What To Wear To Every Type Of Gala: 27 Best Elegant Dresses

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Have you been invited to a gala and you’re not sure what to wear yet? If so, you’ll enjoy this guide about the best dresses to wear to a gala or an awards ceremony.

What should I wear to a gala?  This is the question that many people ask themselves when they are trying to figure out what dresses to buy for a formal event.

There are different types of galas, and each one requires dresses that are appropriate for the occasion. In this article, we will discuss what dresses you can wear to a gala, as well as what not to wear.

 

What Is A Gala?

 

A gala is a formal event and it is usually exclusive, glamorous, and festive. Gala events are attended by notable people in society, and it almost always includes entertainment like drinking and dancing.

The dresses worn to galas are usually extravagant and expensive, but with the right dress (and the right attitude), even you can make a simple and affordable dress look expensive. 

 

Types of Galas

 

There are many types of galas, but the main one is a black tie event that takes place in an elegant location like a hotel or museum. One of the most famous galas in the world is the Met Gala, which is reserved for the elites of fashion and celebrity.

These events require formal dresses for women, who usually wear formal evening gowns (usually a floor-length gown) with sleek heels. For men, the dress code requires a black tuxedo or another formal suit.

Another type of gala is called an opera opening, which is a formal occasion that requires stunning evening dresses, as they take place at nightclubs where drinks will be served after dinner. Women can choose between wearing cocktail dresses or short dresses depending on what kind of club it is.

The third type of gala occurs during awards season when Hollywood celebrities attend parties celebrating their success.

Nowadays there are various types of galas in varying scales: formal or semi-formal evening events at which guests dress formally; daytime events such as fundraisers, auctions, and charity events where guests may not necessarily need a formal outfit; and informal daytime parties such as luncheons where no exact dress code applies (but it’s still generally recommended to dress up nicely).

 

What Dresses To Wear To A Gala

 

The type of dress that you wear to your gala or awards ceremony depends mainly on which type of event you’ll be attending.

Black tie event – This is the ultimate formal event, so the dress code involves long glamorous dresses paired with high heels, a small clutch bag, and statement jewelry.

Since a black-tie gala is super formal, avoid wearing anything short. If you must, you can wear a mid-length formal dress, or a long dress with a high slit so you can show off some skin. 

Fundraising Gala – This one is tricky because there are formal fundraising galas (typically held at night) where either evening gowns or cocktail dresses are required, as part of the black tie dress code. Some informal fundraising galas that are held in the daytime are more lenient on their dress code, so you can show up in a casual dress for this one.

Charity Gala – A charity gala is for a good cause. The dress code goes the same as the one above, if it’s a formal charity gala with a black tie dress code, you can show up in either a long formal gown or a cocktail dress. If it is an informal daytime gala, casual dresses are okay (unless it is specified to show up in a long dress).

Awards Season Gala – Now, this type of gala is typically attended by celebrities, so if you’re ever lucky enough to be invited into one, don’t be afraid to go all out on your outfit.

You’re sure to walk on the red carpet on this type of special occasion. Designer dresses are usually preferred in this type of event, and while most celebrities wear custom-made outfits, you don’t have to.

If you’re short on time and you need a designer dress ASAP, you can actually rent dresses from designers from companies like Rent The Runway, or buy them from luxury fashion retailers like Net-A-Porter. Time to strut in your elegant dress, and strike an unforgettable pose for social media!

Luncheons – A luncheon is the most casual type of gala and it is usually attended by wealthy older women, so don’t be afraid to let your hair down and show up in a casual, flowy day dress or a cute cocktail dress.

The most popular and appropriate dress style would be a printed floral midi dress, as it makes you look carefree and flirty for a non-restricting gala dress code.

 

The Best Dresses To Wear To A Gala Or

1. Black Tie Events & Award Ceremonies

 

Gorgeous black and gold gala dress with tiered ruffles to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

One shoulder fuchsia gala dress with thigh high slit to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Long black evening gown for dresses to wear to a gala or awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Hot pink gala dress with thigh high slit and one shoulder to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Red halter neck gown with thigh high slit to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Baby blue asymmetrical dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Floral chiffon gown to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Gold embellished sequin gown to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Red gala dress

 

Get this dress at Lulus

 

Long black gown for dresses to wear to a gala or awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Silver sheath dress with sequins

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Mustard yellow pleated satin midi gown to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

White lace floor-length dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Lulus

 

Forest green long sleeve dress with slit

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Sequined dress for dresses to wear to a gala or awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Red pearl gala dress with thigh high slit to wear to an awards ceremony

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

Elegant long burgundy satin dress

 

Get this dress at Lulus

 

Purple and pink ombre tulle ball gown

 

Get this dress at Nordstrom

 

2. Informal Day Gala Dresses (Day Time Charities, Auctions, Fundraisers)

 

Sleek black midi dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Floral midi dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Floral long dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Lulus

 

Leather mini dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

3. Luncheons

 

Flowy casual cocktail dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Baby blue lace maxi dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Hello Molly

 

Long red dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Floral cocktail dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Net-A-Porter

 

Floral flowy maxi dress for dresses to wear to a gala

 

Get this dress at Lulus

 

Now, What NOT To Wear To A Gala

 

Absolutely no jeans, no t-shirts or blouses, and no business casual attire. You’re going to an exclusive formal event, not to the office. You will stick out like a sore thumb among a sea of long dresses or long gowns, and we don’t want that.

Also, avoid dresses with materials like cotton – what we’re looking for is satin, lace, velvet, chiffon, or crepe. You can wear dresses with prints but make sure it’s not too distracting or obnoxious, or it will end up looking tacky instead.

Avoid wearing sandals or closed shoes. Wear heels (even 1-2 inches is enough!)

 

Commonly Asked Questions

Can I wear a cocktail dress to a black-tie event?

Black tie is the most formal of all dress codes, and long dresses are usually more preferred. While the dress code calls for long dresses, cocktail dresses can also be an appropriate option. Just keep in mind that long dresses are the more elevated, elegant choice. Unless it’s a themed event, go for your own personal style for gala dresses!

Can I wear short dresses to a formal event?

It honestly depends on the formal event in question. If you must wear a “short” dress, make sure it is at least mid-length, or anything knee-length. Anything above the length is fine too as long as it is not a mini dress or else you’ll end up accidentally flashing the guests. 

Can I wear a simple dress to an awards ceremony? 

This type of formal affair usually calls for either dressy cocktail dresses, a sophisticated jumpsuit, or formal gowns. If you feel like wearing a simple, floor-length dress, make sure to wear some statement jewelry like bold necklaces or statement earrings to add some bling and glamour to an otherwise simple outfit.

We hope you found this guide on what to wear to an awards ceremony or gala helpful! If you’re still looking for more fashion inspiration, check the posts down below.

 

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