What Do I Wear To: An Uptight Military Ball?

I want to wear something vintage-y without looking like it's Halloween and also that I can afford on my "the government hates its soldiers budget."

Dear Laia, What do I wear to an uptight military ball? I've always gone with safe fashion to my husband's balls (teehee, husband's balls), and I'd really like to wear something a little different this time! I want to wear something vintage-y without looking like it's Halloween and also that I can afford on my "the government hates its soldiers budget." I'm thick through the hips (size 8-10), got a little baby gut courtesy of my twins (they're 6), and smallish in the breast area. So pyramid shaped? Thanks for any help, I always love the looks you come up with!


Thanks for writing in, Jess! Anyone that does a "teehee, husband's balls" parenthetical aside is A-OK with me! But on to the more important things like what you're gonna wear to said ball. I feel like vintage-y can mean a lot of things so these dresses don't really have a unifying look, each one appeals to a different vintage aspect. Basically I wanted to give you a lot of options, and believe me I looked at A LOT of options before narrowing it down to these five (even though they all come from the same two websites).

Max & Cleo Sophia Lace Inset Gown $168, Bloomingdale's

The Classic with a Hint of Sexy I thought it best if we started out slow and then get all crazy towards the end. A black dress is always nice and appropriate, but I love the faux-wrap style on this one, highlighted by the hint of lace visible under it. The way the lace was placed here, to mimic the bodice of a vintage slip was really what brought me in. This is also a great idea in general, if you come across a beautiful dress with a deeper decolletage than you are comfortable with; layer a nice slip under it (preferably vintage! there's always cool ones at thrift stores) for a bit of romanticism and sex appeal.

BCBG Max Azria Barbara One-Shoulder Dress $288, Bloomingdale's

The Dramatic Silhouette When I first saw this dress, I immediately thought about early 20th century designer Paul Poiret's exquisite designs. While everyone is always gushing about the '50s New Look and '60s hippie vibes, the early 1900s are forgotten–probz 'cause they don't have a kicky name and nobody likes to say "the oh-oh's" or "the double zeros"–but this is a shape that I think you could really rock. The details at the top and are the bottom will carry the eye down and balance out your "pyramid shape". You could even get away with a really fabulous gold strappy flat sandal, depending on how much rockin' the boat you wanted to do, of course.

Floral One Shoulder Maxi Dress $58.61, ASOS

The Crazy Printed Option I love love love a bold print. This one clearly has roots in Stella McCartney's amazing resort 2011 collection, but these flowers resemble those vintage illustrations that you would find in the middle of your super fat elementary-school dictionaries. The good thing about this print is that while it is oversized, it is well-spaced so you have room to breathe and you are not in danger of being swallowed by the dress or having the dress wear you.

BCBGeneration Flounce Cami Maxi Dress $148, Bloomingdale's

The Delicate Boho This is a very simple silhouette that becomes special through the use of prints and an easy overlay on the bodice. It's very feminine without being saccharine, and I imagine when you wear it you will forever hear "California Dreamin'" in the background. A cool accessory with this would be a bold pashmina or scarf, since the spaghetti strap-top might prove to be a little cool late at night. I have that same one in two colors and I always bring it out during special occasions. And by always, I mean, like the TWO times in the last 5 years that I dressed up for anything. They were both weddings, of course.

Drop Back Metal Maxi Dress $94.81, ASOS

The Back View Stunner I'm a big fan of the "mullet" as applied to the concept of dressing, especially when it comes to dramatic backs. From the front it looks like a simple A-line dress but from the back it is all VA-VA-VOOM factor. It's a lot of look, for sure, but if you want to knock them dead and leave them talking for weeks to come, a little sexy back can go a long way. And yes, that links to Justin Timberlake's song. Because it is awesome.

I hope these help, and have an awesome time at the ball!

Have a fashion conundrum? Let me at it! Send me all your queries and a pic of yourself to laia@janepratt.com.