Gown Guide + Marine Corps Birthday Ball 2018

See my 2019 updated USMC Birthday Ball gown guide here!

It’s now September and that means Marine Corps Birthday Ball season is fast approaching, with some happening as early as October! Dressing for the Ball seems simple enough. It’s a black tie event, which means non-service members should be either wearing a floor-length dress if they’re female, or suit and tie or tuxedo if you’re a male.
Those aren’t my rules, they’re straight from the MCCS website on proper ball etiquette but if you need further validation, ask the nearest General. Just kidding.

First Ball Together in 2012! Gun-metal gray all-over sequin one shoulder gown with same color earrings and black pumps and clutch (not pictured).

Really though, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guests sit through the ceremony, enjoy the dinner, then change into sweatpants for the dancing/party portion of the evening. Please don’t let that be you! It’s roughly four hours of dressing to the nines, you can make it! Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear shorter heels if you just. can’t. handle. sky-high heels.
This year will be our 6th ball (well, 5th, we missed a year due to the birth of our second little angel) and of all the years of observation and participation, I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Year three – white satin open-back, halter-neck column gown. Silver strappy pumps (not pictured), silver drop earrings, silver crystal filigree headband.

So, if you’re in need of some inspiration, or if this is your first ball and you’re clueless as to what to wear, I’ve compiled a list of stunning and appropriate dresses and shoe options that will make you look and feel like the goddess that you are! 

Year four – Mac Duggal black brocade high-low, OTS, ball gown with structured bodice. Black suede pumps with gold ankle strap, gold bracelets and gold earrings (please ignore the fact that we’re looking directly into the setting sun for this picture LOL).

Typically, many women opt to coordinate with their husband’s Dress Blues (see my pics above ^^) by wearing a neutral (white, champagne, gold, silver, gray), dark blue (navy, royal), black, or red dress. This is not mandatory!
This year I am wearing none of those colors and I am so excited to share my ensemble with you all when the day arrives! Patience, my friends.

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Shop: Dress– lots of colors | Shoes (on sale!) | Clutch

The more sparkle, the better in my humble opinion! Channel the bold and extravagant old-world glamour of the Gilded Age in this glitzy ensemble.

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Shop: Dress | Shoes (less expensive here) | Clutch | Earrings

Let the dress do the talking with understated accessories that compliment. 

2018-09-02 (1)Shop: Dress | Shoes | Earrings

Channel your inner Flamenco dancer in this stunning red mermaid gown with dazzling drop earrings and metallic gold strappy heels. You are The Lady in Red.

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Shop: Dress | Clutch | Earrings | Shoes (similar less expensive here)

One shoulder = Flattering. Bows = Awesome.
Drawing colors and tones from a decorative clutch to make a solid dress sparkle = Fire.

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Shop: DressShoes (less expensive here) | Earrings

Show off your investment heels in this edgy hi-low ball gown.

Hi-low gowns are my favorite! Since the front is shorter than the back, there is no need for alterations and even if the train is a bit long, it just adds to the glamour (see my hi-low Mac Duggal gown above)! SUPER petite friendly!
Strappy, caged heels like the Choos above are my go to because they sort of hold your foot in place securely and thus, are more comfortable for walking and dancing. 

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Shop: Dress | Shoes | Necklace | Clutch

I love the luxurious combination of wine and gold. The off the shoulder sleeves of this ultra-feminine gown are reminiscent of flowers, which I’ve played up with the romantic floral necklace and clutch.

Still unsure?

Here are some tried-and-true stores to check out that myself and/or other Marine wives have had luck finding dresses at:

-Lord & Taylor
-eBay (my black brocade ball gown was an eBay score!)

And accessories:

-Macy’s (tons of sales!)
-Charming Charlie
-Nordstrom Rack

If you have no choice but to buy online, opt for a large department store like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, etc. because they accept returns! I don’t recommend shopping at a dress boutique unless you can go there and try on, because 99% of them will not allow you to return your dress if you try it on and it doesn’t fit. This is definitely something to consider, as many of the brands you will find at specialty gown boutiques have sizing that runs differently from regular clothing brands, in my experience. 

Happy shopping!

♥ Mia


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