For most of us, gala invites don’t come around all the time. And while it’s exciting to get all dressed up for a fancy night out, the prospect of choosing what to wear to a gala can feel a little daunting — but it doesn’t have to be. 

What is a Gala?

A gala is a formal occasion, often with entertainment, that typically marks a special event or is held to fundraise for a charitable cause. Whether the dress code denotes black tie, black tie optional, or semi-formal attire, you want to look elegant and appropriate, without blowing your entire paycheck on your look. 

Now let’s move onto the fun part: the outfits! Luckily, RTR is ready to fully outfit you for the fanciest of festivities with rental options abound, from head-turning evening gowns to statement jewelry and bags. You don’t have to feel pressured to rent a voluminous ball gown to fit the dress code, but you totally can if that’s your style. Embrace your Cinderella moment! 

If you’re not head over heels for ball gowns, rest assured that galas range in formality, so you can always find a rentable dress that fits your personal style. Scroll on for your stress-free guide to what to wear to a gala, no matter the dress code.

Turn Up the Glam for a Black Tie Gala:

Black tie galas call for long formal gowns. Opt for gowns in rich hues and fabrications, as the idea is to look elegant and sophisticated since this gala dress code is a bit more serious. That doesn’t mean your options have to be stuffy or boring: you can absolutely go glam and sexy and still follow the gala dress code. An asymmetric black gala dress in an unexpected silhouette can be just as impactful as a sparkly gown. Be sure to keep your bag smaller (leave your work bag at home) and don’t be afraid to add statement jewelry.

Black Tie Gala Outfit 1: 

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Mix It Up for a Black Tie Optional Gala:

A black tie optional gala dress code means you can choose between a formal evening gown, dressy separates or a cocktail dress. Feel free to bring the shine in a sparkly sequin sheath, go bold in bright red, or mix it up with a chic jumpsuit. Shoes should still be on the dressy side and dress hemlines shouldn’t go too short. Consider adding an extra dose of glam with jewelry and a stylish clutch.

Black Tie Optional Gala Outfit #1: 

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Black Tie Optional Gala Outfit #3: 

[View More Black Tie Optional Gala Gowns and Jumpsuits]

Have Some Fun for a Semi-formal Gala:

Semi-formal gala attire is a little more relaxed than its black tie and black tie optional counterparts. Cocktail dresses are totally appropriate for this occasion, as are more playful prints and multi-hued color schemes, so have fun with options like a bold floral print, a color block midi-dress or a ruffled dress in a bright hue. Limit yourself to a few key (but impactful!) accessories, like statement earrings and an eye-catching clutch, to keep things fun, but not fussy.

Semi-formal Gala Outfit #1: 

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[View More Semi-formal Gala Dresses]

So whether you’re headed to a charity ball, gala dinner, or any other kind of formal affair, rent the perfect dress or jumpsuit to look and feel amazing all night, and avoid spending a ton on something you’ll only wear once. It’s a win-win!

Want more help debunking dress codes? Check out RTR’s Ultimate Guide to Formal Attire.