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What To Wear To a Mardi Gras Ball in Mobile, AL

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Perfect Example of Costume De Rigueur

Tailcoat tuxedo, white pique vest and tie, white tuxedo shirt and THERE IS NO CUMMERBUND.

Tailcoat tuxedo, white pique vest and tie, white tuxedo shirt and THERE IS NO CUMMERBUND.

A Ball in Mobile: The Basics

It's an invitation, not a ticket. You are invited; you don't pay for an invitation. You will find some that will sell you one, although a member can be kicked out for this. It certainly happens, typically for around $60-$80 per couple, but it should be a gift. With this economy, I am certain rampant selling occurs. The invitation will specify "Costume de Rigueur". While my husband jokes that this really means "The Rigorous Costume", it is actually white tie with tails. This is not a tuxedo, which is black tie and has a different style jacket. This will be the pique vest with a pique bow tie. NO CUMMERBUND as shown on the ad to the right. The jacket is the longer black type with tails, also known as the penquin suit. If you are going to one of the old line groups, invest in a real bow tie- the type you tie yourself. Complete sets can be rented for $75 a night, but why not buy one? Occasionally, there are a few black tie events, but these will say black tie on the invitation, not costume de rigueur. White tie means you will need the white mother of pearl buttons, not black ones. Wear whatever you like for cufflinks.

What about military formal? Sadly, this is becoming increasingly not allowed, but some do allow it. Definitely check ahead with who invited you so they can find out.

Please remain dressed. No matter how hot you are, gentleman do not remove items of clothing. Not a tie, not a jacket. Yes, ladies, same for the shoes. Plan ahead and wear comfortable ones. This is a ball, not a country bumpkin dance. Mobile is older than New Orleans; we have expectations. In some cases, the member who invited you can get fined for your discretions.

Just Right & Great To Wear Again

Bolero jacket is a plus but it is fine to go with just the sweetheart neckline.  This is great color to wear again and you can never go wrong with going with a conservative dress.

Bolero jacket is a plus but it is fine to go with just the sweetheart neckline. This is great color to wear again and you can never go wrong with going with a conservative dress.

How NOT To Look

Too Much Cleavage!  Keep it conservative in Mobile.

Too Much Cleavage! Keep it conservative in Mobile.

Ladies will wear a floor-length ball gown; ankles absolutely must not show! In my opinion, Mobile is a very conservative town in their general taste. It is better not to stand out, but to blend in. A tasteful black gown is always in style and good taste. Avoid bright colors and prints, although you will certainly see this on the younger crowd, who don't know any better. A solid color that looks good on you will suffice.

What should you wear for a ladies' ball? Dress for the ladies, not for the men. By this, I mean wear something stylish that the other ladies will envy but not draw too much attention from the men. For one thing, the mystic society members will be the stars that night, wearing short, sequined shifts, not you. It's like going to a wedding with a bunch of brides! They want their day in the sun. So you want yours too? A goddess dress with one shoulder covered in fashionable rosettes would be perfect. Ditto for the Sue Wong dress with feathers in a muted shade.

I wear my most flattering dresses to the men's balls, but this does not mean flaunt everything you have. Just because you just got some new "assets" doesn't mean you really need to show them to all. Avoid thigh-high slits and mid-riff-showing dresses. Also, keep in mind that you will be sometimes dragging your dress through wet drinks spilled on the floor. Heavily beaded dresses are to be avoided; they are dated.

It is fine to wear gowns two times or more in the season. Most buy a brand new dress a year and rotate them with their old ones. In a money pinch, but you are new to town and have been invited to 4 balls in a weekend? Go to the Junior League of Mobile thrift shop on Sage Avenue, between Old Shell Road and Dauphin Street. Dresses are $30 and under. Hertha's Consignment in Springhill area, corner of Old Shell Road and McGregor is excellent, too. Buy designer dresses on EBay in the summer for a song. Have fun and let the good times roll!

Fur Coats Ladies around here wear them if they have them; in fact, you may feel a little out of place without one at certain events as the PETA fur movement hasn't made inroads here. Considering the craze for hunting around the South, this isn't likely to change anytime soon. If you object to fur, there are plenty of faux fur jackets that look great.

Securing An Invitation

Perhaps you would do anything to attend a ball. After all, you are staying in Mobile, attending the parades, why can't you attend a ball??? There is a way. You can even be in a parade! The Krewe de Bienville apparently offers seasonal membership to tourists, as long as they are outside of 100 miles of the city of Mobile. While I am already a member of another mystic society, I think this is a fine example of Southern hospitality.

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You can also chat up locals who are staying in the same hotel as you are; they may just have some extra invitations due to a last minute cancellation by a friend. Have a great time at their ball but do follow basic etiquette while you are there. Mobile's mystic societies have strict rules you may unwittingly break. Let the good times roll, as we say here, but don't get crazy!


Dewprice on February 26, 2017:

Would a floor length skirt and long sequin top suffice as a formal gown?

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on February 11, 2014:

It should be listed on the invitation, but from what I know, yes, it's white tie and tails (AKA Costume de Rigueur ).

Country bumpkin on February 09, 2014:

My son & his girlfriend has been invited to the Mystic Ball Feb. 22. Is this the one that dress is Costume de Rigueur?

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on January 21, 2014:

That's definitely fine! Most balls, especially in the Civics Center will have a coat check if you get hot later. It's around $5 per item.

Denise on January 20, 2014:

I have a question I'm going to the mystics ball please can someone tell me can ladies wear a long sleeve balero ? Its going to be cold and I wanna keep mine over my gown i am by far skinny and I wanna stay covered help !!

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on October 07, 2013:

Some of the big weekend men's groups are: Inca, Conde Cavaliers, Mobile Mystics, Pharaohs, Mystics of Time, & Crewe of Columbus. There is an easy way around it. The Krewe of Bienville ( for tourists and locals) has a fairly large ball on the Sunday ( think that's March 2nd) before Fat Tuesday. Google for their website; you can even be in their parade. Another way is to stay downtown and strike up conversation with someone in one- many times they have friends who cannot go. Finally, people do sell them on Craigslist. They shouldn't but I'm told it happens.

Amanda on September 18, 2013:

I'm desperate to attend a ball in 2014. I don't know anyone in the parades So I won't be invited. Is there a way around this? I want to attend a big one

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on February 05, 2012:

Thanks for reading! How fun! A slit should be completely fine. Demi

In Kentucky on February 05, 2012:

I have be invited to be an escort at one of the Balls this year. My question is, I was asked to wear a dress simular to my host. I have decided on a Beautiful Sequins gown. It has a slit up the left leg, but not to the thigh. My Husband is from Mobile and was a crew member until he was called into the Army. He says the dress will be fine. What do you think

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on January 24, 2012:

That's a great question. No, they are supposed to be white (like a mother of pearl). You could get away with it at a larger ball, though. The links can be something different, like monogrammed, a fleur de lis, etc. So for white tie, you need a white set & for a black tie tuxedo(which they do wear mostly in Coastal Mississippi) you need a black set.

wordeaterus on January 23, 2012:

Can the studs and links be black?

Michal from Miami, Florida on January 05, 2012:

how fun!! I love the 80's!

Demi (author) from Mobile, Alabama on January 05, 2012:

Usually two types, which alternate all night until about 2 a.m. Big Band orchestras and then another popular pop band from out of town, like California. Usually 80s music.

Michal from Miami, Florida on January 05, 2012:

It looks like Mobile has a lot of the same rules as New Orleans! We do have several very relaxed balls, but they are more big parties than a traditional ball (Endymion). What kind of music or bands go to these balls?

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on January 04, 2012:

I so agree about the shoes! I always wore comfortable ones so I wouldn't be in pain all night.

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