What to Wear to the Marine Corps Ball – 2019 Guide

***To see my updated 2021 post click here***

Back by popular demand, I’m writing my 2019 guide to Marine Corps Ball guest attire. This has been one of my most viewed (and shopped!) posts over the last year, so I wanted to update it with a few gowns I’ve been eyeing and some that are on trend this year.

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The United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball is considered a black-tie event, which means that ladies should be in floor-length gowns, heels, and hair and makeup befitting an exceptionally formal event. Men, a formal suit or tux is appropriate! Aside from that, this post is mainly geared toward women. I’ll break ball etiquette down briefly and simply in a list of DO’s and DON’Ts because you would be shocked at how often I’ve seen these exact “dont’s.”


  • By no means, at any point in the evening should you change into sweat pants and reemerge at the party in said leisurewear.
  • Bandage dresses, mini-dresses, cut-out dresses that leave nothing to the imagination are NEVER acceptable.
  • DO NOT “PREGAME.” Don’t be that person that’s being carried away at 6pm because they’ve already passed out.
  • If you are a guest of a Marine/Sailor, don’t invite your mom, your aunt, your sister and treat this evening as a trip to the club.


  • Wear an elegant pair of heels (any height). Most people stay for less than 3-4 hours, which is not that long to spend in heels.
  • If you don’t know how to do your own hair and makeup go to a salon, or have a friend who is good at hair and makeup help you. It’s one night where you get to look like a princess, go all out!
  • Wear the proper undergarments so that no unsightly bra straps slip out.
  • Make conversation with your table mates. People are very cliquey at the ball (in the military in general) and usually stick to their own small group of coworkers/friends, so you will have to be the one to strike up a chat.

The gowns

Now for the fun part, the gowns! The only requirement set by the USMC is that they’re floor length and “black-tie” appropriate. Other than that, it’s up to you! While many spouses choose to match their Marine in red, black, blue, or gold/silver, you certainly don’t have to!

Gold & Silver // Metallic

Shimmery metallics and sequin embellished gowns sparkle beneath the low evening lights – I always feel so glam in sequins!

Shop: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

All Red

Aside from neutral tones, red is the most popular color as it coordinates so well with the uniform. Do you recognize number one? I wore that dress, but in emerald green to the ball last year! I love the burgundy velvet strapless dress and definitely favor number three on this list!!

Shop: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

Navy or Black

You can’t go wrong in classic navy or black – so why not have a little fun with it? Unique details like the layered tulle mermaid skirt in number five and the chic use of taffeta in number six rings of something from the 1950s. Number six is my favorite but I love that number four is a chic skirted jumpsuit!

Shop: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

Green & Pink

Non-traditional colors like vibrant pinks and emerald greens are sure to stand out in a sea of black and blue – see my gown last year! With a plain or low neckline, have some fun with big statement earrings (such as the ones I wore last year) or ornate necklaces. Dress number four on this list has a surprise in the back – check it out!

Shop: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

Under $100

Each of these dresses comes in multiple colorways and all that have reviews are positive! I love that this website provides recommendations for accessories too – it’s your one stop shop that takes the stress out of dressing for the ball.

Shop: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

xo, Mia

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