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Updated: 6 days ago

Know what each dress code means for the military spouse and what’s appropriate to wear.

dress codes for military spouses


Do you like to dress on occasion or is it overwhelming to you? Do you have a Military Ball coming up and don't quite know what to wear? When I was first a military spouse, I remember being shocked by the number of events and lacking understanding for what all the military dress codes meant.  It’s easy for those serving in uniform because the military has assigned them a uniform and strict dress code.  Civilians don’t have it as easy. I liked the opportunity to play dress-up as a little girl, with the right perspective, attending military events can be an opportunity to break out your fashion sense.

Here are some tips on what civilians should wear to military events. I got help from these from my friend, Tara Williams, a personal stylist, image consultant, and military wife. Find more from Tara at

Semi-formal attire for military spouses

·      Semi-Formal Military Events

this is the level below “black tie”.  Best described by what it is not.  It’s not a full-length ball.  It’s often called a cocktail dress.  It is typically just above the knee to ankle length (ankle, maxi, midi, or knee).  Lots of skin showing is not appropriate for a military event.  Think of it as a dress that is too fancy for church or daytime wear, but not as fancy as a ball gown.

·       Formal

This is a black-tie event.  Full-length ball gowns are the appropriate attire. Keep in mind that this is a military event – for the military members, this is still a workplace event.  The military tends to be more conservative than other fields of work. You want to look attractive without erring on the side of too sexy. A plunging neckline is probably not appropriate.


·      Casual

Casual is more appropriate to consider as “elevated casual”.  You want to look nice even though you are causal.  You can wear denim with no rips or holes, a better-than-average blouse or top, third layer for layering, fashion sneakers or loafers/flats.


business attire for military spouses

·       Business

There are different levels of business dress. There is smart casual, business casual, business professional, and business formal.  The most common is business casual.  An example would be trousers, blouse, and loafers.


high-low dressing for military spouses

If you are uncertain what to wear, allow an option called “high-low dressing.” “High-low” dressing allows for a mix of casual and business that allow you to work with both dress codes at the same time.  For example: Wear nicer jeans and a nice blouse or wear a pair of slacks with a graphic tee and a denim jacket.  Both of these examples combine a casual option with a business option.

I am confident you'll look great at your next event with these tips for what military spouses should wear for various dress codes. I hope you have a great time at the event!

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