What to Wear to Every Type of Gala

July 5, 2018

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 a look that’s appropriate for this type of special occasion can feel a little daunting — but it doesn’t have to be. We should probably first figure out what is a gala.

What is a Gala?

The general gala definition 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 that we know what is a gala, we can move onto the outfits. Luckily, evening-worthy rental options from dresses to jewelry abound, ready to fully outfit you for the fanciest of festivities. Scroll on for your stress-free guide to what to wear to a gala.

Turn Up the Glam for a Black-Tie Gala:

DRESS: CUT 25

Black-tie gala attire calls for long formal gowns — and tuxedos or formal suits for men. Opt for gowns in rich hues and fabrications, as the idea is to look elegant and sophisticated since this gala dress code is just a bit more serious. But that doesn’t mean your options for long gala dresses 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 with just the right amount of bare skin 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.

DRESS: JAY GODFREY, BRACELET: KENNETH JAY LANE, BAG: SONDRA ROBERTS

DRESS: HALSTON HERITAGE, NECKLACE: OSCAR DE LA RENTA, CLUTCH: WHITING AND DAVIS

DRESS: MARCHESA NOTTE, CLUTCH: INGE CHRISTOPHER, EARRINGS: BEN AMUN

Mix It Up for a Black-Tie Optional Gala:

DRESS: SHOSHANNA

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 a red gala dress, or mix it up with a chic jumpsuit. Shoes should still be on the dressy side and dress hemlines shouldn’t go too short. Of course, add an extra shot of evening with jewelry and a luxe clutch.

DRESS: PARKER, EARRINGS: SAM EDELMAN, CLUTCH: REBECCA MINKOFF

DRESS: ELIZABETH AND JAMES, CUFF: NOCTURNE, CLUTCH: DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

JUMPSUIT: MILLY, CLUTCH: FRANCHI , EARRINGS: KENNETH JAY LANE

Have Some Fashion Fun for Semi Formal Gala:

DRESS: KATE SPADE NEW YORK

Semi formal gala attire is a little more relaxed than its black-tie and black-tie optional counterparts. Cocktail gala 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 brightly colored ruffled dress. Remember to keep your accessories to a minimum so that your eye-catching frock can take center stage.

DRESS: NICOLE MILLER, CLUTCH: GIGI NEW YORK, BRACELET: JENNY PACKHAM

DRESS: THEIA, NECKLACE: OSCAR DE LA RENTA, CLUTCH: CHRISTIAN SIRIANO

DRESS: CUSHNIE ET OCHS, CLUTCH: LOEFFLER RANDALL, EARRINGS: ELIZABETH AND JAMES

So whether you’re headed to a charity ball, gala dinner, or any other kind of black-tie event, you don’t have to rent a ball gown to fit the dress code. Gala social events range in formality, so remember to opt for a dress that fits your personal style and use accessories to elevate your look.