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Inaugural Ball What to Wear

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I was invited to a Presidential Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C. on January 20 and cannot decide what to wear. Should I wear a floor length ball gown? Is so what color? Is my date required to wear a tux?


Too excited to think

Dear Too excited to think,

The Presidential Inaugural Ball is usually a formal affair. The invitation often indicates the attire appropriate for the event such as Black Tie, Black Tie Preferred, or Black Tie Optional.

For Black Tie men should wear a tuxedo. But if the invitation is Black Tie Preferred or Black Tie Optional, then men can wear either a tuxedo or dark suit and tie.

However, women have many options and choices for attire for Black tie events.

You can wear a floor length ball gown in any color. But, any nice outfit in any skirt length is appropriate, from the short little black dress, dressier suits or separates, to a longer more elegant gown.

Any attire can be enhanced with attractive jewelry pieces and dressier shoes or strappy heels.

The only time a skirt length must be long is for "White Tie" functions.

It is always fine to ask the host of the party about appropriate attire.

[Update] There were about 50 presidential inaugural balls. However, the Presidential Inaugural Committee hosted 10 official inaugural balls where President Obama, Vice President Biden, and their families stopped by.

For more information about the inauguration and all the events, see the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies at