7 Reasons to Wear a Formal Dress

Here are several reasons for you to dress up, doll up and wear that formal dress you've always wanted to take out of the closet and some several very useful tips.

A group of women wearing formal dresses to prom.

Have you just spent an obscene amount of money on a formal occasion? Are you wondering if there is any chance of ever wearing that stunning dress again, or if it’s doomed to a lifetime of bedroom fashion shows?

We were also saddened by the thought of the glittering beauties gathering dust and perishing, forgotten in the back of a closet, so we have found a few reasons to wear a formal dress that you might not have considered.

Formal wear, full dress, or formal attire, is the dress code category applicable to most formal traditional Western occasions. The most popular occasions that require formal dress are weddings, funerals,  religious traditions, balls or proms, specific dinners, operas,  and horse racing events.

To give you a few more ideas on where it is acceptable and often expected to wear a formal gown, let’s break it down into the main occasions that will see you strutting your stuff in that showstopper again or give you an excuse to buy a new one!

Table of Contents

Formal Wear at Proms

A group of teenagers wearing formal wear heading off to prom.

Proms are immensely inspired by fashion trends and might not always be the most traditional when it comes to gown choice. The event’s theme will dictate what type of formal wear to go for, but it is generally more Formal or Black-tie, and sometimes Semi-formal. Everyone is eager to express their blossoming individuality, which can lead to some cringe-worthy photographs to look back on.

This is a sad prom queen wearing a red sequined dress.
Image of Sad Prom Queen

Most of us will attend a formal event such as a prom at least once in our lives, and perhaps more than once if you are popular enough to be a date to someone else’s prom. There are not many occasions for us “regular Joes” to get dressed up and feel like royalty, so best we enjoy it to its fullest.

Tip: Even though you think you look “banging” in that see-through mesh corset, don’t do it! Whatever you think your dream dress looks like, dial it back by 5%, and you could save yourself some regrets!

Formal Wear For Weddings

Whether you are a part of the Bridal Party or just a guest at a wedding, the chances are good that the dress code will be either Formal, Black-Tie, or Semi-Formal. The Bride and Groom usually stipulate the level of formal attire expected, and this will dictate whether you need to wear a full gown or if a more playful Cocktail dress is appropriate.

This is a close look at the bride and her bridesmaids wearing dresses.
Image of Bride & Bridesmaids

A wedding gown is probably the one dress that a woman will spend the most money, time, and worry on. It is also not likely to be worn again by the same woman and is often kept as an heirloom to be passed down to her daughter, and the more modern scenario sees it being sold to another Bride at a more affordable price.

Tip: It is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. So unless you are confident that the occasion is Smart-Casual, instead opt for the Formal beauty in the back of your closet.

Religious And Traditional Reasons To Wear A Formal Dress

Among the many cultures and religions across the World, we find several celebrations appropriate for a formal dress. Some of these occasions will be more modern and relaxed in the type of dress you can wear, while others have a few more rules that need to be followed to conform to tradition.

Below is a list of the more common religious and traditional occasions that require formal attire:

  1. Christmas Parties
  2. Easter Celebrations
  3. Christening or Baptisms
  4. Confirmations
  5. Bahmitzvahs
  6. Funerals
  7. Marine or Army Ball
This is a look at a group of friends at a Christmas party wearing formal wear.
Image of Friends Dressed up For A Christmas Party

Tip: When it comes to dressing for a religious celebration, it is preferable to dress more conservatively to avoid offending the more traditional relatives.

Formal Wear For Opera

If ever there was an event suited to a night of flair and dressing to the nines, it would be going to the Opera. Depending on the type of show you will be attending, and what time of day it is, you will more than likely be rocking that formal dress again.

This is a full view of an empty opera theater with warm lighting.
Image of Theatre Stage

Some things to keep in mind when dressing for the Opera:

  • A little black dress is safe if you’re unsure of the dress code. The classic LBD will never let you down.
  • For a super formal affair, dazzle in an evening gown. Allow your personal style to guide your choice of color, fit, and style. Have fun with a touch of beadwork, or plunging neckline, or trendy cutouts.
  • If you’re a woman who would be more comfortable in pants, a satin jumpsuit is a stylish option. You could also don a well-tailored tux for a more modern edge.
  • Avoid too many rhinestones or sequins, neon colors, or cheaper fabrics like polyester, netting, or tulle.

Remember that a night at the Opera is a costly affair, so enjoy every moment and dress up!

Formal Wear For Horse Races

Although not always mandatory, many people choose to dress up for a day at the horse races as it forms part of the race-day experience. Men are generally required to wear button-up shirts, trousers, and dress shoes, and many add a tie or blazer. Ladies often attend the races for the high fashion events and competitions for best dressed.

This is a look at men and women wearing formal wear at the horse racetrack.
Image of Men and Women at The Races

A few of the more prestigious races, like the five-day event at the Royal Ascot, have stringent guidelines on what men and women are expected to wear, and non-compliance can result in being denied entry.

Tip: Always check the website associated with the race you are attending, as they will probably list any dress code rules and requirements.

Formal Wear For Other Events

This is an old couple having a romantic dinner in their formal wear.

There are actually many occasions to wear a formal dress, and it is a great item to invest in.

Even if you don’t have any significant events on the calendar, you could use some of the below ideas as an opportunity to wear your formal dress:

  • New Year’s Eve Parties
  • Formal Corporate Dinners
  • Halloween Costumes
  • Girl’s Night Out
  • Romantic Dinners for Two
  • Year-End Functions

Tip: Most parties and events have a different crowd who have never seen you before, so feel free to wear your favorite dress to multiple occasions.

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