What to Wear to a Ball: Everything You Need to Know

what to wear to a ball

Left: The Queen Of Peace Gown in Black. Right: The Strappy Tri Cup Gown in Black.

At Fame and Partners, we love a good ball — the glamour, the fashion, it’s all so chic, elevated and exciting. However, an invite to such an event does lead to one very real question: what do you wear to a ball? 

While every ball has its own mood, flow and dress code, there are definite do’s and dont’s when it comes to attire and overall presentation. Balls are a coveted invite, so let us help you enter that (exquisitely decorated) room like the fashion icon you know you can be.

The Two Most Important Words of the Evening: Dress Code

As you’re deciding what to wear to a ball, make sure that you have that dress code firmly in mind. Typically, any ball is going to call for formal dresses that are elegant, timeless and glamourous. 

In the past, large extravagant ball gowns were dress code staples. Luckily for modern-day ball goers, there are many options that don’t involve 12 layers of cumbersome tulle and allow for a bit more flexibility.

If your ball invite reads “Black Tie,” you’ll want to go with an option that is elegant yet understated. Think modern ball gowns in muted colors (black, white and varieties of reds and blues that are more regal than bright), a long and flowing maxi dress or an elevated jumpsuit. If your invite calls for formal wear, you can opt for something more relaxed, but stick to formal dress options that avoid being too loud, too short (stick with dresses that are ankle or floor-length), or too patterned.

Whatever you select, make sure that you feel comfortable and that you choose an outfit that you will want to be in for the duration of the event. Balls are exclusive and fun and the last thing you want is to show up in a cut or fabric that distracts from the evening.

Season and Venue

Like dress code, season and venue will inform your ball outfit choice. If your ball is at a new and edgy venue (think Alexander Wang fashion show at the Brooklyn Navy Yard vibes) you are going to want to select something more modern like a structured gown, asymmetrical look, or modern jumpsuit. If your ball is at a more traditional venue (think museum, library, historical landmark), stick with timeless and classic options. For winter, you can play with dark, rich colors like golds, deep reds, blues and greens. For summer, stay a little more light and try to go with slightly lighter (remember light not loud) shades of pinks, yellows and blues. Of course, black will work with all seasons and is a very popular ball go-to.

Like dress selection, your shoes should also match your season and venue. For winter and fall events, go with a closed toe option while spring and summer invite open-toed options. We don’t suggest ever going with sandals for a ball as they are generally too casual for formal events. 

If your ball is outdoors in grass or sand, make sure that you’re wearing shoes that can handle the landscape. We always advise against wearing dramatic heels to an outdoor venue as they are prone to getting stuck in mud, grass, sand and other soft flooring options. 


Classic accessories like diamonds, gemstones and crystal-laden jewelry remain popular ball accessories and help create the air of sophistication that balls require. As modern trends continue to evolve, there is also a place for more “funky” pieces like jewelry made with onyx, turquoise and other less traditional stones. However, when selecting a statement piece, make sure that you go with something that won’t distract from, or overpower your overall look.

What to Wear to a Ball: A Quick Guide

What to Wear to a Military Ball, Charity Ball, Governors Ball

Outfit Selection: Formal or Elevated Evening Wear

Length: Floor-length 

Style: Classic

Colors/Patterns: No patterns, stick with classic (white and black) or muted tones. 

Tip: Charity, military and governor balls are relatively formal and conservative events with long histories and deep traditions. With that in mind, you want to choose timeless cuts like a maxi or fit-and-flare and go with fabrics like satin that will give you the polished and refined look that these events call for. 

When it comes to the neck and hemline, select a dress that is more conservative. Avoid an ensemble that shows too much skin or is too revealing.

What to Wear to a Debutante Ball

Outfit Selection: Formal or Black-Tie

Length: Floor-length 

Style: Conservative, classic 

Colors/Patterns: Debutantes wear white, not shades of white — just white. With this in mind, it is strictly prohibited for debutante guests to wear white, but guests are encouraged to dress in bright, joyful jewel-tone dresses. Black is not on the “forbidden list” for a debutante ball, but it is also not encouraged and will likely not be met with great enthusiasm. 

Tip: Don’t wear anything too low or too revealing, make sure your dress is floor-length. No patterns.

What to Wear to a Masquerade Ball

Outfit Selection: Formal or Black-Tie

Length: Floor-length 

Style: Conservative, classic 

Colors/Patterns: Traditional masquerade balls: black, white, cream, gray. 

Mardis Gras balls: Vibrant, rich colors like gold, emerald green, etc. 

When it comes to patterns, let your mask do the talking and avoid anything too loud or too extreme. Masquerade balls are fun and festive, but they are also upscale and elevated events.

Tip: Choose a mask that is elegant yet fun. When it comes to masquerade balls, your mask is a key part of your outfit and should have symmetry with the dress you choose to wear for the evening. Think gorgeous half-face masks adorned with lace and boasting elegant accents and patterns. 

Fame and Partners 

At Fame and Partners, our formal and evening collections are fresh, modern and diverse, giving you everything you need to make every ball entrance your own personal runway. As always, everything we make is made-to-order and customizable which means that we design the dress and you tell us what finishing touches will make it truly your own.