Solution for Finding the Perfect Ball Gown?

finding the perfect military ball gown

With every fall comes a considerable amount of dread as I peer into the recesses of my closet and look, with great trepidation, for the dress that I will wear to the USMC Birthday Ball. And every year, I come up empty-handed. And so begins the annual last-minute scramble in which I realize that there’s a ball happening in like two weeks and I still haven’t bought a pair of stockings. Let alone a dress. Oops.

First I go to the PX: Great surprise, I can buy the same dress as 50 other women at my base are sporting. Awesome.

Next stop: The local department store. Golly Gee! I can look just like a 15 year-old headed to Homecoming! Hot dog!

And then: Back to the closet. Oh look. The old prom dress recently presented to me by my mother (who insisted on saving it in the first place) in what has to be some cruel joke because, at the tender age of 17, I also sported a 17″ waist, and needless to say 32 doesn’t look exactly the same. Especially since I just had a baby. And I’m nursing.

Nothing fits.

If you find yourself dreading the arrival of ball season too (Well, let’s be honest. It’s usually marked by so much excitement to start pinning awesome ball dresses and then the regular letdown that happens when I acknowledge that budgets are real things and the magnificent Elie Saab gown I covet with unabashed greed is so expensive I doubt I’ll ever see it in person, let alone put it on my bod… so, then there’s the letdown and then the dread), Rent the Runway might be your new, ball-season best friend.

I’ve written lots about What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (all in good humor, ladies, except the lingerie-as-clothing part. That I’m serious about.) but I have neglected the much more obvious subject: What in god’s name are we going to wear this year?

Because motherhood has turned my body into a perpetually morphing, upper-half disproportional nursing machine, I’m calling it quits on gown shopping. I’m not buying. In fact, I’m never buying again. I’m renting.

Rent the Runway is a fabulous service where you can rent a ball gown (or a cocktail dress, or a bridesmaid dress, or or or…) for four to eight days for a fraction of the cost it would be to buy them. They start pretty reasonably: $50 for the lowest end dresses, which are pretty fancy brands… and go all the way up to the netherlands of things-we-can’t-afford-on-military-budgets-oh-well. But back in the realm of reason, they have some super sexy, classy, and fabulous options.

A lot of have you have told us you spend between $75 and $150 on your gowns, so in that range at Rent the Runway you have dozens of options, among them these:

how to find the perfect military ball gown #milso

Sexy: Halston Heritage Mykonos gown, $100 for four days. Classy: David Meister Patriotic Wonder gown, $100 for four days. Fabulous (it’s pink!): Lady of Love gown by Badgley Mischka, $75 for four days.

They even have free stylists who will chat with you through their online messenger to help you find the gown that’s right for you, your event, your style, and your body shape.

To wit: I presented one of their stylists with my “I’m nursing and my upper half is larger than the state of Texas and so I need something stretchy and maybe a little forgiving too because stomach muscles take way too long to come back postpartum” request, and the ever-helpful stylist with whom I was working found me something in less than ten minutes that fit my price range, my style, and my body. (And it’ll hit the hubby’s Wildest Dreams while we’re at it!) It’s perfect.

Tell me: Have you ever rented from RTR before? Would you be willing to rent your ball gown? If you’ve already bought yours for this year, what did you wear?

About the Author

Raleigh Duttweiler
Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer and social media expert living just outside the gates of MacDill in sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. A Marine Corps wife, she has navigated the stress of Active Duty moves, trainings, and deployments, and now that her family has transitioned to the Reserves, she's experiencing the "weekend warrior" side of military life. (NB: It's not quite as part-time as advertised.) When not writing about benefits and military families, Raleigh posts here about truly life-altering, important issues like What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (visible thongs), Military Halloween Costumes We Love to Hate (ones that generally resemble both military uniforms AND thongs), and how to pack awesome care packages. She is passionate about spouse employment, higher education, and helping families navigate the often-bumpy transition back into civilian life. Raleigh also manages the SpouseBUZZ and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, so be sure to say hi!
  • Brittany

    I did Rent the Runway for a spring army ball and LOVED it! The user comments on the dress were spot on. I loved the option to rent a second dress for only $25 – I ended up going with my first choice, but having options gave me piece of mind. Highly recommend for any special occasion!

    • Hooray! I am going to do it for this year’s ball and I Also did the whole second-dress-for-less option. I can’t wait. (Hubs actually prefers the second choice – we’ll see what fits!)


    Yea me too. Rtr is fantastic

  • Kim

    I used RTR at my very first Army ball and I loved it. I read the reviews and decided on a gown and size bases on women similar to my height and weight. They also let you choose 2 sizes in case you aren’t sure which size will be perfect for you.

    • That’s exactly what I did – the pictures were SO helpful. A lot better than just ordering from a store online – and with way more options than in store. Great all around. Glad you enjoyed it too!

  • Jane

    I’ve been renting from RTR for the past several years and it is awesome every time. It’s even easier now that they have so many pictures of people who rented them wearing the dresses. They send out lots of discount codes to loyal customers so I rarely pay full price for a rental. I don’t know if I’ll ever buy a dress again.

  • Kate

    I have never nor do I think that I will ever hire a dress. Virtually every designer dress I have ever seen is apparently made for women who are 6 feet tall. At 5’8″ plus heels, I am far from short yet I cannot fathom how anybody can wear these frocks without getting them tailored and hemmed? I have several couture dresses in my wardrobe, and every single one had to be hemmed. How do you do that with a dress you don’t own?
    As a dancer I value my feet and proper technique becomes impossible with heels higher than 2.75 to 3 inches.
    How do you deal with that?