What to Wear to a Ball: Your Style Guide

What to Wear to a Ball: Your Style Guide

When it comes to finding a dress for a ball, you may end up feeling like Cinderella with nothing to wear to a very important event. 

Figuring out the best outfit for a ball can be confusing, and if you’ve never attended a ball before, you might have some questions about the general expected dress code of a ball. Fortunately, our style guide is here to help you understand the basic dress code of a ball and what to wear to a ball so you can make the most of your evening.

What Is the Dress Code for a Ball?

Balls are typically formal events, and you can expect the dress code of a ball to fall in line with that of any other formal or black-tie event or dance. Common variations for ball dress codes include black tie, white tie, and semi-formal, though black tie is the most often called for dress code.

When you are invited to a ball, the dress code specifics will be noted on the invitation. It’s important to consult this, as this information will tell you certain themes or if certain items are requested. 

For instance, if you are invited to a masquerade ball, you may need to obtain both formal wear and a masquerade mask. If you are invited to a formal ball-themed wedding, you may need to avoid certain colors or select a style of dress that doesn’t clash with the bride.

That being said, you can expect the dress code of a ball to require formal, floor-length gowns for women and dark suits or tuxedos for men. High heels and gloves may be necessary for women, and cuff links or other formal accessories might be required for men.

What to Wear to a Ball: Options for Women

Deciding what to wear to a ball is confusing, which is why we’ve listed our top three choices of options for women below. Review these options to get started thinking about which suits your personal style best.

Ball Gowns

It’s in the name – ball gowns are an excellent choice for attending a ball. Balls are meant to be extravagant; you can go full princess with a full-skirted ball gown, like the ones you can find here, embellished with ruffles, sequins, or other eye-catching features. 

The ball gown silhouette traditionally features a more fitted bodice with billowing skirts that start at the hip and reach dramatically toward the ground.

Formal Dresses

If you don’t want to commit fully to the ball gown look, you can wear other formal dresses to your ball. Long, floor-length dresses are considered the most appropriate for balls, and these come in all different kinds of silhouettes, such as mermaid and A-line. 

You can choose any kind of neckline or embellishment for your formal dress, just make sure that they are appropriate for the formality of the event – dresses with too much skin shown and those that are too tight might not be the best selection for a ball.


Pantsuits are becoming more and more common for women, and you may be able to wear a formal pantsuit to a ball if dresses aren’t your thing. It’s important that whichever pantsuit you choose is properly tailored to your figure and made out of a fabric that looks upscale – you don’t want to be showing up in a cotton tracksuit or something similar.

Pair your pantsuit with heels, accessories, and belts or a light jacket to complete the look and make it fit completely with the event’s dress code.

What to Wear to a Ball: Options for Men

For men attending a ball, there aren’t a huge variety of options. Suits are generally considered the most common choice, and dark-colored suits are preferred when it comes to upscale and formal ball events. 

Men may opt to wear a tuxedo at formal events, and it’s important to pair your suit or tuxedo with matching shoes, an appropriate tie or bow tie, and accessories like cuff links.

How Do I Accessorize My Ball Outfit?

Accessorizing your ball outfit doesn’t need to be complicated. Women can choose from simple and elegant jewelry that matches the formal theme and their dress or pantsuit. High heels are recommended for formal events, and a light jacket may be necessary if the event takes place during the colder months. 

An upscale hairstyle and classic makeup look are also important to complete your formal ball look.

Men can accessorize their ball outfit with cuff links, cummerbunds, dress socks, vests, and pocket squares as needed. Make sure that any accessories chosen match the overall theme of the event and the color of your outfit.

Dressing for a Ball With Style

Dressing for a ball doesn’t need to be confusing – the first step is to consult the dress code of the event and figure out how formal your outfit needs to be. Once you have this in mind, you can select a ball gown, formal dress, or other formal outfit that helps you embrace your personal taste and show up to your next ball event with style.