What to Wear to a Gala: A Guide to Attire and Accessories

by Nairobi Toombs / Mar 27, 2023

With an invitation to your next gala in hand (or maybe it’s your first!), your next step is to your closet, in search of the right outfit to wear. But not everyone has flowing gowns and glittery heels at the ready. Instead, you might end up searching out what to wear.

The best gala outfits are stunningly sophisticated, the right balance of beauty, grace, and elegance without sacrificing comfort. This guide on what to wear to a gala can put you in the right direction as you put together your ensemble.


6 dress code tips to keep in mind while selecting your gala outfit

A gala is an exciting event, but one that comes with written and unwritten rules. Finding an outfit that fits the occasion while reflecting your individual style may prove to be quite the challenge. These dress code tips will help you discover what’s appropriate to wear to a gala while still highlighting and showcasing your individuality.


1. When in doubt, follow a black-tie dress code

While a gala may not always require black-tie attire, it’s typically quite close to that level of formality, whether it’s black tie optional, white tie, or semi-formal. If no detailed dress code is presented in the invitation, a general rule of thumb is to default to a black-tie dress code. This more formal attire calls for higher-end attire, such as floor-length gowns and heels, black tuxedos and Italian loafers, and accessories to match. The fabric matters, too: Silk, chiffon, and velvet are among the proper fabrics for a black-tie-appropriate dress.


There are plenty of routes you can take when looking for the perfect dress. If you’re on the search for something sophisticated and elegant, you can’t go wrong with a floor-length black gown. Or, if you want to take a more daring approach, choose one that sparkles under the twinkling lights like a shimmery gold or silver. 


2. Avoid bright colors

Going bold shouldn’t be a literal statement when dressing for a gala. Highlighter yellow and neon green are not colors associated with higher-end events and should be left in the closet on these occasions. And while a gala typically won’t tell you what color to wear, the bright color rule is an unwritten one that’s quite important to keep in mind.

A safe option that will never disappoint – and one you can likely wear to other formal events – is a neutral or dark-colored floor-length gown. If you’re looking for a gown that you can wear to multiple events, you can never go wrong with black, navy, silver, or gold, just to name a few. But you’re not limited to these colors: If you want to stand out in the crowd, shop for gowns in the proper style and fabric in colors like jewel blue, pink, or emerald green.


3. Add some elements of interest to elevate the occasion

While it’s best not to go overboard on bells and whistles, outfits with little touches of shimmer and shine can elevate the whole look from typical attire to a glowing goddess. A soft silver metallic, bold gold, or a monochromatic tulle or feather detail adds intrigue and interest. Be careful not to overwhelm the whole look, though — just a little bit will do to remain appropriate for the occasion at hand.


4. Steer away from bold patterns

Patterns aren’t completely disallowed or discouraged from a formal event like a gala, but they should be carefully selected. Opt for a pattern that brings intrigue to your outfit, but isn’t over the top. Monochromatic looks, such as black patterns on a black dress, are fully appropriate for a gala. Complementary looks, like a silver pattern on a navy gown or blush flowers on a black gown, add appropriate color without overpowering the outfit. Add a soft pink lip and dainty diamonds for a feminine appeal.


woman in sparkly off-shoulder dress holding a burgundy clutch 

5. Play around with textures 

Just because you shouldn’t wear too bright of colors or bold patterns, doesn’t mean you need to settle on a plain formal gown. Play around with textures to add some more interesting elements to your outfit. That can be puffed sleeves, ruffles around the neckline, or soft tulle on the skirt. The added texture will take your dress to the next level. 


6. Think carefully about your footwear

Although you may be inclined to wear your brand new five-inch heels to the gala, it may be better to save those shoes for another time. Changing into different shoes or sneakers if you’re in pain can go against the dress code.

The key to finding the right gala shoes is to look for a pair that you know you can wear for several hours on your feet. A pair of two-inch strappy black heels or a blush pair of pumps are great options, as long as they feel good on your feet and match your outfit.

How to accessorize for a gala

Once you find the dress you want to wear for the evening, it’s time to accessorize. From fur coats to sparkling jewelry, these accessories transform your ensemble into a work of art worthy of an impressive evening.

Choose elegant statement pieces

Even if you wear several accessories with your outfit, they shouldn’t compete with each other for the spotlight. The right statement pieces ensure your dress remains the center of the ensemble, working together to create a show stopping outfit. Depending on your dress style, choose between sleek bracelets wrapped around your wrist, or opt for a statement necklace or earrings that catch the light in just the right way.

A high neck long sleeve dress and a statement necklace is the perfect combination for  sophisticated gala glam. Hit the mark by adding a bold lip and matching mini purse to the ensemble. 


Avoid over-accessorizing

Yes, there is such a thing as over-accessorizing. Remember, when it comes to galas, less is more. The key to accessorizing your ensemble is to go for one bold item, whether it’s a necklace, bracelet, earrings, rings or a handbag. If you opt for a long, shiny pair of dangle earrings, the remaining accessories should be simple and minimal, such as a few silver rings or a dainty bracelet. 

Pick a smaller, hand-held purse

A gala is not the venue for shoulder bags and large totes. When looking for the perfect purse to match your ensemble, reach for a small handheld clutch, with a strap or without. After all, you won’t need to bring much with you to the gala, so you won’t need a lot of space.

SENREVE’s Cornetti Bag is a great option to bring to a gala. Made from a stain and scratch-resistant Italian leather, this mini bag is sleek and stunning for any formal event or night out. Its croissant shape and smooth exterior add a bit of flair to any gala ensemble, without detracting from other statement accessories you want to wear. Tuck in or remove the strap to turn this shoulder bag into a clutch. Choose between a neutral dune color for an everyday bag, or opt for a glacier color to make your outfit pop. 


Woman putting lipstick into her Cornetti clutch purse pocket

Don’t discount gloves

They may seem old-fashioned, but formal gloves are making a comeback, and you may find a way to wear them to your next gala. Available in wrist, elbow, and above-the-elbow styles called opera gloves, evening gloves come with their own etiquette for wearing and styling. For example, you can wear rings over gloves. If you’re looking to make a statement while still being gala appropriate, this may be the way.

Add some diamonds

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, after all, and there's a good reason for that. Timeless and classic, diamonds are easy to pair with virtually any outfit. They’re glamorous yet not overpowering. Simple diamond stuf earrings and a necklace will go a long way. 

Opt for neutral heels

Although accessorizing is important, you don’t want to overload on color and pizzazz. When it comes to finding the right shoe to wear, choose one in a neutral or muted color tone, such as black, blush, silver, or nude. 

Turn heads at your next gala event

Galas are the perfect event to put on your best garments and showcase your own personal style. No matter what color or style of ensemble you choose, it’s time to dress to impress.

The right accessories take your gala outfit to the next level. SENREVE offers a vast collection of handbags and accessories that are bound to make a statement. With multiple color options to choose from, you’ll find the perfect accessory to elevate your gala ensemble.