What Not to Do at a Military Ball (By a 1SGT)


We spouses like to bicker about what our husbands’ leadership must think about the attire of spouses, girlfriends, partners and Milsos at the ball. This time we decided to ask. Here, straight from the source, is one Army First Sgt.’s (E-8) instructions for spouses at the ballpresented as only a First Sgt. could.

As an Army first sergeant, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see issues that can be avoided if soldiers and their spouses would just talk about military life, its expectations and find their own middle ground.

However, I know it’s hard to tell your spouse how the military expects him or her to act. It’s even harder when it comes to military balls. How do you tell your spouse that their behavior and attitude isn’t “appropriate” at the company party?

In my 27-years as an Infantryman, I’ve seen a lot and I always tell it like it is. Of all the things that have happened at balls (and of those listed below only one didn’t), there are a few categories that always makes the list of don’ts.

What NOT to wear:

1. Knee-high boots with 4-inch heels and a skin-tight leotard jumpsuit is not military ball attire.

2. Sheer outfits, transparent dresses and no appropriate underclothing is not a good combination.

3. Wearing matching plaid outfits to the ball isn’t necessary to prove that you’re truly a team.

4. How you dress does reflect on your spouse regardless of rank–officer or NCO. Whether at the ball, an FRG meeting or a Hail and Farewell—how you dress affects your soldier. Period.

How NOT to eat:

1. Dinner isn’t like it is at Olive Garden — it’s not an all you can eat buffet.

2. Please don’t “order-in” pizza or Buffalo wings because you don’t care for what’s being served.

3. This is not musical chairs: don’t change your assigned seating because you don’t like who’s at your table.

4. Silverware, dinnerware, centerpieces and glassware are not to be considered party favors unless they are printed with the name of the event and you are invited to take them home.

It’s Just Not Authorized:

1. While in the receiving line, it’s not necessary to hug everyone in your spouse’s chain-of-command.

2. The colors being retired isn’t code for “Let’s get this party started.”

3. “Dropping it low” is not the equivalent of freestyle ballroom dancing.

4. Don’t even think about bringing the “purse-puppy” to the ball because you couldn’t find a pet-sitter.

5. This isn’t grade school — making out on the dance floor is not cool anymore.

On the subject of “beverages:”

1. There isn’t a prize at the end of the ball for the attendee who consumes the most shots.

2. You may think coming to the ball already inebriated make you more social … it really doesn’t.

3. The whole platoon buying rounds for the guest-speaker (before his speech), isn’t the best way to make a lasting impression on leadership.

4. Sip, don’t gulp when a toast is made.  And, please, don’t finish the glass with each toast.

5. If you’re not asked to make a toast … don’t.

And for the gents concerning Household Six:

1.Never bring your buddy’s ex-girlfriend as your date.

2. The ball isn’t the place to hook-up with someone else’s date.

3. Just bring a relative or come alone; it’s better than bringing a professional date.

About the Author

Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro
Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro is a journalist by trade, a blogger, creative writing instructor and business owner. She has a Bachelor's in English and a Master's in Writing. She's written for various newspapers including Joint Base Lewis-McChord's The Ranger, the Airlifter, The Pacific Northwest Veterans, and two online magazines -- JBLM Spouses and JBLM Singles. Corinne writes for the Killeen Daily Herald newspaper (http://kdhnews.com/blogs/health_springs/), and her military blog (http://www.rankandfile.blog.com) profiles interviews, articles and editorials on issues surrounding military life. Her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood, TX.

123 Comments on "What Not to Do at a Military Ball (By a 1SGT)"

  1. All this stuff about dress codes makes me glad we are Air Force, and not hung up on worrying about what everyone else is wearing.

    • Jojo613: you are seriously wrong about that! Trust me as active duty when we show up to a formal or even semi formal event, what the spouse or significant other is wearing is being judged by all. I can’t stand to see female spouses show up to a formal event looking like a hoochie and I know I’m not the only one. This may have been written by an army 1st sergeant but it holds true for ALL branches of service.

      • So very true!!! So many have lost the sense of propriety in this country and we need it back!! The way you dress says a lot about who we are and I don't care who says otherwise. We have to be PC to everyone and that is part of the problem. We don't have to be mean but just be honest! I have learned to not give the obligatory "You look great" to those who can care less that these are formal occasions and if I wanted to hang out at a raunchy night club with my husband I would not have spent all my time getting hair done, nails done and picking out the perfect ball gown. Lets be ladies, LADIES!!! Oh, and yes we can all tell that they are paid for " the breast and the dates! DRESS TO THE UNIFORM!!!

      • I'll be more specific about what I'm talking about. I have seen many military spouses in other services get catty about younger spouses and girlfriends wearing prom dresses to things like military balls and holiday parties (though throughout my 16 years married– I have been a grand total of 3 balls, the rest of the time it's been semi-formal cocktail parties where short cocktail dresses are appropriate).

        Someone dressed as a hoochie– judge away. Although deep down inside I think they either have an over abundance of self confidence or a complete lack of self awareness.

        But I will not judge someone for wearing a prom dress, a bridesmaid dress, or a recycled dress. Reason being, I don't know their situation. Maybe going to these types of things is a huge expense for them, and they can afford the babysitter and the ticket, but she can't afford to get a new dress that would be *more* appropriate for the occasion.

        I can speak as a former military officer and as a spouse of a current military officer, I have been more worried about someone not embarrassing themselves with their drinking and getting home safely, than I have been about how their date is dressed. In the grand scheme of things, I would tend to be judgmental of someone who drinks themselves to idiocy than a spouse who is wearing a cocktail dress instead of a ball gown. That being said, one time I saw my boss' spouse lose her ball gown during a rousing game of combat scavenger hunt– she was dressed appropriately for the occasion, but her husband accidentally pulled her gown down, trying to beat her to the chair. We all had a good laugh, he is now a Colonel, and no one begrudged her for the wardrobe malfunction.

      • Coming from a retired Army spouse, who attended many a formal and informal event, that 1st Sgt is absolutely correct on every level….so I agree with you, Jojo613. As far as. MY NOT BEING A MEMBER OF THE MILITARY AND TOSE SAME REGS NOT APPLYING TO ME…..I SAY BUNK! Those regs apply to each and every active member and their significant other. Respect yourself, but more importantly, respect your soldier.

    • Unless you joined there us no “we” are air force Jojo your husbands airforce

      • I spent 5 years in the military, active duty Air Force, and I am now a disabled veteran. So yes there is a WE in Air Force.

      • Furthermore, if the military insists that spouses follow dress codes and regulations, then I think we spouses can say that we are a part of the organization and there for we are an Air Force family.

    • You (to include your husband) are not even in the military so, none of this applies to you, sweetie.

      • the first mel | September 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

        How come I didn't get the memo about the Air Force not being military? P.S. I hate it when people slap a sugary word on a condescending comment. I can't understand why people think it's an appropriate way to get across the idea that you think a person is an idiot.

  2. Wear what you want, just have self-respect. ;) If the command has a strict dress code, code of conduct and preselected menu then they should send out formal invites indicating such so that the attendees are prepared. Honestly, the servicemember is more to blame than the dates. I've seen more of them acting incredibly disrespectful than worrying about who's wife is showing cleavage. Style is subjective and a personal subject and if the command doesn't want anyone to "drop it low" then they should have an approved list of music. Let's be honest and realistic.

    • Very well put Amber! I’ve been to balls at the Corps level where top level officials set the tone of the event and I was quite surprised by their behavior. It is no wonder that Soldiers and spouses then act the way they do at future events not knowing any better.

    • MGySgt Wife Retired | September 6, 2013 at 12:33 am |

      Amber sweetie, there is no such thing as an invitation, formal or otherwise. The ball is a tradition, not a "party" hence the word "ball". Your husband is your "invitation" as he is also your model to how you should dress. Since he will be in his dress uniform, than the concept of you being in an evening gown shouldn't be that far off base. If a service member is disrespecting the uniform, than as a military wife you need to say something to that person or bring it to the attention of someone higher up. NEVER EVER should the uniform of ANY branch be disrespected, although it happens everyday when the service member puts in on like a "9 to 5" job.

  3. Amber again wrong! Formal and semi formal means just that if you don’t know how to conduct yourself at an event titled as such then please decline the invitation from your spouse or significant other. There is a time and a place to “drop it low” and “show cleavage” but military events like a ball is not the place nor the time for that. Our military balls are based on tradition and traditionally people weren’t acting as though they just came to the club to get their drink on and catch themselves a man in uniform.

    • Cleavage is always appropriate in formal attire. From the beginnings of the word Formal and Ball. What world are we living in? Not everyone is a Mormon wearing magic undies or a Muslim, or a Pentecostal. Not that there is anything wrong with those groups, but expecting everyone to dress like them is not showing respect to those who like the dress they are wearing. Respecting oneself has nothing to do with their cup size or how their neckline is cut. I do agree with the no sheer/may as well be nude policy. I do agree with staying as sober as possible and I do agree with staying at the table you were placed in. I have been to at least 20 balls, dinning in's and out's, and have always found somebody; sometimes many wonderful new people to talk to at my table.

      • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm |

        On the cleavage, you're technically correct. Evening attire is cleavage not only permissible in most instances any actual evening gown will be cut to appropriately accentuate cleavage. I always tell young spouses to aim for the Oscars and not the MTV music awards, this usually gives them a good visual guideline. On your other post, I disagree on the color point. We were raised that balls are not about the spouses dress, they are about the dress uniform and all its bells and whistles. The color of your dress should not distract from the showiness of the dress uniform. Nor should you be bedazzled from head to toe…for the same reason. I think anyone questioning what is appropriate or not appropriate could take a look at State attire. Some colors just have no business at a formal military event, I don't care what the cut of the dress.

  4. As an officer's wife, I have noticed that typically officer's wives dress tastefully. Minimal to no cleavage, muted colors, simple yet elegant. Then I look around the room and it seems the more lower enlisted the more revealing and ostentatious the dresses become. So do yourself and your spouse a favor, put away the prom dress and wear something your grandmother would approve of.

    • No need to get into the officer/enlisted divide and start calling people out, it's simply untrue that all officer's spouses dress perfect for the occasion. There are spouses, regardless of rank, that pull this kind of stuff or that want to flaunt their cleavage and try to be sexy when they shouldn't. I would say the only thing that can be a predictor, somewhat, would be the spouse's time married to a servicemember. The longer the marriage, the more balls attended, the more they probably understand what's expected of them (one would hope). The spouse isn't 100% to blame if they dress incorrectly; if they don't ask and their servicemember doesn't tell them what's expected, this kind of stuff can happen.

    • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 9:56 am |

      That's funny…I am recalling back…and the worst faux pas I have ever seen come from the dates of LTs and 2LTs…many of which I think were hired for the occasion.

    • Please don't say you are an officer's spouse, because you don't represent what many officer's spouses feel. As another officer's spouse, I say cut the kids some slack. Many of the younger enlisted spouses are barely out of high school, and their high school prom dress is the only thing they have to wear. These balls are expensive. If they are paying for the ticket and babysitting, and they are not dressed as a hoochie, let it slide. It's too bad that many of my co-horts are so far removed from the struggles that many young enlisted families face that they are so quick to judge them negatively for wearing what they can afford. If you want them to dress classy and muted, and not wear their prom dresses, then buck up the money and buy them a dress, or loan them one, instead of being all high and mighty.

      • I'm actually with you on cutting the younger ones some slack. I attended my first ball at 24 in a cocktail dress (while it was an appropriate length for normal functions, it was a bit too short for a formal military function). I didn't mean to wear something mildly inappropriate, I was jus clueless (and mortified upon arriving and seeing everyone else in floor length). Fast forward to now, as the spouse of a former CO with a bunch of balls behind me, I do have sympathy for the younger gals that maybe just don't know yet. I don't see anything wrong with anybody reusing a prom dress at all… Younger families really have to prioritize financially, and I'm just glad so many of us are lucky to attend a special ball that honors our spouses and the Corps every year.

      • You are absolutely classy. Thank you for that reply ma'am.

    • The officer's wives with great figures dress in bright and eye catching colors and drop dead gorgeous dresses that often show cleavage. They look elegant, and every head turns because they look BEAUTIFUL! I'd suggest nobody wear mute colors that make them look boring. I don't care who you are or what your mans rank is; wear what makes you feel prettiest. That is the key. When the snarling meanies glare you down, just know it's their own insecurities and it's solely their problem, not yours. As far as this rank calling out biz…WOW!! Talk about classless, completely pitiful and classless. Someone's Grandma should have taught them how to speak to others without being appallingly offensive.

      • Its just not the place for that Erin. Remember, when it comes to formal functions where there is military protocols; modest is hottest. :)

      • ProperNavyWife | August 30, 2013 at 3:49 am |

        It's not the spouse's event…it's the place for the servicemember to shine. Dress modest and let him (or her) steal the eyes of everyone there. There are other times and places for the spouses to be the center of attention.

    • Becky – get off your high horse and just remember that you are a spouse and not an officer. Now that that is out of the way, I just had a military dining out a couple weeks ago. Looking around the room, it was the officer wives and senior enlisted spouses that were dressed as the hoochie mamas and acting the fool cause they felt they were entitled to do so under the fact they were married to the rank. a 2LT was shaking her ass on the dance floor, acting like a fool while in uniform and acting VERY unprofessional, yet while on duty she tried to be the one that is "always proper"…. It doesn't matter what rank, every rank has those that will dress like hoochies while others will dress tastefully. It is all based off of the unit and the environment that is around them. 3 different duty stations and numerous military functions at each and the rank structure of how the spouses dressed changed at each area. Current location is the officer and senior NCO spouses, while at my last duty station, it was the junior enlisted and junior officer wives that were the "inappropriately" dressed individuals. I'm an NCO and my wife was dressed very well.

    • LOL Well Becky I have some great videos of my last ball where the "officers wives " are dancing like they are in a strip club… GET over your self!! We are all in the same boat your husband has rank you have none!!!

    • You lost me at "As an officer's wife". Get over yourself honey.

    • Becky, obviously you're not the wife of a US Marine Corps Officer. Also, remember that you are the "wife" not the officer. Having spent over 40 years of my life married to a member of the USMC, I can say that no matter what the rank, I've never seen very few if any wives dressed as sluts, officer or enlisted. Most of us recognize the fact that how we look reflects on our husband, and also his career. Since we're the smaller branch of the armed forces, there is much more communication between the wives as to what is appropriate for social occasions. The Corps is also steeped in much more tradition than other branches. I'd guess that your husband is Army. Hop off your high horse, and enjoy life with the rest of us.

    • In the old Army, you would not be an officer's "wife," you would be an officer's "lady"

    • Major's wife | August 21, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

      I am a Major's wife and found your post offensive. I don't care if your husband is a senior officer like mine or lower enlisted, you should be fairly conservative and respectful. Value yourself and your spouse. It is not about rank or age. Do the right thing.

    • That's not even a true statement I've seen officer's wives look just as bad!

    • I would say it has more to do with age than being an officer's wife. Typically, the gals that have been around the block a time or two usually will wear more subdued and appropriate dresses. When I went to my first formal at age 19 at one of the academies, I wore a red, low cut dress. It wasn't trashy by any means, but 6 years (and multiple events) later, I would never wear the same thing to a ball. I want to look sexy, but I want my husband to shine. It's his event. Most of the younger enlisted guys/younger officers have young girlfriends who simply know the style of their most recent prom or formal. At the last formal, I was shocked by some of the dresses. Then I looked at the girl's baby face and knew she probably had little to no experience in this department. She's young. She is learning. Their young boyfriends are likely thinking about getting them out of that dress instead making sure they wear appropriate attire. Cut them some slack.

    • Military wife of 12 Yrs | August 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm |


      Why do ignorant women think that there husbands Rank…somehow Magically is there Rank ? I’ve been to numerous Military balls and so on – It’s about how much Class a Woman has, how much Class and Morals, not about Rank. Your Ignorance would most definitely get you put in your place. You My dear are not better than anyone just becuz you chose to open your legs up to an officer. You don’t gain rank on your back, but in battle….. We as wives are a silent rank. Soooo before you open your mouth and try and throw a rank you Do not have around like your better than someone, you should Reevaluate you’re thought process.

    • How many of you think Becky is either instigating or making it up? Umm..me, me me!

      • ProperNavyWife | August 30, 2013 at 3:47 am |

        Instigating. Proof is in the "I'm an officer's wife", followed by blaming the wives of the enlisted men. A proper officer's wife would not stoop so low.

    • Maybe Becky you should stop judging and offer guidance and assist these spouses that you look down upon so that you could approve of their attire. Or you could lend them one of your dresses as you seem to be the know it all on grandmother approved dresses.

    • MGySgt Retired Wife | September 6, 2013 at 12:54 am |

      Well, it doesn't have to go THAT far, but tasteful a must! And it is not just lower enlisted anymore that show the cleavage. Prom dresses can be ball gowns. There isn't such a thing as prom dresses anymore really because evening dresses can be worn for balls, proms, weddings (unless it is THAT obvious that it is for a prom). I wore a bridesmaid dress one year (it was tailor made), my tea length wedding dress another year. One year a newly married couple, she wore her wedding dress and she was absolutely beautiful! When picking out a gown for what should be the most special night of their spouses career, just keep the focus on HIM, and not yourself. And there your answer will be in picking out a gown.

    • As an officer's wife, I too have noticed such a thing, but could it be, possibly, that these lower enlisted you speak of haven't been properly mentored? Could it be that they are afraid to ask questions of the seemingly pretentious, yet seasoned, spouses of higher enlisted and officers and thus make unfavorable decisions? Perhaps, instead of sitting on a mounted steed, above the rest of us, you could take a few young ladies under your wing and be a good mentor to them. Perhaps, you could take some time to get to know some of these nice young ladies and allow them the opportunity to ask questions prior to these events in hopes that their decisions would better reflect their true beauty and the respect they have for their service member. I've seen all types of ladies at these events and mostly, I feel it is poor education on the expectations of events that lead these beautiful young women to make some poor choices in their attire for the evening. Maybe what they need is a friend who is willing to say "Umm, no" when asked about a dress, not some uppity officers wife passing judgement on them after the fact. Despite being an officer's wife myself, some of my best advice has come from seasoned wives regardless of their husband's rank.

    • How old are you? I for one would never wear a muted color for anything, I like color that makes me look alive and not dead..I hated it when the older generation tried to make us wear stuff like this, I for one would be rebellious & wear what I liked and it was in style and not look like my prom dress, & yes I did show cleavage and even some leg and it was tastefully done!

  5. Great article! I’ve seen some girls who dressed like they were ready to work the pole (including a skin tight lime green dress.) Yes, what you wear reflects on your service member whether you like it or not. You could be a wonderful person, but if you show up in a dress that shows off your butt cheeks, it sends a certain message. This is not the occasion for drawing attention to yourself, it should be about the ceremony itself.

  6. sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 9:55 am |

    This can go the other way as well. Don't go to a ball dressed like Holly Hobby. Don't go to a ball dressed like you are going to church, or in your best mother of the bride impression. And for you southern ladies, please don't dress in cotillion gowns. I have actually seen these elaborate cotillion gowns twice in the past year. Uh…go home Scarlett.

    • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 10:14 am |

      Don't go to a ball looking like a reenactor, little Bopeep, or a Goth Princess. At the end of the day, when you get your ball photos taken, no one should even notice your dress in the pictures, what people should notice is your husband's/dates uniform and awards…not your dress.

  7. Tips From The Homefront | August 20, 2013 at 11:55 am |

    Great advice!

  8. the first mel | August 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

    I don't have issues with women wearing prom dresses, bride's maid dresses, or dresses that aren't exactly formal. What I consider disrespectful is when a woman wears a dress in which the percent of skin showing far exceeds the percent of dress material or one that looks like a Halloween outfit. I went to one ball where I saw a woman wearing a sparkly bikini top and bottoms that were remiscent of what Jeannie wore in the show "I Dream of Jeannie". I do understand that for spouses who are at their first ball, they may run into trouble if their date or husband does not give them any guidance about what is appropriate. I remember my first and my husband was no help when it came to what type of dress I could wear. Over the years, I have seen more effort being put towards informing spouses of the type of wear that is appropriate for different military functions. Also, through sites like this, more spouses have an opportunity to get some ideas before they step into their first formal military function.

    • Agreed…there have been some outlandishly inappropriate dresses over the years, and I am so glad there are dress exchanges and efforts to inform new dates of ball attire. How I wish a site like this existed for my first ball…while my dress was perfectly appropriately covering and fit well, the less formal style just did not work…10 years later I still have vivid memories. :)

    • MGySgt Wife Retired | September 6, 2013 at 1:00 am |

      I would think "ball" would be a no brainier word though……i.e. formal function.

      • the first mel | September 6, 2013 at 7:08 am |

        Actually, in terms of myself, I had never been to a formal function when I first became a military spouse. I hadn't even gone to a prom during my high school years. Basically, I was clueless and back in '89 it's not like I could have gone on the internet to research appropriate wear. I relied on the guidance of my husband, who had been to Marine Corps balls before we were together. He apparently didn't pay attention to what the women were wearing and wasn't much help to me. So, I'm sure I'm not the only one who had lacked prior experience in appropriate attire for formal functions.

        • I find that amazing! I am not being sarcastic at all, but my mum signed me up for ballroom and etiquette classes when I was 14. Every class concluded with a semi-formal (i.e., black tie) ball. At age 18, I had my debutante ball and that was formal (white tie). My dad is a retired British army officer, and I also remember accompanying my parents to mess dinners and regimental balls after age 16.

          I suppose my frame of reference is very different, which makes it hard for me to relate at times. My husband and I attend approximately eight balls per year, and I have been to more than 120 civilian and military balls in many different countries.

          I do agree with you that it is the host's responsibility to inform guests. Unfortunately, the days when guests simply knew that a ball requires a ball gown seem to be over. I would never blame a woman for wearing a bridesmaid's dress or even a sleek long dinner dress.

  9. If your date is wearing a skin tight dress that leaves nothing to the imagination, I will personally all your date to leave and change. I have seen on many occasions women going out and buying those dresses before the ball, just to see them wearing them at the ball.
    My BN gives away free dresses before the ball, and its put out to the soldiers and spouses, do they have no excuse. We also give out a handout on ball do’s and don’ts.

    And most people don’t know this, but when you are going through a receiving line, you must have your shoulders covered. Its tradition. :)

    • I'm a new spouse who's never been to a ball. How do we know what else is tradition, including covering your shoulders in the receiving line?

    • Say wha? That tradition was dropped a long time ago, after people realized most formal gowns are sleeveless. The only thing that's in etiquette books is not to carry anything in your hands when going through a receiving line.

    • One should also have one's shoulders covered at the dinner table! This tradition is still upheld in the UK and other Commonwealth countries. Also, contrary to popular belief, opera gloves (i.e., anything above 12-button length) are NOT removed in receiving lines — only at the table. Shoes stay on for the duration of the evening as a lady would never dream of taking off her shoes. Gentlemen's jackets also stay on.

      Now, I think it would be wonderful if organisers could have orchestras that play traditional music appropriate for a ball. There is a reason it's called ballroom dancing. Provide classes if necessary. It would immediately raise the caliber of the event.

  10. I may be of the old school, but if you have a sleeve of tats, cover them with long sleeves. Make your date proud ladies.

    • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm |


    • the first mel | August 20, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

      I actually enjoy checking out all the artwork at the ball. Tattoos are so mainstream now that for most they really aren't a big deal.

      • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

        I have some pretty expensive tattoos…I just think they look tacky in formal attire. That's what evening jackets, stoles and gloves are for.

    • My husband has both arms covered in tattoos, so if I wanted to display my artwork he’d be proud. ;) style and taste is subjective which is why actions and how one speaks to another shows volumes more on respect. And that whole keep in mind your grandmothers morals and dress is ridiculous bc I have better morals than her and for another I’m in my mid 30s and have
      almost 15 years of milso experience under my belt, so it’s not “appropriate” to dress like a granny. Seriously people, stop judging and accept that there are other folks in this world not modeled after a 1950’s tv show housewife. Stop condemning and make friends or be a mentor.

      • I think spouses would be so much happier if they stopped worrying what everyone else is doing and what everyone else thinks. If you have questions about what is appropriate attire for a ball ask. I know for a fact my husband has no flipping clue what appropriate semi-formal attire is, so I call up my friends from the unit and we go shopping…

        And BTW that's a great way to meet people. I know some O-wives are real arse pains, but if you are in my unit, call me up, I love to shop. I'll go with you and we can pick out dresses together. You can't go wrong shopping with the boss' wife. Plus I know where to get 'em cheap.

  11. I don't think anyone is really saying to dress like a 50s housewife but they are saying keep it classy. There is a time and a place for every outfit. To the person who said not to dress like holly hobbit, sorry but our formal military uniform dictates how we look perhaps spouses should take a small clue from that as in formal wear. If you have to recycle an old dress who cares, if you have to wear your prom gown who cares so long as you are dressed for the occasion. To the older or rather seasoned spouses: teach the younger ones how to conduct themselves at these things rather than let them fail. FRGs are big now it's time to pass the words of wisdom around to the younger generations.

    • sabrinacking | August 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

      Holly Hobbit…bwahahhahahhaa….now I feel very old. Holly Hobby was this cartoon character in the 70s who was dressed in floor length patchwork prairie garb. My sentiment was it is just as much a faux pas to dress down or dowdy as it is to dress like a hoochie.

    • The mess dress??? Really???

      Sorry, I'm not going to dress like a man trying to dress like a woman trying to dress like a man… I prefer dressing like a woman. I wore that thing enough to have flashbacks from it. There are better examples of classy ball gowns and cocktail dresses other than the female mess dress.

    • MC Wife Retired | September 6, 2013 at 1:03 am |

      Absolutely! AF member, you nailed it! Thank you!

  12. Its funny to me that some adults do not have the common sense to know how to conduct themselves at a military function. A party thrown specifically by your squadron may be a little more lax but an annual ball or dinning in…come on now! Be the one that your spouse can say with dignity "That's my wife!" Take the opportunity to dress to the nines with class and conduct yourself with dignity and grace. Be proud of the uniform he/she wears and show it through your actions!

  13. MarriedHimNotHisRank | August 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm |

    Oh gee… someone who touts herself as an officer's wife using the term "lower enlisted". That mentality makes me glad we're leaving this life behind. I think the only people that intentionally point out the difference are the entitlement fiends that can't wait to tell everyone they're an officer's wife.

    I've seen just as many wives and Soldiers from both sides of the fence that were behaving or dressed inappropriately. That's what ruins it for all. Rank has nothing to do with it.

  14. If you are referring to me, please note I specifically state YOUNGER, not lower. As a spouse, I don't have a rank. I really resent being misquoted.

    • I believe MarriedHimNotHisRank was referring to Becky's comment above, where she used the term "lower enlisted" after saying she was an officer's wife.

      • Becky did not mention "lower enlisted" at all in her quote. I am the only one who mentioned enlisted personnel.

        • Uh, I will respond here – Becky indeed said lower. Officer/Enlisted crap is for the officers and enlisted to sort out. Too many officer's wives tout themselves and their "peeps" so much better than enlisted wives. For those, I say, get over yourself!

          • OK, there I see it… Sorry…

            Though, there are snobs on both sides. I have experienced enlisted wives being just as snobbish and cliquey. I got kicked out of a playgroup for military families, because one lady wanted it to be for enlisted families only. My son was actually "prescribed" the playgroup for autism, and I was asked to leave by the nurse running the group, because I made the girl uncomfortable. The only way she would have known I was an officer's wife is if she looked at the sign in sheet, because I did not mention it at all. I'm uncomfortable with my husband's rank, it's not something I go out of my way to share with people when it comes to large groups of military spouses. Because I have found historically, the minute you mention what your husband does for a living, or what rank he is, you are excluded or written off as trying to take charge or wearing your husband's rank. It's actually getting so ridiculous, half the time I don't want anything to do with anyone outside of my husband's boss' wife.

  15. Good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't do it or wear it at a church function, don't do it at a formal military function. No, I am not saying a military function is the same as church. I'm saying the standard of conduct and dress at a church applied to a formal military function will keep you from looking the fool.

    • I think I know what you're trying to say, but I would never wear a strapless evening dress in a church as I find it highly inappropriate to show that much decolletage in a religious building. Likewise, I don't drink champagne in church, nor does my church offer dancing. I really don't think you can compare the two. Besides, have you seen what some people wear to church these days? It's enough to give one the vapours!

  16. I have been friends with officers wives and enlisted wives at some point in this fast paced PCS world of the military. It doesn’t matter if you are married to either one. This is about your husband and his job. You want to make a good impression to everyone you meet and give your husband the feeling of pride when he introduces you to his boss, colleagues and other spouses. I have been to several balls and I always think how would my appearance effect my husbands job? how would my behavior effect my husband? These are people he works with every day and as his wife I need to show respect to my husband and myself when going to an important event like this. It may be old fashioned to think this way to some, but common sense comes to mind when picking out a ball gown. I love my husband and all the sacrifices he makes for our family, So why not enjoy the time together at these functions with self respect, and charm. If my husband was attending a ball furnished by the company I work with, I would expect him to show respect to all the people he comes in contact.

  17. One more thing to the male spouses of the military, my advice is to always show up in something formal and conduct your self with manners. As your wife is also going to see the same people after the ball. Remain humble and kind to anyone you meet.

  18. Interesting how things are "nitpicked", but one must keep in mind that we all come from many different backgrounds. Even if a spouse shows up inappropriately dressed, one shouldn't jump to any conclusions. Instead, just be kind, polite, and friendly. Some of us have only what is in our closets to choose from and don't have the option of buying something we might wear once in five years.

    • No offense meant but there is and isn't such things as appropriate garments for a formal event. If you don't have a tasteful gown/dress its better to pick something up at the local salvation army/goodwill/thriftshop or borrowing a friends/relatives tasteful gown for the event then wearing a stripper dress left over from your college 'pimps n hoes' dance. You may not be the height of fashion, but you'll appear more dignified and respectable at a formal ceremony.

    • Whilst it may be very true that people have limited financial means, one doesn't have to spend a fortune to be properly dressed, and properly dressed usually means well dressed. As another poster said, I am sure there are charity shops in the vicinity that will offer a selection of evening dresses for very little money. I have personally seen perfectly suitable dresses for £10. Ebay is also a great place to shop, as are dress agencies/exchanges. I would rather forego expensive hair appointments, manicures, etc. than be improperly dressed.

  19. Just don't go to the Ball.

  20. They know better, is all about getting everyone attention,

  21. My response to the comments "This is stupid!" "Knock it off!" and "Time-out!"

    I'm sure someone will get it.

  22. Stuffy idiots! I cant stand snobs or whiners or gossipers. Let those idiots whisper in their circles about not being PC or what kind of dress someone’s wearing. All the formality and pompous judging is not for me. Jojo613, I will say I respect your down to earth attitude. You, fortunately seem to be one of the few with any sense in this game of idiots, so bravo to you!

  23. "It’s even harder when it comes to military balls."

    I couldn't get past this sentence without coffee shooting out of my nose.

  24. I’m sorry….but are we all ignoring the fact that whoever wrote this either thinks Olive Garden is an all you can eat buffet or they have been to and Olive garden that was an all you can eat buffet?? I want in on that! ;) lol

    • The balls I have gone to are all-you-can eat buffets. It cracks me up the looks I get when we go to these balls and I pile food on my plate:

      a. I run 60-100 miles a week
      b. We usually pay the highest ticket price of it's based on rank
      so c. I'm going to get my bleeping money's worth.

      • According to the VA I'm 40% disabled. 15%= from insulin resistance and diabetes. 25%= from exposure to anhydrous ammonia, a cancer substance that was spilled on base. My left sinus is collapsed, which can be repaired by surgery, but the surgery has a 50-50 chance of working, I also have asthma and COP-D which has largely gone away since I have become active. And every one of my tear ducts were burned in the accident. I do have a rescue inhaler, which I haven't used in years. If I do get sick, I tend to catch pneumonia, and end up sick for months. I'm considered disabled because it is very likely I will develop lung cancer and die due to this exposure. So far of all the people who were exposed to this chemical, I'm one of the only ones who has not had cancer and/or heart issues. Doctor attributes this to my running. Not every disabled veteran has disabilities that physically inhibit them. Since running is keeping me healthy and alive, I will continue to run. I had to stop a few times, and it's not pretty- aka back on rescue inhaler and laid up for months sick.

        ETA: If you are getting out of the military, file veteran's paperwork for any injury you incur during active duty. Anything you are diagnosed with, or develops, while on active duty is considered a service-related disability. I know my husband will be diagnosed with hearing loss due to being exposed to loud jet engines. Several people I know also have service connected disability from developing prostate, colon-rectal, and uterine cancers from exposure to UV radiation while flying. It's not taking advantage of the system by using the VA, it's just one of those things entitled to you because of your service to your country. That being said, it does count against military retirement, but unlike military retirement, it's tax free.

    • Maybe he/she was referring to the endless soup and salad?

  25. Another Don't – Don't get drunk like most senior NCO's do at these functions.

  26. Well I guess it's good I don't have much in the way of cleavage huh? Can't embarrass my pitifully low ranked husband that way :D. I'm sorry to make light of this you guys..but at the end of the day don't we have more important things to worry about? Of course I would never dress like a stripper..that's ridiculous..but my dress for the upcoming formal has a few sparkles. I like it..I think I'll look nice in it and I'm 27 years old. I'm not 40 or 50 and I'm not going to dress like I'm 40 or 50. It's floor length it's classy and I used my common sense. I think we can all take a breath and relax. Be nice to each other..socialize..we are all in this crazy messed up hectic military life together. Why does it always boil down to high school like drama?

  27. Hello Military Spouses, we are all in this together, those who claim to be "officer wives; enlisted wives" etc, our duty to our spouses is to make them shine, as well as be a mentor to the new wives, young wives, 2nd wives, first husband, etc. Lets put our labels away and stop thinking anyone is better than anyone else, because at the end of the day, we all need each other, and we will all be out of the Army and no one will give to craps if you were Ltc so & so or MSG whoopy do, Or Pvt Snuffy. Actually I think it is funny as heck to see the more extroverted attire, people watching is great at these events :-)

  28. Here's another list if you want to read further… Best line the ball is not about you the spouse but about the service member it sounds harsh but its oh so true! http://www.militaryspouse.com/articles/top-10-tip

  29. Actually it is about me, because I'm the one insisting we go :) He would rather stay home away from the judgmental nonsense.

  30. I think women should dress appropriately for the ball. But I also know some of the troops bring dates to show off to their buddies, some troops aren't in the military for the long haul and don't care about what their date wears or the impression it gives. And this is on both sides of officer & enlisted (let's not forget there are plenty of "young" officers). I feel if the service member isn't worried about the dress being worn we as the spouses shouldn't. If someone in the chain of command has an issue then they are the ones who should be speaking on it. One year our XO told everyone that he would be greeting people at the door and if someone was over exposed they would be turned away. The dress code was printed out and given along with the ball tickets. I think if it were a big problem as people try to make it out to be commands would either enforce a dress code (some bases already have them in place for everyday attire) or just say guest aren't allowed anymore. Until then then I worry about how I am representing myself and my spouse, I am not concerned with being harsh or judgmental about what others are wearing.

  31. Is there a ball coming up? I'm just curious, what's with all the ball talk. I have been on three other military spouse websites, and all the same talk about going to the ball, dressing for the ball, etc… There is very little talk of let's see here ummm– sequestration, cutting of BAH, cutting of services, etc. It's really ironic all the talk of balls, while we are going to have to tighten our belts…

    • the first mel | August 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

      The Marine Corps Birthday is on Nov. 10, so people are starting to look for dresses now.

      • OH Ok… Marines and their balls…

        (snort– you can't tell me you didn't catch it this time. It was totally on purpose).

  32. Like everything else in the military there is a regulation that lays out the rules for such events.
    <a href="http://img.slate.com/media/53/military%20dining%20handbook.pdf&quot; target="_blank">http://img.slate.com/media/53/military%20dining%2…</a>

    you can also reference Army Field circulation 21-1. it is dated but still relavent.

  33. I was once privileged enough to announce the speaker at a formal Air Force event. There are audio cues and announcements that indicate when guests should take a seat, so that the night's program can move forward. They are loud and impossible to miss. Times are given, much like a countdown. When the countdown ends, the "introducer" ascends the stage and begins politely asking people to take their seats – I'd anyone is left standing..

    When I ascended, there were still a handful of people milling around, so I politely asked everyone to make way to their seats. Several times. Over a span of five minutes. During this time, one obnoxiously drunk military wife blasted, at full volume, that they shouldn't send in "24 year old girls" to do a job that's clearly better handled by a man – namely, quieting down the rowdy.

    I neglected to inform her how I gave up my career and love life to join something bigger than myself, that I was well above the age of 24, about the years I spent training as a fighter, how I could probably hold my own against any -male or female – in the room. I neglected to tell her about the satisfaction and thrill I got out of doing my mission – which typically didn't include looking pretty and saying a few words. I didn't demand that I, indeed, deserved respect. I neglected to demonstrate anything other than patience and discipline to the room before me.

    Why? Because my task at that time wasn't to talk about myself. My task was to inform people of the sacrifice and accomplishments of the guest speaker – someone who's spent more of his life in defense of his country than any other soul in the room. His accomplishments and history deserved their respect.

    Who were these rowdy ones? The obnoxious wife? I could see everyone from where I stood, the entire room. Not one of them was Enlisted. The Enlisted seemed to know the importance of respect, up and down the chain. Every last one of rowdy were officers… or officer wives.

    I was severely disappointed.

  34. MGySgt wife retired | September 6, 2013 at 12:14 am |

    Since the military balls are just around the corner, and I just happened to stumble upon this post I am going to put my 20+ years of a Marine Corps wife comment on the record. THUMBS UP to the original person who posted first of all. There is one thing that was not mentioned. Dancing….Last couple of balls we attended (one at the US Grant Hotel downtown San Diego – it can't get any classier than that location…well I suppose having a ball at the Hotel Del Coronado would be a step up) we were disgusted at the way people in and out of uniform were "dancing". Dancing is not dry humping your partner. It isn't a 3-way with the girl in the middle w/her butt in the air, and the other "dancing" w/a beer spilling out of her hand. Drinks should stay at the table. These people were shaming the uniform if not the "magic" of the MILITARY BALL. It is not a "dance" so don't treat it as such. If you forgot in the TRADITION of the military ball go back to basic and refresh your memory. STOP TREATING THE ONE NIGHT OF RECOGNITION like a go for it party. Remember when you signed your name on the dotted line you became government property. Don't act like those idiots in Congress! EVER! Especially not on your birthday!

    • Yes indeed! I've been saying it all along. Mandatory dance and etiquette classes for everybody and a live orchestra playing classy music (waltzes, foxtrots, swings, rumba, hustle, tango) would immediately raise the standards. I am not American, and I don't live in the US (I am a Brit whose fellow countrymen- and -women) are known for being hard drinkers, but never on the dance floor), but I have been to my share of US military balls at nice hotels, etc. and I have personally seen this type of behaviour, including a woman who vomited on the dance floor. I am not making this up!

      I am also in favour of dance cards for the ladies. We use them all the time at the Royal Caledonian Ball in London, and they also make lovely souvenirs.

  35. Part 1 of Comment
    As a military spouse of 30+ years. I have noticed that this generation is all about me, me, me and what I want to do, or how much you owe me. Not all are that way, so don’t start the barrage of hateful remarks. The installation that I am on had an incident last year when a SR Spouse tried to provide the newer spouses etiquette for the Ball. A facebook page was made to bash her and her “old” ways. So, she backed off and allowed those who wanted to dress like hookers, dress like hookers. She and her spouse left very early during the evening. What I do not understand is this…. A spouse of an active duty member (not all, but most) will be the first to take out that ID Card and demand the discount, or the free item at some restaurant. They will be the first to go to some store and receive items because they are married to that service member. How many large corporations do you know that, let’s say Outback, provides a free meal once a year just because your husband/wife is active duty? I have never seen them advertize that Bank of America employees get a free meal on such and such day.

    • Part 2 of comment
      My point here is that as a spouse of an active duty service member does require some responsibilities. If you are going to ask for that discount, or get the free items, or the free money for school, then at least go by the customs and courtesies and traditions that allows you to get those discounts, and free stuff. You cannot have it both ways. If you can’t allow yourself to dress appropriately for a Ball, because it isn’t you, or because it bothers you that someone has told you that you must dress a certain way, then put away your ID Card, stop taking stuff, and stop using the free money for your education. The only reason you have it is because of the person you are married to. And his/her job is ALL about tradition, customs and courtesies. If your spouse worked for Bank of America, Donald Trump, would you go to a formal event dressed like a hooker.

      • Part 3 of comment
        Cleavage should not be down to your belly button, you should be wearing a garment that is for the season, velvet is to be worn during the winter, and hot pink is never a color that should be worn. Your dress should compliment your Service Members dress uniform, not stand apart. Take their top or pants with you when you go to insure that it doesn’t clash. If you are not Barbie, and have a perfect figure, please do not squeeze yourself into a skin tight dress where all your rolls and cottage cheese can be seen or as they said in Steel Magnolias, like to hogs fighting under a blanket. If you are not sure, ask. That is what the sales people are there to do.

  36. Part 4 of Comment
    Also, I agree, most cannot always afford to buy a new dress. Have you tried the local Thrift Store on the installation? Ours has beautiful dresses for under 35 dollars. Or as a unit, do a dress exchange. It is a fun evening where spouses can bring their old dresses, have some wine and finger foods and go home with a new awesome dress without paying for it.
    Again, if you can’t allow yourself to be part of the traditions, customs and courtesies, then stop telling people that you are a military spouse just so you can get something for nothing. Let your Service Member get the freebies because they are actually the ones that deserve it, they are the ones that wear the uniform and risk their lives for our country! Not you!

  37. The reason why you see so many lower enlisted spouses wearing these outrages outfits and colors ,and dropping it low is because they are young , sometimes it's there first Military function. So like all things in the Military this falls back to our first line leaders taking those young Soldiers aside and preparing them. Everything in life is a learning lesson. So next time Top and fellow officers when we know we will be attending a Military function gather your Soldiers and tell them what to expect. You can't force them to tell there spouses what to wear, but you can put a buzz in there ear. Half of them are fresh in the army from High School so there last function was the Prom.. LOL

  38. ChucktownLife | September 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

    These discussions are exactly what makes my stomach turn thinking about my time on active duty. I always got annoyed as a JO when the senior leadership (officers and enlisted alike) would take a seemingly fun event whether it be the Navy birthday ball, holiday party or hail and farewell and make it downright painful because of all the arcane and ridiculous guidance put out so that no one misbehaves. I distinctly remember that it was fairly obvious that the senior leadership was more concerned with covering their own asses than actually caring about the behaviour, I.e. they didnt want to deal with the repercussions of any regrettable behavior.

  39. usmcwife110307 | September 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

    I am a Marine Corps spouse and there is no need to tell if my husband is Enlisted or Officer because that's his rank, not mine. Second, I live in Okinawa, Japan & am a manager at one of the Marine Corps Officers' Clubs here on the island & I see about 29 balls a year (all in the month of November). I have attended, with my husband, quite a few over the years. With all of that being said, I can tell you rank has nothing to do with it. If a woman is trashy 364 days out of the year, there is not a good chance she will clean up well on the night of the ball.

    • usmcwife110307 | September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

      My advice to the young spouses or the dates that have never attended a formal function or ball is to do your research. I remember my first ball..years ago. I went to the library & read a few "Military Spouse' books and talked to 'salty' spouses about how I should dress. They were very helpful. Now, I return the favor with the new spouses who arrive in the fleet with their Marines.
      The only time I have seen women dress badly are the spouses that dress badly for everything & the occasional 'local nationals' who come as dates with their Marine who have never been to such an event and seriously do not know because they were never informed. And the ones who always dress badly…I'm not talking about the young spouse who can't afford the 'right' dress. I completely understand their situation. I'm referring to the spouses who have been to these things, and other events before, know what is expected, and still choose to dress like they have no sense.

      • usmcwife110307 | September 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

        And as for the 'color' of the dress……I can't judge. The Marines I know don't look forward to the ball, but I know the spouses do. They spend weeks or months planning it out. I live on an island so many times we have to order online for our perfect ball gown. It takes time. Unless the dress is showing too much cleavage or is a sheer dress that reveals too much, I say go for it. Personally, since my husbands 'blues' are a certain color (I'm not telling exact color b/c that would tell his rank) I dress to match. I only do this because I want the pictures to look a certain way.

  40. Hopefully people are still on here are reading this. My boyfriend has a Veteran's Ball coming up for his college and I've been looking into some dresses and I was curious as to whether or not a slit in the dress is appropriate. Obviously I'm not talking about a slit up to the thigh. I'm meaning something more in the knee area.

    • jacey_eckhart | March 20, 2014 at 7:54 am |

      Christina–a slit in the dress is no big deal. This is a night to look great and feel great and to have a wonderful time. I bet you'll be beautiful.

Comments are closed.