly outlined expectations. Take my word for it, go with a floor length gown.
- Choose a color you love. Fortunately, there really isn’t a restriction on what colors of dresses are appropriate for the military ball. While I wouldn’t be the first to recommend a lime green dress, I’ve seen just about every color of dress at the ball and when chosen correctly, they’re all beautiful options. When choosing your dress, this is one of the best opportunities you have to express yourself. Choose a color you love that makes you feel great.
- Compliment your dress with a modest number of tasteful and understated accessories. Accessories are meant to accentuate your dress, not steal the focus of it.
- Carry a clutch that compliments the color of your dress – neutrals are best. Opting for a clutch over a bulky full-size purse allows you to store your personal items table-top and limits you to essentials. The tables are crowded and you don’t want to be the one with the clunky purse that blocks everyone’s ceremony view or the thoughtful centerpieces the unit assembled.
- Wear nice shoes. Tie your look together with a pair of strappy heels. I prefer a shoe that matches my clutch and is slightly understated. You don’t want to choose a sequined dress, bedazzled clutch, and over the top shoes – it’s too much.
- Wear a short dress. Short dresses can be extremely flattering and fun, but there is absolutely no place for them at a military ball.
- Wear a dress with a full skirt. I think as adults, most of us have outgrown the desire to wear the full-skirted princess style dresses that resemble a cupcake – but if you haven’t, it’s probably best that you leave the fluffy options at the store. You’ll stand out – but not in the right way. This isn’t prom – save the full-skirted dresses for another day.
- Don’t steal the show. You want to look gorgeous, and nobody is faulting you for that (especially your man), but it’s important to remember not to overdo it – after all, the ball is intended to honor the military organization and its members of which you are in attendance. Let your servicemember shine – they deserve it.
- Wear flip flops. I wish I was kidding – but I’ve seen girls show up to the ball wearing rubber flip flops (or as our spouses call them, shower shoes). Don’t get me wrong, I get the logic – they’re much more comfortable than heels and if you’re wearing a long dress, it’s possible you’re banking on your choice of shoes not being visible (they are) – but they look cheap and never look appropriate with ball attire. Don’t wear shower shoes to the ball!
Attending a military ball…
is an experience of a lifetime – even if you’ve been to quite a few. The ceremony is powerful and the presence of servicemembers in dress uniform exudes a palpable sense of pride. The atmosphere lends itself to the most fun you’ll have all year. Make your time at this year’s ball unforgettable and free of regret. Choosing the right ball gown makes all the difference.