Does What You Wear to a Military Ball Really Matter?

(U.S. Navy/Gary Granger Jr.)
(U.S. Navy/Gary Granger Jr.)

Grab your popcorn: It's military ball season.

Every now and then in this big, wide world of the internet, we hit a nerve or strike a chord; often, we do both with the same article. Sometimes, it's about PCSing. Sometimes, it's strong opinions about deployments or employment or whether to tip commissary baggers or feed movers lunch.

But hell hath no fury like milspouses talking about military ball gowns and whether there should be etiquette for them.

My opinion? Do what makes you happy. Wear something that both makes you feel good and that you won’t mind seeing in perpetuity on the internet.

Personally, I wouldn’t be super comfortable seated next to the head of the base or branch if I was in something slit thigh high. But I also like wearing one-piece mom swimsuits with ruffles. I don’t think what you wear impacts me. I also don’t think your spouse will get promoted or passed over for a promotion based on how you’re dressed. Sure, people might talk about it (they always do!), but do I actually think your outfit has the potential to affect your spouse’s career? I don’t.

Not everyone agrees with that. When recently posted on Facebook, our opinion piece, "I Refuse to Shame Military Wives Over Their Ball Gown Choices,” got 96 comments. It looks like the article's author wasn't the only one with an opinion.

Some were supportive: "Finally! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Every year my feed fills with the shaming-posts and I hate it. I would love it if we all just stopped judging and allowed everyone to have a good time as long as they don't intrude on others. A spouse wants to wear a bikini and thong? Fine by me -- if it makes her feel beautiful, what is the harm? I can admire one dress and say, 'this one is not for me' on another. That doesn't mean the woman wearing the latter has to leave."

Another wrote: "Let people wear what they want and if you don't like it, just clutch your pearls and look the other way."

Some commenters were less thrilled with our piece: "Disagree with the author. Dress code is dress code. It's there for a reason."

Another commenter said: "Save the skimpy flossy dresses for date nights. On the opposite hand, if YOU have a fancy work event, would you want your husband to show up in a muscle tank and his tightest spandex jeans? I'm guessing probably not. Respect your husband's position and job enough to not make it about how 'sexy' you can look. I said what I said. Don't come for me."

And a third wrote, "One good thing, if you don't agree with the pesky rules, is don't go. Wonder if you got turned away for wearing skimpy floss thinking it was classy. So bitter for nothing more than a [post]. Got nothing better to do."

Does what we wear to a ball really matter? Is it actually a reflection on our service members? Or should we all just agree to let others wear whatever makes them feel good, whether it's floor length or thigh high or somewhere in between?

Should military balls have a dress code that spouses are expected to follow? Tell us what you think. And grab your popcorn.

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