If you're been asked to escort a service member to a formal military event, you might have no idea what to expect. Military functions—even balls—follow strict timelines and procedures, so you should know what to expect from the evening, including how to dress and how to act the part as the ideal date.
You might have some slinky, sexy dresses in your closet, but the military setting is not the place to wear them. Usually, a knee length or tea length dress is the best choice, because formal balls are not the same as an office Christmas party or a night at the club-- they are black-tie formal. Generally, floor length dresses are your best bet, but you can wear a shorter dress if you choose carefully.
You must make sure that your cocktail dress always succeeds at covering your behind when you dance, bend over, or sit down. When buying a dress, test dance moves and walk in the dress at a brisk pace to make sure it does not ride up. It's best to ask your service member what color their formal uniform will be and to dress to match. For example, many people wear red to Marine Corps balls because the stripe on the dress pants is red. Army, Navy, and Air Force all have different colors for their dress uniforms, so ask your spouse which color they will be wearing so you match each other tastefully.
It's okay to show some skin, but again, at a formal event, you need to think wisely. If your dress is low cut in the front, be sure it is not low cut in the back. Keep in mind that deep plunging necklines or exposed midriffs are not appropriate for military occasions.
Wear shoes that you can stand in comfortably for a long period of time. Military balls often have long receiving lines, and you will want to be able to dance after the dinner is over. It's better to have your dress tailored so you can comfortably wear flats. If you must wear heels, keep them conservative in height and style—wild prints, spikes, or rhinestones are not conducive to the atmosphere of a formal military occasion. High heels will cause you great pain by the end of the evening: you will sitting and standing a lot during toasts, the national anthem, the color guard, and to say hello to passing officials of higher rant. Taking high heels off to go barefoot is not an option at a military event, so keep that in mind when making your selection.
Conservative, but tasteful adornments are the best way to go. Wedding tiaras or large jewelry is not the best choice, even though they are formal. Instead choose smaller, less heavy items that you will be comfortable wearing for several hours and dancing in. You will sit and stand a lot throughout the evening, and you don't want to accidentally knock off a heavy headpiece or lose an expensive earring.
The Hair & Makeup
Here is wear you can make a statement. Conservative jewelry and conservative dress colors and cuts means that you can really push the style in the finishing touches. Since you'll be shaking lots of hands, spend more time moisturizing and manicuring your nails. If you want to, use a bolder color if you choose nail paint to bring more uniqueness to your look.
The pomp and circumstance of a military event can seem overwhelming at first, but being properly attired is the first step to feeling confident throughout the evening. For more information on choosing a dress, go to sites that specialize in formal wear etiquette.