October 11, 2021


An Evening Affair: What to Wear to a Gala? (For Women by a Woman)

By: Leah Nalepa

If you’re familiar with Washington, DC, you know an unfathomable amount of glamorous events are hosted each season. DC is a city where black tie means black tie, and cocktail attire demands dressing up with more than just work wear. With all the various events around town, it can be difficult to find the right piece or outfit for each event. Guides are a helpful resource!

This week, America’s Future will host its annual AF Gala and Buckley Awards at Nationals Park! The attire? Black tie creative.

Be Aware of How Much Skin You Show
This is an event where you may run into your co-workers, organizational partners, or potential future employers, and it’s crucial to establish and maintain a strong reputation through your personal style. As much as I’d die to wear half of the dresses presented at the Met Gala (who doesn’t want to wear a custom gown at the most high profile fashion event in NYC?), those outfits usually aren’t the best fit for DC galas due to the artistic elements and how much skin they show. Be cognizant of shoulders and cleavage, how tight the dress is, or how much leg there is with high heels.

Consider this: It’s okay to show some skin, but it should be balanced. If you choose to wear a strapless dress with a lower neckline, then ensure it covers a bit more leg. The reverse is also true.

An Evening Affair: What to Wear to a Gala? (For Women by a Woman)

Black Tie Creative Isn’t Strict
Unlike other lavish events, black tie creative is, well, creative. For example, a few years ago I attended a military ball where I wouldn’t be caught dead in a short dress (Okay, I’m being dramatic, but you get the point). However, you can wear a short dress to the AF Gala. Think of all the items you could add to an otherwise simple outfit that may be appropriate for other events.

Consider this: Add options like sparkles, rhinestones, sequins, ruffles, colors, shiny textures, bold necklaces, pattern shoes, and more.

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Flatter Your Figure
We come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and this is something to be celebrated. Everyone deserves to feel and look amazing in what they decide to wear. When searching through your closet (or someone else’s) or the aisles of stores for that perfect piece, make sure you know your size. Have someone take your measurements to get an accurate fit from an online store, such as Rent the Runway. Finding an outfit that accentuates your favorite features in the best way and camouflages “trouble areas” will help you feel confident, strong, and attractive at any event.

Consider this: A-line dresses look great on most people; certain jumpsuits can elongate your figure; sweetheart necklines are flattering; and jewel tones work for all skin tones.

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Wear a Fun Shoe
I never thought of adding fun shoes to an outfit prior to adulthood. Perhaps I changed my mind when my youngest sister’s passion for shoes developed at the age of three when she had a meltdown at the store each time she couldn’t get a new pair. I considered that she may have been onto something (minus the tears). A good shoe can make (or break) an outfit. A tailored outfit can be elevated with a sparkly, patterned, or brightly colored shoe. Shoes add dimension and can also balance an outstanding dress so the focus is on the right item of clothing.

Consider this: Make sure you know how to walk in heels if you choose to wear them. Flats are a very “in” option today too. Ankle straps rock. I prefer at least a four inch heel, but that’s because I like to feel taller than I am! Plus, I get a good calf workout.

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Have Fun with Trends
Gone are the days where the only option is a floor length dress for a regal event. Have fun with it! Long dresses, short dresses, tea length dresses, matching two pieces, tuxedos, and jumpsuits are all great choices. 2021 is a playful and experimental time for fashion, and trends from the past century – even the 90’s – are in today. Wear pieces that reflect your personality and shine. Nothing is more attractive than inner confidence that exudes from an outfit that mirrors you.

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PS – If you watched the video, I got the black dress.

Editor’s Note: Have you gotten your tickets yet for the AF Gala? Don’t miss this must-attend event! Get your tickets now.