What To Wear To A Gala: Your Guide to the Gala Dress Code & 15 Outfit Ideas

Galas and formal events can be really exciting, especially for you fashionistas who love to get dressed up. But if you’re not a huge fashion enthusiast, deciding what to wear can be an overwhelming task. We often get questions about what to wear to galas, formal events, black tie events, white tie events, weddings, etc. because it really can be quite confusing! But today, we’re going to shed some light on gala dress codes, what a gala is, and share some gala outfits for you to recreate for your next gala, formal, or black tie event.

If you’re looking for more guidance on what to wear to weddings, Erin shared the four questions you should ask yourself first in this post.

What To Wear To A Gala

What To Wear To A Gala

You know when you’re meeting up with friends and you send the usual “what are you going to wear” text? You do that so you feel like you’re on the same page as your friends, you know what to expect, and you can plan accordingly. Well, understanding what to expect from the gala you’re attending is kind of the same. If you know what to expect, you can plan what you want to wear and how you want to accessorize. So the first step is to know exactly what a gala is…

What Is A Gala

Merriam-Webster defines a gala as a festive celebration and a public entertainment marking a special occasion. That’s pretty vague if you ask us! To us, a gala is a glamorous event that usually involves entertainment, food, socializing, and fabulous fashion. From experience, most galas are centered around a charity, fundraising, or honoring someone.

Dress Code For A Gala

Dress Code For A Gala

Here’s where things can get a little tricky. There are usually three different dress codes for galas…formal, black-tie, and white-tie. It’s important that you check the invitation you received to confirm the dress code requested.

Formal: A formal dress code is slightly less formal than a black-tie dress code and means you have a little more leeway. But in our opinion…it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed! We recommend a midi or floor-length dress in elevated fabrics, classic and simple shoes, and impactful accessories. With formal attire, you can also play around with more trendy pieces and colors. If you’re interested in the best fashion trends, make sure you check out this post.

Black-Tie: A black-tie dress code means black tuxedos for men and floor-length gowns or dresses for women. Your dress should touch the floor or the top of your shoes when the invitation says black tie. For accessories, don’t be afraid to dial it up a bit by adding some sparkle or more impactful pieces.

White-Tie: White-tie events and dress codes have the highest level of formality and are a lot less common now. Men typically wear tailcoats. For women, formal dresses are required…but not just any formal dress. It’s best to go with a ball gown or a very formal gown! And it doesn’t stop there…white-tie is the perfect time to bring out the white silk gloves, statement jewelry, and your chicest dress shoes.

In general: For any special occasions with these dress codes, avoid short cocktail dresses, sneakers, jeans, tees, anything casual, or anything too revealing.

Gala Outfits

15 Gala Outfits

Below we’re sharing 15 gala outfits that should be a great springboard for outfit inspiration. All of these looks will work for a black-tie gala and most formal events. But if you have any additional questions, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post! You’re going to notice a pattern with most of these gala outfits. They all include a gorgeous dress, a fabulous bag, some chic heels, and impactful jewelry. Remember that these are simply ideas you can use to recreate your own outfit at home with something you already own. BUT, if you’re looking for that perfect gala dress, you’re sure to find one in this list!

#1) Tadashi Shoji Bow Gown

First up is this classic black and white gown by Tadashi Shoji. We LOVE the big white bow contrasting the all-black dress. It’s just the right amount of drama! The modest mock neck is also lovely, but you still show a little skin on the arms. We feature the dress with a pearl embellished Cult Gaia clutch, impactful but simple Monica Vinader jewelry, and sleek black pumps.

Gala Outfit ideas

#2) Black Halo Asymmetrical Draped Gown

About half of the dresses we’re sharing are black, but that’s only because we know that’s what most women tend to gravitate toward and we want to make sure we’re giving you what you want! But this Black Halo dress comes in a few other colors (including some gorgeous bold colors) in case you love the style but not the color. We love the asymmetrical neckline, slit, and flattering draping. This is perfect for anyone who wants to hide a tummy because the draping and ruffles help conceal that area without drawing attention to it. We have it styled with a classic clutch, some embellished heels, statement earrings, and a black wrap. A wrap like this is a wonderful accessory to have in your closet for events.

Xscape Ruffle Off-Shoulder Gown

#3) Xscape Ruffle Off-Shoulder Gown

We love the ruffle details around the neckline of this black gown. Plus, it has short sleeves so you still get that arm coverage without getting too hot. This dress is a crepe material which is perfect for hiding any lumps and bumps. The subtle ruching on the tummy and back is also super flattering. It also comes in a pretty deep green and navy and is under $240. Add some sparkle with your jewelry and accessories to really make this look shine!

Flutter Sleeve Trumpet Dress | What To Wear To A Gala

#4) Eliza J Flutter Sleeve Trumpet Dress

If you don’t want to show as much decolletage, this is another wonderful option. It has a higher neckline but still has some sheer mesh panels at the shoulders to show some skin. The trumpet silhouette is also SO flattering! This is one of those dresses you’ll wear for multiple special events…and it’s under $230! Style this with classic black accessories to keep it simple or add some trendy metallic pieces like these cool Badgley Mischka heels.

Belted Metallic Gown | What To Wear To A Gala

#5) Badgley Mischka Collection Belted Metallic Gown

How stunning is this black and gold dress? Talk about making a statement! Metallics are having a moment right now so this would be a beautiful but elegant on-trend option. The gold is so pretty and the way the ruffles lay is super unique. The belted waist and slightly flared skirt are also super flattering. With this dress, we would let it do all the talking and keep your accessories simple and classic.

Tiered Ruffle Gown | What To Wear To A Gala

#6) Zac Posen Tiered Ruffle Gown

The dark, deep blue of this Zac Posen gown is so pretty and we love the tiered ruffles. The sweetheart neckline and bustier top combined with the fit-and-flare silhouette is very flattering. We love the romantic and feminine feel of this dress! If you’re worried about showing your shoulders, throw on a wrap like the one we linked below. Complete your look with some neutral, classic accessories and you’re ready!

Crystal V Jumpsuit | What To Wear To A Gala

#7) Good American Crystal V Jumpsuit

If you’re headed to a gala that’s a little more lax, go for an elevated jumpsuit! This one by Good American has a hint of sparkle at the neckline from some pretty crystal embellishments. The fabric of this jumpsuit is a thicker scuba material, which is very flattering and really smooths. Oh, and it’s super affordable! Add some sparkle to the look with accessories to play up the crystals on the neckline.

Pleated Jumpsuit | What To Wear To A Gala

#8) Amanda Uprichard Pleated Jumpsuit

If you want to try a jumpsuit but are looking for something more forgiving, this metallic gold Amanda Uprichard jumpsuit is perfect. The flowy top helps conceal a tummy and the roomy pants are very forgiving. The vertical pleats make you look taller and leaner, which is always a win! And the gold is SO pretty and on-trend! Style it with neutral accessories, bold jewelry, and add a wrap for some added coverage if you want it.

Efrain Mogollon La Soledad Dress

#9) Efrain Mogollon La Soledad Dress

This dress is for those of you who love the metallic trend but want something a little more elevated. When we saw this dress, the first thing we thought was that it looked very goddess-like! It’s so pretty, chic, and sleek…but also so unique! It has long balloon sleeves, cool lame stretch fabric, a cutout back detail, and a gathered bodice. In the last look, we styled the jumpsuit with skin-tone-colored accessories so for this look, we wanted to share a way to wear your metallic with darker or black accessories…both are great options!

Self Portrait Crystal Mesh Gown

#10) Self Portrait Crystal Mesh Gown

This is a bit of a wildcard but it’s so pretty we had to share. The main reason we chose this is because of the gorgeous all-over crystals! They’re SO pretty and unexpected. This dress also has a turtleneck and feminine flutter sleeves. We leaned into the sparkle and styled it with even more metallic and statement pieces, but you could also keep it simple with neutral accessories.

Solani Bow Dress | What To Wear To A Gala

#11) Solani Bow Dress

The rest of the dresses are for those of you who want something fun and colorful! First up is this super elegant Solani dress that is just SO beautiful. The color, the bow details, the fabric, the fit, the flattering draped detail…it’s all perfection! This one is pretty pricey but you can still pull inspiration from this outfit idea!

Faithful The Brand Magenta Dress

#12) Faithful The Brand Magenta Dress

If you liked the color of the last dress, this is a more affordable option in a similar hue. This dress is in slubbed weave fabric that you should be able to wear to a gala…but you could definitely wear this to a formal wedding if that’s what you’re looking for. We love the higher neck, slits on the side, and open criss-cross back. We featured it with some more elevated accessories to really dress it up.

Solani Floral Applique Dress

#13) Solani Floral Applique Dress

This is another gorgeous dress by Solani in a velvet fabric that screams luxury! We love the floral appliques on the bottom of the dress…rosettes and 3D florals on clothing are very on-trend right now. The cowl neck is very flattering and the draping looks so elegant. We had some fun styling this with gold metallic pieces but you could easily wear this with neutral accessories to let the dress do all the talking.

Betsy & Adam Bow One-Shoulder Dress

#14) Betsy & Adam Bow One-Shoulder Dress

Next up is this bright red one-shoulder dress by Betsy & Adam. Fiery red is having a moment right now and what better time to wear a bold color than to a special event?! This dress has flattering crepe fabric, a mermaid silhouette, and a fun bow detail at the shoulder. With a dress this streamlined and elegant, keep the accessories simple but always add a little sparkle.

Aje Regent Dress

#15) Aje Regent Dress

If bright red isn’t your thing, try a more muted dark red. This Aje dress is so beautiful and looks so regal. Because of all of the elevated details, you can probably get away with wearing this to a black-tie event. It has super luxe shantung fabric, which is a type of silk weave that’s pretty and unique. The gathered waist and ruched bodice are also very chic and unexpected. This dress is for the fashion-forward woman who loves to make a statement!

Which of these gala outfits or dresses was your favorite? Please share in the comments below!

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