What to Wear to a Gala Event

Gala event dress code

What is a Gala Event?

The mere mention of the word “gala” conjures up images of elegance and glamor and for good reason. By definition, galas are any festive celebration, but in today’s event world, galas are much more than simple parties. Galas are elegant, chic and formal, they’re everything you could want–aesthetically–in a night out. 

The other great thing about galas is that they tend to be charitable events where money is raised for organizations that are trying to make the world a better place. As with any event, gala dress codes tend to vary, however once you have the general “gala formula” down, figuring out what to wear to a gala becomes much easier. 

Galas: What They Are and What They Aren’t

While traditionally, galas are any festive event where performances and entertainment are present, in reality there are defining characteristics that set galas apart from other events. 

  1. Galas are formal. With very few exceptions, galas are either black-tie or black-tie optional and tend to be more formal, structured events. Think Oscars, Amfar, etc. A gala is the perfect time to try out new formal looks, but they are usually not spaces that welcome dresses that are eccentric, too bold or too revealing. When thinking about what to wear to a gala use the “boss rule”. If you would comfortably wear the outfit around your boss and co-workers, go for it. If your clothing choice seems too extreme for a professional audience, leave it at home. 
  2. Galas are charitable events. The best part about attending a gala–outside of the fashion–is the fact that your evening is usually spent giving back to worthy and heartwarming causes. From cancer prevention to early childhood education, for many organizations, galas are annual events that provide needed support to fuel programs and operations. 
  3. Galas are a lot of fun. Outside of the fundraising and the dress codes, galas are usually very enjoyable to attend. These events provide an opportunity to dress up, enjoy great food and entertainment and give back to causes you believe in.

Gala Dress Codes: What Do You Wear to a Gala

Like all formal events, no two gala invites look or feel the same. With that said, there are general gala dress code guidelines that will help you perfect your gala looks. 

Black-Tie: Black-tie events call for long, luxurious gowns. We’re talking gorgeous satin maxis and classic, elegant wrap dresses. When it comes to dress color, many people opt for black due to its timelessness and elegance, but don’t be afraid to look for bold, rich colors like deep golds and rich reds. While you don’t want anything too loud as bright colors are better suited for semi-formal events, you can explore seasonal hues that look and feel appropriate to the event theme and location. 

Black-Tie Optional: Black-tie events are slowly falling to the wayside and many modern event planners are erring on the side of a more flexible “black-tie optional” dress code. For black-tie optional events, you can still bring out that formal long gown, but you have more freedom to incorporate cocktail dresses and asymmetrical styles

Like their black-tie counterparts, black-tie optional galas still require a certain level of elegance, so stick with color choices that prioritize blacks, whites and more bold hues like purples and golds. If you are going to try out a one-shoulder look, stick to something that is tasteful and that doesn’t reveal too much. One of our favorite aspects of black-tie optional is that you can bring in a jumpsuit which is an elegant, but slightly less traditional option. 

Black-Tie Creative: Black-tie creative is a new genre that gives you more freedom to bring your own personal style into a black-tie event. While black-tie creative is still formal, it gives you room to experiment with different lengths, styles and accessories and makes the question of “what to wear to a gala” a little more fun. 

For example, shorter dresses are completely acceptable at black-tie creative events, but, as a general rule, we still suggest keeping things at knee-length or below. Black-tie creative also allows for patterns, textures and separates (formal pants and a formal top, etc.). When experimenting with patterns and textures, just ensure that you are still keeping things formal and don’t go with anything too extreme like animal print. 

General Gala Attire Rules:

  1. If you think it’s too much skin, it probably is. No matter the theme or dress code that accompanies your gala invite, galas are relatively classic events which means that they are not the time to try out your two-piece dress or to test-drive your new favorite ultra-mini look. 
  2. Accessories are your friend. While black-tie and black-tie optional events are not the time to make bold statements with your dress choice, with the right accessories you can really enhance your gala attire. We love pairing sheer black maxi with chunky gold earrings or a large, yet tasteful, statement necklace. Bracelets, rings, there’s no limit to your options when it comes to gala accessories, just make sure that whatever you choose integrates well with your outfit choice and with the overall theme and aesthetic for the evening. 
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Shine. And we mean this literally. While gala attire is more formal and classic, there is still room for sequins, sparkles and embroidery to add some shine and dimension to your look. At Fame and Partners, we love a good sequin, especially when they accompany a more formal, classic evening look

Shop Our Gala Styles Now

At Fame and Partners, we’ve never met a gala that we haven’t loved. Our collection of customisable evening and formal dresses are diverse, fresh, modern and uniquely you. Whether you’re heading to a black-tie event or a semi-formal affair, when it comes to galas we’re the only partner you will ever need. 

Better clothes, Better you.