Help me Pick a Military Ball Dress!

If you’ve been around anyone associated with the military  for a hot minute, you now there’s a lot to complain about. Deployments, TDY’s, PCSing being voluntold to do this, and told to do that, those absolutely ridiculous hours, yada, yada, yada. But there are definitely some perks, too: great insurance, friends who become your family, homecomings; and one of the things that I haven’t experienced yet: a military ball. 

My husband and I started dating more than a decade ago, which means I’ve had a full 10 years of hearing all about “The Ball.” And yet, every. single. time the ball came around, something came up. It was always something big, too: a deployment, or we moved overseas and across the country; a last-minute TDY (business trip), or work that didn’t leave time to play.

So time and time again, I got to see my girlfriends dress up and look like a million bucks, with their handsome fellow on their arm, posing for pictures. I envisioned my turn to wear the pretty dress, get my hair done, maybe wear heals again for the first time in years, and best of all…stand next to my man while he wears his dress blues.

Going to the Ball!

Well, it looks like my turn is finally here! Only instead of celebrating the Air Force’s birthday, we get to do it Marine style since my husband is currently with a Marine detachment here in San Diego. And I’m pretty darn excited. Not just because of the dressing up part, but because I’ve heard Marine balls are pretty spectacular. Bring. It. On.

This year they’re having the ball on the Queen Mary up in Long Beach—how cool is that? I can’t wait to get all dolled up and then have a fun and fancy night on such an iconic ship. Plus, we’re spending the night on it, too! It also turns out my grandmother-in-law actually rode on the Queen Mary back in its heyday! I can’t wait!

First Things First

But first…a girl needs a dress, and talk about pressure. I’ve seen enough posts about what not to wear to a military ball, that I knew what I did want: something classy, fun, moveable, and, of course, pretty. I didn’t want to spend tons of money on something I’d only wear for one night, so I’ve been on the hunt for the right dress for a few months, and I’ve narrowed it down to four. Yup. Four.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a size 4, and I’ve had three babies in a very short time span, so this body of mine is vastly different than it was six years ago. I almost went with Rent the Runway to get something fabulous, but my fear of getting something at the last-minute that didn’t fit left me too anxious to press the “rent” option.

So I bought two dresses from Nordstrom Rack, and two more from JC Penny when they were having a fabulous sale. I’m keeping the tags on them, and not touching them except to try them on here and there so I can return the three I don’t pick.

So…can you help me pick a dress? I’ll share my pros/cons with each of them after the photo!

My Military Ball Dress Options:

“The Pink Dress”

Adrianna Papell Draped Jersey Top Taffeta Skirt Fit & Flare Dress; originally $229, but bought it for stupid cheap at Nordstrom Rack for $75. You can find it here at Dillard’s.

Pros: Pockets. Need I go on? I feel like a princess in this dress since it’s got the poof. I also like that it’s modest up top, and I could actually nurse in it if I need to that night without taking the entire dress off.

Cons: The color. It’s a little on the blah side. You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s a super pale beige/pink. It’s not white by any means, but it’s just not like a “wow” color. I feel like I’d really have to really jazz it up with some bling…but this mama’s only worn teething necklaces lately, so I’d have to go shopping. Not the worst thing in the world, of course, but that’s just more money to spend on one night. I’ll also need to send it to the dry cleaner and get it steamed and pressed…or whatever they do there to make it look like I didn’t just pull it out of my bag.

“The Black Dress”

Melrose Sleeveless Sequin and Lace Evening Gown; originally $120, but paid $42, because sales rock my socks off. Find it here at JC Penny.

Pros: It’s comfortable. A little too comfortable, possibly, because it’s a tad bit too big for me. BUT, comfort is pretty much my middle name these days. It’s also black, and I’m a huge fan of black.

Cons: It’s big. I wish I ordered it a size smaller so it’d hug me a tad bit more up top. It’s a fine dress…just not sure if it’s the best for this occasion.

“The Blue Dress”

Eliza J Plus Lace-Bodice Tiered Gown; originally $228, but got it at Nordstrom Rack for $75.
You can find it here from Amazon.

Pros: It fits me perfectly, and I think it’s pretty flattering. It would also look lovely next to my husband’s dress blues. The length is great, so I wouldn’t have to worry about tripping over it or having to get it hemmed, and it’s comfortable.

Cons: I’m not too sure about the jeweled belt. I mean, I like the belt, but it’s just colors I’m not used to wearing. I usually go the more silver route as opposed to the gold/yellows. I’m also not sure if it’s too “old,” mother-of-the-bride looking. Then again, I am definitely on the older side of things at this shin-dig (even if I don’t feel like I am).

“The Red Dress”

R & M Richards Short Sleeve Evening Gown; originally $140; bought it for $48 from JCPenny.com. You can find a similar dress here.

Pros: Um…it’s gorgeous! I LOVE the color, and all the sparkle. The ruching is in all the right places, and flatters me.

Cons: two BIG problems with this one: SO. MUCH. GLITTER. It goes everywhere. I can only imagine how much will be on me and my husband, and all over the venue or anything I touch by the time the night is over. My finger is legitimately red and sparkly if I even barely touch the dress. The other issue is that it’s also a size too big. I think I’d always be fidgeting in it, which would result in more glitter e v e r y w h e r e. (I’m pretty sad about these to cons, to be honest, because I love this dress.)


Okay, there you have it: my military ball dress options. Once I pick a dress I need to nail down shoes, which is a whole other issue since I live in Birkenstocks. But…you can’t exactly wear Birks to a ball, so I’m shopping around for shoes that are comfy AND stylish enough to wear with one of these dresses. Oh, and then I need to figure out accessories and what to do with the hair. Basically, I have my work cut out for me. Now where’s my Fairy Godmother to help with all this?

What do you think? Help me pick what I should wear!


  1. Go blue!! I don’t think it’s too old at all, it is so flattering and you look awesome! My second choice is the red one, though I can imagine the glitter could be a nuisance.

  2. I love the blue dress, dress #3. The belt didn’t stand out to me, so I zoomed in, and I like it. I also like the red dress, #4, but I see your point with the glitter! You got great deals on those dresses! I’d love to see a blog post on how you get such great deals! Tell me all your shopping secrets! You’ll be beautiful no matter which dress you go with. Have fun!

  3. So fun! I like the blue or black one. I’m all about comfort too, so the black sounds perfect, could you take it in a bit on top?

  4. Blue!!! It looks amazing on you flatters your shape and I personally love the flare the layers give

  5. I love the pink dress, I think it’s so pretty and looks so flattering on you! If you need some bling bling jewelry but don’t want to spend a lot of money you could try Rocksbox, I’m sure you’ve heard of that. I have a code you could use to get your first month for free! I do also like the red dress on you but the glitter getting everywhere would drive me crazy!

  6. The red one has the WOW factor. Looks fantastic but just say now to glitter. Why did they add glitter???
    I vote the blue – you look beautiful in it and you and your hubby will look great together.
    Have a wonderful time at the Ball!

  7. I’m going to say Blue #3! It is beautiful on you and will flatter him so well! Looks very comfy as well. My second pick would be the pink dress or #1. I love the fit of this dress as well and understand your con of not enough color. Can totally be jazzed up with a shaw for a pop of color. I don’t do glitter although the Red dress is gorgeous, I just cant with the glitter, all over you, your car, your husband and his dress blues… Yep I stick with Blue for sure! Hope you have an amazing time at your first Ball!

  8. I haven’t been to a military ball either, and I am DYING to go! The Air Force has some pretty spectacular Christmas parties and other celebrations and dinners for my dude’s job, so we’ve been able to get fancy, but a ball is a must! Also, blue is my favorite. 🙂 You look amazing in it!

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