You are currently viewing You can Look Stunning at a Military Ball with these Tips
Scott Mac Clintock velvet gown with cropped jacket, collier de chien belt (all own)

What to wear to a Military Ball is a tricky thing. This is due to the fact that the event is sort of a professional affair for either you or your significant other or both, who ever of you is in the Military. This post informs about the Military dress code, and stylist tips for your inspiration. It also includes some safety tips from the perspective of an avid ballroom dancer.

  1. Military Ball FAQ
  2. Familiarize Yourself with the Military Ball Dress Code
  3. Outfit Inspirations What to Wear to a Military Ball
  4. Where to Buy Affordable Gowns?

Updated: 11/28/2021
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.

Military Ball FAQ

Balls get most women excited. Whether it’s a military ball, a New Year’s Eve Ball or an Inaugural Ball, it re-awakes all our fantasies about being Cinderella that we had as little girls. The beautiful gown, being in the arms of the guy of our dreams, becoming rich, being important, you name it. Now your loved one invited you to a military ball! That puts up the big question of what to wear to make it a great success.

No matter what ball you attend get informed about the dress code, environment, and organizer to get it right. #Dress4success Click To Tweet

midlife fashion blogger in evening gown in black lace for a military ball

evening gown in black lace
Black lace evening gown showing off the double layering and the volume of the skirt

Familiarize Yourself with the Military Ball Dress Code

Here are my tips to meet the Military Ball dress code.

  1. For a military ball take into consideration the uniform your date will wear. If s/he is wearing a formal uniform, you should dress in formal attire too. This means if you are a woman your gown’s hem should not be higher than the knee. Tea-length (last photos in this post) works well when you intend to dance a lot. Trains are never a good idea for a ball due to the stepping hazards. Remember you walk backwards and in heels when on the dance floor. Slightly less than floor sweeping (photo above) is the longest you should go. If you are a man, rent a tuxedo or when you are in for a long-term relationship with your military woman buy one. After 3-4 balls you are saving money when buying instead of renting. Wear your tuxedo with a black bow tie.
  2. Don’t show too much skin. Either an Angelina Jolie-type slit, or a cleavage (back or front). A front cleavage should never compete with that of J Lo in her green dress on the red carpet.
  3. Make sure your dress fits and allows you to sit down. Ignore the size tag. Size is just a number. The tag is inside the gown – nobody can read it! You even can cut it out if you hate it. However, the latter decreases the chances for consigning it. Recall any color other than red, or black will be remembered, i.e. is only wearable once in the same crowd (e.g. the blue dress above). However, I think this applies for every gown due to the cell phone photos. On the upside, most military move every three years so you may consider going for classic gowns, watch your weight, and re-wear them at the military ball at the new post.
  4. Don’t go for a prom dress. They just look cheap, and make you look cheap too. Instead, rent a dress, or be proactive by buying a gown when it is on sale even though there is no immediate ball coming up and/or by checking upper level consignment store. Of course, you have to start way ahead of time as you can’t expect to score high in a consignment store whenever you browse them.
  5. Another important aspect are the shoes. Go for shoes with leather soles or suede soles (ballroom dance shoes). Heels of 2.5 inch (5 cm) are best for dancing. Unless you are an experienced dancer and you are used to dance on shoes with a 3.5 inch heel (~9 cm) or more don’t go there. Never wear new shoes that are not broken in. You don’t want to have blisters on your blisters at the end of the night. Make sure that your shoes have a heel cap to hold your foot in place when twisting and twirling. Sling backs are a recipe for injuring your ankles. If your date is not a great dancer make sure you have closed toe shoes.
  6. Make sure that you style your hair festive, but matching to the style of your gown. The same applies to your jewelry, clutch/evening bag, and make up. Avoid “over bling”. When you wear long chandelier earrings skip the necklace. When your gown has sequins, pearls, and/or crystals go for small earrings and non-embellished shoes (photo with blue dress). If you absolutely have to do leopard, keep it small (shoes, clutch).


Outfit Inspirations What to Wear to a Military Ball

The photos in this post give you some inspirations. Have fun. 🙂

woman in burned velvet burgundy and black tea-length formal gown
Back view of second hand gown described below


over 50 years old stylist in velvet burgundy and black formal gown showing what to wear to a Military ball
Outfit details:  Burned velvet burgundy and black formal gown


blue beaded evening gown
Evening gown in various royal blue shades with beaded waves pattern


woman in black lace evening gown suitable for a military ball
Vogue retro inspired black lace evening gown with 12 buttons in the back and more than 16 yards of fabric (self sewn)


When you liked the outfit recipes of this post, and want recipes for all kind of dressing situation in midlife, buy my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.


Where to Buy Affordable Gowns?

Sure, when you are petite or plus size finding gowns second hand may be hard. My Go-to for affordable formal evening attire is Ever Pretty. See the video for examples of gowns that I have from them.



Enjoy your ball.

Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved