What to Wear to a Fashion Ball

Nancy Dell'olio wore a trumpet dress to the 2011 Emeralds & Ivy Ball in London, England.

Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You were lucky enough to be invited to a fashion ball. The issue that’s more important than who's hosting the event is what you’re going to wear. Don’t let the word “fashion” fool you when choosing an outfit for the ball because it's not an occasion on which anything goes. While it’s important to show the world your fashion-forward sense of style, you don’t want to outdo the outfits on display. The designers don’t want competition from you.

The Dress

If you want to play it safe, you can’t go wrong with the classic black dress. Just remember that you aren’t going to a cocktail party, so short and skimpy may not be appropriate. Or add color to your life with a dress that matches your eyes, a color that’ll flatter your skin tone for sure. Metallics are hot, especially if a dress has metallic sequins or hand-sewn beadwork. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll look like you belong in a girl band from the 1990s. If you want to veer from the traditional ball gown, consider a mermaid or trumpet dress, an A-line dress with a princess waist or a chic column dress paired with long satin gloves. If you're thinking you’ll never wear this dress in your life again, save your money and rent a dress.


When it comes to shoes, aim for comfort. The shoes you pick should absolutely match the dress you’re wearing. However, they should also match the venue. For example, if the ball is outdoors on a lawn, heels may not be the best because the heels can sink into the ground. If you plan to dance, go for a shoe that won’t fling off when you’re cutting a rug. Never feel ashamed about wearing flats if heels aren’t for you. Only opt for uncomfortable, fancy designer shoes if you know you won’t have to stand a lot and you can say with certainty that you’ll get use out of the kicks in the future.


Accessories help complete your fashion ball wardrobe and help guarantee an unforgettable entrance. Fashion website Asos says not to shy away from something trendy, such as skull jewelry. You can’t go wrong with hoop earrings or studs, rings and a jeweled hair accessory. When choosing your bling, remember that flashy is okay, but gaudy isn’t. Also, keep in mind that accessories are meant to turn heads and help complement your look, not overpower it.


Go traditional or try something new with your makeup when you go to a fashion ball; this is the right time to experiment. Just keep in mind that you aren’t going to a Halloween party. Don’t be afraid to try on the latest false eyelashes, sparkly mascara and bright eye shadows. Find yourself a great, long-lasting lipstick, too, so you don’t have reapply it as often throughout the night (give yourself more time to mingle). As a rule of thumb, treat yourself to a look that won’t make you feel embarrassed when you see yourself in pictures. This might even be an occasion to spring for a professional makeup job to make sure you're at your glamorous best.

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