What to Wear to Every Major Social Occasion of the Season

From the Frick Ball in New York City to the Philharmonic Ball in Vienna.
IMAGE Matthew Priestley

Sure, most formal social occasions call for black or white tie, but dress codes are no longer as clear cut as they used to be. Guests can now get away with wearing short dresses or dark suits to most black tie events, which never would have been acceptable a few decades ago. Still, there are still unwritten rules particular to each and every party, which only an in-the-know person would be privy to. Thankfully, you have an insider's guide.

Here, the perfect outfits to wear to some of the most important international galas and balls of the year, so you can be sure that you will never look out of place.

Royal Opera House New Year's Party
London, United Kingdom

Black tie is required for both men and women here, but since the event takes place on New Year's Eve, many go even more festive in their attire. For women, sequins and metallic fabrics are par for the course.

Open back tunic, $8,950. Tom Ford; Black velvet long tube skirt, $1,250. Tom Ford; Glitter Betty platform sandal, $795. Giuseppe Zanotti Design; Diamond bead earrings, $1,400. Jessica Biales; Diamond signet ring, $7,490. Walters Faith; Datejust 36 watch, Rolex.

Vienna Philharmonic Ball
Vienna, Austria

Vienna is an extremely formal city, so men must wear white tie and tails to the Philharmonic Ball, while floor-length gowns are required for women. The dresses should be fit for dancing—even better if they are paired with white opera gloves.

Dress, $8,490. Oscar de la Renta; Papillion de Nuit Stress Degrade shoes, $3,350. Roger Vivier; Radience Sea Queen Ring, $17,400. Lily Streets; Parlor Trick necklace, $1,503. Ericson Beamon; Lou wristlet, $390. Eddie Borgo; Pearlmaster 34 watch, Rolex.

Frick Collection Young Fellows Balls
New York City, New York

Each year the Frick Ball has a different theme, which is often inspired by the museum's exhibition at the time. While the color palette and accessories may vary each year, women are always expected to show up in long gowns with trains or very formal mid-length dresses. Tuxedos or evening suits are appropriate for men.


Dress, $7,067. Giambattista Valli; Decollette Rose 'N Roll pumps, $1,175. Roger Vivier; Glint drop earrings, $150. Eddie Borgo; Pearlmaster 29 watch, Rolex.

Save Venice Un Ballo In Maschera
New York City, New York

Save Venice is a masquerade ball, and guests usually opt for opulent outfits to match their elaborate masks. Women wear gilded and bejeweled gowns, and can even get away with shorter dresses if they are especially embellished. Most men wear black tuxedos, but in past years, some have been spotted in velvet or brocade jackets.

Dress, $8,995. Marchesa; Minny velvet shoes, $795. Jimmy Choo; Estate Pop Line bracelet, $150; Eddie Borgo; Damsel mask, $1,978. Erickson Beamon; Pearlmaster 29 watch, Rolex.

Salzburg Festival Ball
Salzburg, Austria

Even though it takes place during the summer, the Festival Ball is held at one of preeminent music and theater festivals in the world, so formal attire is de rigeur. Men sport tuxedos or dinner jackets, and while some women opt for evening dirndls in honor of Austrian tradition, most wear chiffon gowns in a rainbow of colors.

Dress, $7,500. Delpozo; Frilly pump, $1,395. Roger Vivier; Kaboom earring, $11,000. Efva Attling; Cloud tube clutch, $1,795. Jimmy Choo; Lady-Datejust 28, Rolex.

Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala
New York City, New York

While black tie is suggested for this gala, it attracts an eclectic mix of New Yorkers who sport everything from dramatic floor length evening dresses to formal suits and skirts paired with bold accessories. Most men wear tuxedos, but some do opt for velvet smoking jackets.

Dress, $17,900. Naeem Kahn; Harmony Gold sandal, $845. Giuseppe Zanotti Design; Love Bown earrrings, $3,125. Efva Attling; Pearlmaster 34 watch, Rolex.

La Scala Gala Des Etoiles
Milan, Italy

La Scala is one of the few events in Italy that still adheres to a dress code, so although it isn't the most formal on the list, the gala remains very conservative. It's suggested that men wear dark suits with white shirts, and while women can get away with formal cocktail dresses, attire should never be even the slightest bit risqué.


Dress, $5,845. Dolce & Gabbana; Shoes, $2,095. Dolce & Gabbana; Collar, $2,245. Dolce & Gabbana; Pearlmaster 34 watch, Rolex.

Makeup, Rommy Najor; Hair, Cecilia Romero; Wardrobe, Liz Cabral; Props, Andrea Huelse

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