So You’re Attending a Spring Gala—Here’s What to Wear

What you wear to a gala should be a dressier version of your own personal style.

So You’re Attending a Spring Gala—Here’s What to Wear
Just because there’s a black tie dress code, you don’t want the ensemble to feel like a costume. samanthalondon1 | Observer

While in high school you have formal events like prom to dress up for, the closest adult equivalent is a gala, such as a charity event or fundraiser. Often celebrating companies, people or charity organizations, these events are a place to see and be seen. When the invitation for a white tie or black tie event arrives, you’ll want to make sure you have heels at the ready, an evening dress (or perhaps even a ball gown), and oh yeah, plenty of sparkly accessories to add on, too. But just because there’s a black tie optional or black tie dress code, you don’t want the ensemble to feel like a costume (unless you’re heading to the Met Gala, of course). What you wear to a gala event should be a dressier, put-together version of your style—you want to make sure your own personality shines through. 

That means finding gala attire that fits the dress code but also your own take on fashion. Head-to-toe black is sleek, elegant and classic, but if you’re one for aughts-inspired colors and prints, you can lean into that too. While you’ll likely be sitting most of the night, pre-dinner cocktails and a post-meal turn on the dance floor aren’t out of the question, so also make sure you prioritize comfort—heels that you can stand to spend some time in, a bag that’s easy to hold onto, and an evening gown that won’t require constant adjusting as the night goes on.

Ahead, find seven looks befitting of your next spring gala, no matter what your signature look may be.  

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A red dress is a piece meant to stand out all on its own. If you pick something in a blazing fire truck or cherry, choose to keep the rest of your gala outfit simple and streamlined. A black stiletto sandal and purse with just a hint of sparkle, along with a classic tennis bracelet, are just the pieces to complement the look.


When you want to stand out in the black tie gala crowd, a sequin dress is just the thing to catch the light. Instead of going with neutral accessories, have some fun with the ensemble by styling your shining look with accessories like statement earrings in the same color family. Coordinated, but not-totally-matching accessories in a pale purple feel fashionable without being overly conspicuous.


When the occasion calls for a swoopy gala dress, British designer Emilia Wickstead has mastered the art of simple elegance. Since this formal dress has a more muted hue, style it with pieces that make it feel a little bit more fun. Olympia Le Tan’s book-inspired clutch will be a talking point at your dinner table. 


Sometimes, more really is more. This bold ensemble, anchored by the multi-printed Christopher John Rogers floor length gown nods to the over-the-top styling of the early aughts. In this colorful chiffon ensemble, you’ll have just as much fun getting ready as you will at the charity gala.


When the occasion calls for sleek, elegant, dressy black—do it head-to-toe. Punctuated by a glittery evening bag and a stunning diamond ring, the little black dress look may seem simple from afar, but the details set it apart in all its quiet luxury. 


Channel a touch of old-school glamor with a look that mixes textures in a sleek, sophisticated way. The contrasting black and white dress has a maxi silhouette and neckline worthy of a red carpet, so make sure you pose for social media pictures before the night is over.


Markarian is a New York brand known for its beautiful cocktail dresses, midi dresses and elegant event looks. This off-the-shoulder column gown is no exception. Stick to slightly-quirky ivory accessories for an unfussy styling that still fits the formal gala dress code. An unexpected twist on pearl earrings adds a finishing touch that’s just the right amount of fancy.

So You’re Attending a Spring Gala—Here’s What to Wear