February 21, 2017

I’m so excited for the submarine birthday ball that’s coming up this spring! My friends and I have been talking about it so much, which has got me feeling all nostalgic about military balls of the past.

My style has changed since our first ball in 2008, so it was fun to look back on these dresses. I like this article about what military ball fashion & etiquette, so if you are not sure what to wear, definitely check it out.

The first military ball I ever went to with Nick was a Navy/Marine Corps Birthday Ball when we were in college. I was 20 and Nick was 22.

Here we are at my parents’ house before going to the ball. I got my hair done and then I went to the makeup counter at a department store to get my makeup done. This night was a big deal! My mom helped me pick out this dress and I remember how excited we both were. I loved it because it was so flowy. But wearing a strapless dress is a pain, so I never got another strapless gown.

sub ball california (6 of 6)

I don’t have many different pictures of my dresses over the years, because I wore this dress to three balls in a row. I loved how it fit me, and I loved the color. My mom and I got this one together, too. We used to meet at the mall after work and go to Johnny Rockets before shopping till we dropped. The day we got this dress, I remember we went into so many different stores until she finally dragged me into this one store that I never thought to try. Moms do know best! I loved this dress, but eventually it started pilling so bad that I had to get rid of it. I got my money’s worth, though.

sub ball california (2 of 6)

Two years ago, I wanted a different look and I didn’t feel like driving all over Hawaii to try to find a dress. There isn’t a huge selection of formal gowns on a small island, and the only big mall has crazy expensive stores and caters to tourists. Like in the winter months, they sell winter clothes, even though it’s hot here. So weird.

So anyway, to save myself time and money, and to try out a different look, I rented this dress from Rent the Runway. Normally I gravitate towards A-line dresses, so for this ball I tried out a more form fitting dress. It was a lot of fun to get to wear something different without having to buy it.

Submarine Ball-5

This year, my mom helped me get a dress again! I was home in New York for Christmas and I mentioned that I would rather get a dress in New York with my mom than try to find something in Hawaii, even though the ball was months away. There is this one store near my house that is always my go-to store for clothes because they have great stuff and they always have amazing sales.

So, the day after Christmas my mom woke me up at 7:30 am and said we should go to that store because she had a coupon and there was a sale going on. My mom is always ready to go in the morning where I always need a cup or two of coffee before I can speak. But I jumped out of bed, didn’t even make coffee, and went the store with her. I tried on one dress, my mom and I both agreed that it was the one, and then we got the heck out of the store. It needs some major alterations but I am sure that it can be done. I can’t wait to wear it!

Edited to add: I have a post live today on Military One Click called What to Expect at a Submarine Birthday Ball. Click here to check it out if you’re planning to go this year!

Have you ever gone to a formal ball? What’s your style?

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17 responses to “What I wore: military ball dresses over the years”

  1. Carly says:

    This was such a fun post and I love that your mom is such a big part of your memory in picking out your dresses. They are all so gorgeous, but I love the teal one and can see why you wore it multiple times! I can’t wait to see what your dress for this year looks like!

    • Carolann says:

      The teal one was my favorite so far! I was so sad to get rid of it. As I was writing this pos,t I realized that my mom has helped me pick out every one of my dresses! It’s always so fun to go shopping with her.

  2. Yes! We had a few formals in college, and I always loved getting dressed up for them! All of your dresses are so pretty, and I can’t wait to see what your dress looks like this year!

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you! It’s always so much fun to get dressed up so I love that the military does this every year! I don’t know when else I would get to get all glammed up. Plus I love getting to see Nick in his uniform!!

  3. Audrey says:

    This is so fun. My mom is an air force brat and she used to go to the balls with men that served under her father. I loved dressing up in her (old) gowns when I was a kid. My dad isn’t military (they met in college), but my mom took advantage of the parties and balls when she was a high schooler. Lol

    • Carolann says:

      I love that! Military balls really are something special, like nothing else I’ve ever been to. I’m glad your mom got to experience it!

  4. Jen says:

    I absolutely love the dress choices over the years. It’s so fun to look back and see how styles change and evolve.

  5. Julie says:

    Love your dress choices and I can’t wait to see your dress for the upcoming ball!!

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you! I am a bit nervous about all the changes that need to be made to the dress but I think it will work out. I love getting dressed up!

  6. Jane says:

    Hotties!! You guys look absolutely amazing! I love love love all these dresses, especially the last one. Gorgeous! And, I can’t wait to see the new one!

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you!! The last one was probably the most fun because it was just so different from anything I ever wear! I’d definitely get another dress like it.

  7. Emma says:

    Theae are all such pretty dreseses – I adore the idea of ‘rent the runway’!

    • Carolann says:

      It was so much fun! And even better that I didn’t have to wash it or pay too much to get to wear it. It didn’t fit me exactly how I wanted but it was close enough for the price and convenience!

  8. Rachel G says:

    Awww! It would be pretty fun to have a formal event to shop for dresses for! That’s really cool that your mom has shopped with you for most of your dresses–my mom utterly detests shopping so she will never voluntarily go on shopping expeditions. 😛 We’ve not really had much or any formal events to attend together–we did go to a graduation banquet and dance my senior year, but other than that, not really. I like to wear dresses often, but Angel’s always in shorts and t-shirt if he’s not working. 😛 A lot of big stores here sell winter clothes during the winter season, too. It’s so weird since there is never winter here! I’ve always assumed it’s because Uniqlo and H&M and similar stores are part of big chains, and are based in countries where seasons do exist, so they just release the same collections in Malaysia, even though fluffy vests and sweaters don’t make any sense at all here…

    • Carolann says:

      I hate shopping, but my mom loves it, which is how she got me up at 7:30 in the morning this year to find a gown! I feel a lot better having her help me shop because she is always 100% honest with me. I love wearing dresses, and it’s always warm enough for them here. I don’t really like wearing jeans when it’s so hot out and I usually get cold if I wear shorts and we go someplace with AC. Nick is usually in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. It used to bother me when I would get more dressed up than him but I’ve learned to just wear whatever I want no matter what he’s wearing!

      And I think you are right about the big stores. It probably would be too difficult to send different things to different places. I’m glad spring is coming and they are starting to sell their warm weather clothes!

  9. Sophie says:

    Love this! So interesting to read about the military etiquette surrounding formals. You look lovely in the photos, and I love the name Submarine Ball!

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