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Where to Wear a Formal Dress

Are you too old for prom, but love formal dresses? Maybe you found a gorgeous gown at a consignment shop and need an excuse to wear it. Perhaps your prom dress still fits and you’re longing for a chance to wear it again. Maybe you got lucky and your bridesmaid dress is actually pretty and you’d love a chance to make use of it, especially after all the money you spent on it. So where do you wear a formal dress nowadays?

Where to Wear a Formal Dress

Halloween Party formal dress

Halloween Party

The first idea that comes to my mind is a Halloween party. It’s the perfect excuse to dress however you want and why not come up with a custome that uses a ball gown? I love to find a clearance prom dress in the summer and save it for Halloween. I’ve been a princess in a pink gown, an extremely elegant witch in a black dress with silver embroidery, and the goddess of autumn in a formal orange and coral couture.


Cruise formal dress

Lucinda Belden of CruiseOne recommends taking advantage of the formal attire events available on a cruise ship.

    “You’re right – there are so few places to dress up for fun. Cruises are great places to wear formal dresses. It’s nice to dress to the hilt and not just for a two-hour event. More than one night on a cruise and you enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail party, dine out at a five-star restaurant, and then go dancing, to a show, or out to the casino afterwards. Most cruise ships have two formal nights on a 7-night cruise and you can dress up every night if you want – anything goes!”

How fun! Sounds like I need to book a cruise and make use of my previous “Halloween Costume” dresses.

Formal Party

Formal Party Dress

Of course, you can always make your own excuse to dress up. Throw a party and include the dress code on the invitation “Black Tie.” Encourage the guys to at least wear a tie and have your girlfriends wear their fanciest dresses.

And if you can’t make up your mind on which dress to wear, take a cue from Sharon Campbell.

    “Some years ago, my friends and I decided that we wanted to wear our formal wear, and persuaded our husbands that we would have a formal New Year’s Eve party. My friend Andrea had two outfits to wear: a tuxedo and a lovely dress. She got to wear both of them when her two-year-old son threw up on one! However, we really enjoyed the evening. You don’t have to go out to wear a formal dress!”

Out to Dinner

taylor family at Out to Dinner
Formal Dress Men
formal wear for women

An expensive restaurant is an excellent place to wear a formal dress. Be sure the place isn’t too modern or the “black tie” dress code may indirectly mean you should wear a little black dress instead of a ball gown. Find a suitable restaurant and you can wow the other patrons while admiring their apparel as well. What’s even better is when there is a live band where dancing is encouraged after your meal.

But what if you can’t afford a fancy meal? Janet Groene has great advice:

    “If you’re a morning person with a sense of mischief, get up very early and dress in your formal complete with hair and make-up. (It’s okay if you look a little disheveled). Then go to an all-night restaurant for breakfast at like 5 or 6 a.m. I especially like the 24-hour B-Line Diner at the Peabody Orlando, where celebrities are often coming in for breakfast after their late-night gigs. Have a great breakfast while enjoying the curious stares of people who wonder who you are and where you were all night. It’s even better if you can get a male or female friend to go along–in formal dress, of course.”

More Ideas

Author John Barnes offered this list of places to wear formal dresses.

1. Classical concerts
2. Live Theater (particularly the higher end options)
3. Dancing in swankier night clubs, or if your town is swank-deprived, anywhere there is live music at a pricey hotel bar.
4. Opera
5. Casino if your date wears a tuxedo
6. High tea if offered at any local hotel or restaurant
7. Receptions for visiting dignitaries
8. Cocktail parties at conventions or conferences
9. Awards ceremonies, whether or not you’re getting an award.
10. Dining and dancing in the civilized world (i.e. in most nations that do not dress like grubby Americans all the time).

No Reason At All

Freelance writer Susan M. Boyce shared her favorite reason to get dressed up.

    “I disagree when someone says there aren’t many places to wear formal any longer. To me, it’s simply the ability to feel comfortable getting decked to the nines even if no one else is. Although I probably wouldn’t plan to go to McDonalds in a gown (I have, in fact, gone into one when I was just too hungry to wait for the gala awards ceremony later in the evening), I’d certainly plan around the local pizza joint just for the fun of it, especially in the company of a well dressed gentleman.

    On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten totally prettied up with formal gown, dangling opera earrings, and a flower in my hair, and then put my (very small) dining room table in front of the patio door, lit a candle, and served myself a five-course meal. It made me feel wonderful about myself and certainly caused the neighbors passing by on the street to smile.

    My philosophy is that life’s too short to sweat the small stuff – which includes worrying about what other people think is overdressed. Now I must rush, I have a date with some sparkly earrings and a chiffon dress!”

And Remember:

As Judith Brower Fancher, President of Brower, Miller & Cole, says,

    “My sister and I have an expression about being ‘over-dressed’ which is, ‘What, are you going to look too pretty?’”

So dress up, have fun, and make your own reason to feel like a princess for an evening!

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