Dress Code

This section contains example dress code guidelines. However, it is not intended to act as a whole, complete dress code. Double check the convention's formal ball dress code if you are attending a specific one because all dress codes are different based on the convention and venue.

If you are looking to create your own convention formal ball dress code, see below: How to Create a Dress Code.

If you would like me to help you customize your own convention formal ball dress code, please send and inquiry to ballroom@trickssi.com.

Example Dress Code

Cosplay is permitted as long as it fits within these guidelines. No changes from appropriate garments to garments that break the rules after you have been admitted.

Dresses & Skirts

Dress Shirts/Pants

Dress Shoes

Cosplay

Casual Hour

How to Create a Dress Code

Here are some elements to think about when your convention is creating or revising a dress code. If you wish to upgrade your local convention's formal ball standards according to these guidelines or the guidelines I created for Matsuricon, Ohayocon, Anime Crossroads, or Tekko, please credit me by name and link to this page. I would also appreciate if you emailed me at ballroom@trickssi.com because I’d love to read and support your dress code!

  1. Avoid gendered language. Do you specifically separate your guidelines into “men” and “women”? YEET IT! It’s 2019, so there’s no need to describe any dress code using a gender binary. Ensure that your attendees know it’s okay to present however they wish. Also, be aware that if you say that “cosplay is permitted,” do NOT say “crossplay is permitted” separately. Cosplay is cosplay and calling it “crossplay” automatically associates a binary to the hobby. Also, sometimes conventions are the only place where a closeted trans or nonbinary/genderfluid person might feel comfortable expressing themselves. Don’t be the convention that makes them feel ashamed to be who they are because you think it’s easier to use outdated language.
  2. Avoid language that shames bodies. Does your dress code include language like “nothing low-cut that shows too much cleavage?” Strike it. There’s a practical reason not to have an outfit be low-cut: if not properly secured, it could slip and accidentally expose the wearer. But saying “cleavage” will unintentionally condemn people who have larger breasts and physically cannot have less cleavage in the same top that a person with smaller breasts might wear. Likewise, specifying “no tight clothes” makes no sense—lots of dresses cling to the body, plus someone who is larger might not be able to find a formal “loose” fitting garment in their size. All attendees deserve to feel that their bodies are welcome at the event.
  3. What is your attendee population like and what are their needs? For example, how large is your convention? If it’s small, it might not make sense to enforce a strict dress code since fewer people are likely to attend. Small, local conventions are also great places for younger people and people who can’t afford to go to larger cons. They might not be able to afford a formal enough outfit if your dress code is strict. Bonus: If you can team up with a local secondhand store to make affordable formal outfit options available at the convention, you might be able to increase your attendance.
  4. Are your rules practical? Can your attendees wear attire they can dance in? If you discourage above-the-knee skirts and dresses, your attendees might not be able to dance to faster music with lots of spinning, such as swing or salsa. Likewise, if you encourage long trains and hoop skirts, the risk for tripping increases, particularly if your population is full of beginner dancers or people who have not been trained to dance at all. (I’m specifically looking at you, conventions who use “Labyrinth” or “prom” in your dance’s title or description!) Do your rules cover accessories that people might wear, such as hats and masks? Have you tested the dance floor’s safety for those articles? More than likely, wearing a tall hat or mask will limit a person’s mobility or visibility.
  5. What trends exist in contemporary fashion and how can you remain flexible over the years? Several years ago when I started hosting convention formal balls, slits were forbidden, sometimes entirely. (Because I was the host, I would get around this rule by wearing Cinder Fall…!) At the time of writing this piece, slits have now been permitted by Fanime’s Black and White Ball. While we have no way of knowing what the future will hold, it’s important that your guidelines be open to an update. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with what actual professional ballroom and Latin dancers wear, it’s worth doing some research at least by Googling Dancing with the Stars so you can see what the general population expects.
  6. Do your rules accommodate people who have special needs? Every convention has attendees with disabilities. Sometimes a person needs to wear specific sneakers for support, or might need to have a shorter skirt or dress to fit a cast or knee brace. Regardless of the limitation, you should allow for exceptions based on medical need. You don’t have to say that explicitly in the guidelines, but please list a way for someone to contact you in case they have medical needs.
  7. Do you have any rules that exist for no reason other than a personal dislike? I saw a convention whose guidelines for formalwear included the rule, “no fishnets.” I wonder if they know that nude fishnets have been a standard in ballroom fashion? Did the person writing the rules just not like the way they looked, or believe that any (presumably cis woman) person wearing them was “trashy?” You are allowed to have standards that are “semiformal” to “black tie” for your requirements, but if you’re going to exclude one type of tights and not others, there needs to be an actual, legitimate reason. There’s no safety reason for fishnets to be excluded and plenty of gorgeous, formal fashion incorporates that kind of legwear. Another example: I personally don’t like to wear non-Latin heels to dances (think a pump with no straps). However, even if there’s a heel size rule due to the flooring company, there’s no reason for me to say “no high heels without straps.” Especially now that Payless is dead, we need to be considerate of others’ budgets and preferences and leave the options as open as we can.

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