Everything You Need to Know Before Attending a Military Ball – NewYorkDress


A military ball is a formal event that celebrates those who serve our country. Many ceremonies unfold throughout the event. There’s food and drinks, lots of dancing, memorable conversations, keynote speeches, and other activities to bring everyone together and enjoy the night. 

Those attending their military ball for the first time may find it overwhelming to gather the right outfit and understand the traditions that surround the event. Here, we uncover everything you need to know before attending your first military ball. 

Types of Military Balls

Although most military balls are similar in nature, certain traditions differ for different military branches. The different types of military balls include:

  • Army Ball. Since the Army came into existence on June 14, 1775, the Army’s military ball unfolds in June each year. While the Army ball occurs on its birthday, the event itself serves to honor martyrs who died serving their country and boost the morale of new soldiers entering the service.
  • Marine Corps Ball. The Marine Corps ball is held in November every year to celebrate the inception of the United States Marine Corps in 1775. While Marine installations host several local Marine balls, the main ball is often referred to as the Commandant’s Ball. 
  • Navy Ball. The Continental Army was established on October 13, 1775. So, every year, the Navy ball unfolds on or around the same date. This event aims to honor the formation of the Navy and show appreciation for Navy heritage and culture.
  • Coast Guard Ball. As with other military balls, the Coast Guard celebrated its inception, culture, and heritage annually with a formal military ball. The Coast Guard got their start on August 4, 1790, after Sir Alexander Hamilton authorized it. 
  • Air Force Ball. The Air Force was founded on September 18, 1947. However, this Military Ball doesn’t necessarily unfold on the same day of its inception each year. Since the Air Force coordinates the local balls each year, your local base may alternate years to hold the event in certain areas. 

How To Dress for Your Military Ball 

When picking out your dress for the ball, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Opt for a Formal Attire

A military ball is a formal event. The dress code here is usually black-tie or white-tie formal attire. This means the attire you pick must be of floor length. Make sure you avoid flashy or distracting attires. This is because the spotlight must be on service members and not the guests. 

If you choose to wear gloves, make sure you remove the glove of your right hand every time you shake hands with people. 

Before finalizing your outfit, make sure you first determine the ball’s specific traditions by asking a service member. Your service member will be the best person to inform you of all unit-specific traditions. For instance, some balls may require women to cover their shoulders for the receiving line while others may not.

Dress Modestly

Military balls often demand modest attire. Remember to be conscious of how much skin you’re revealing. Try to cover areas like your midriff, and cleavage, and don’t let any underwear show through your dress. If, what you choose, makes you question, “Am I showing too much skin?” The answer is: you most likely are. 


Most women experienced in attending military balls go with comfortable dresses while keeping their overall look classy. While most formal dresses come in darker hues, a military ball doesn’t particularly place color restrictions. It is generally recommended to wear dark and rich hues to match the event’s formality. It’s best to avoid white if you’re not in the military or not related to a service member. Feel free to add a dash of color to your formal dress but make sure you don’t overdo it. Some official military colors include:

  • Army – gold and black
  • Marine Corps – gold and scarlet
  • Air Force – silver and ultramarine blue
  • Navy – gold and blue
  • Coast Guard – red, blue, and white

The safest colors to pick include dark colors, neutral hues, and jewel tones. Many guests match their outfit colors with their service members’ uniforms.

Prioritize Your Comfort

To enjoy your time at a military ball, it’s critical to prioritize your comfort. You will be wearing your dress and your shoes all night. There will also be lots of dancing and standing. Make sure you find a dress that allows you to move freely and doesn’t restrict your comfort. Remember, it gets cold outside. So, don’t forget to bring a scarf along to cover your shoulders and stay warm. 

Don’t Neglect Your Hair and Makeup

When it comes to your hairdo, the safest choice would be to stick with a well-groomed and subtle look. At some point during the ball, there will be a formal photography session. To look your best in the photos, be sure to gear your make right before the photos. 


As with your dress and makeup, your accessories must be a combination of subtle and elegant. If your dress is a simple one, you can elevate your look by adding a statement necklace. Or, you can keep it simple by going with a pair of pearl earrings. 

What Can You Expect To See At the Event? 

Every military branch comes with its own formal ball traditions. However, certain traditions remain the same for most of these events. Some things you can expect at a military ball include:

  • A receiving line where the first person you meet is the person who’s being honored. You’re expected to shake hands and make introductions as you move through the line.
  • People drinking alcohol. What’s important to remember here is to balance your food and alcohol. Dinner is often served late during military balls which is why it’s recommended to have your meal before the party begins. 
  • During one of the main traditions, you’ll see the flag coming in alongside the national anthem. Make sure you take part in the flag procession.
  • Keynote speeches where you’ll be expected to stay silent when the speakers deliver their speeches. 

Before We Part

So, there you have it – everything you need to know before you attend your first military ball. Now that you have a general idea of the outfit you must put together, it’s time to take that first step. Explore NewYorkDress to discover a vast array of designer formal dresses that are perfect for a military ball.

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