Saint Monica's Ball         City of Lights at Night

How to Meet the Dress Code

Dear Young Ladies and Parents: as we are heading into our 7th ball this year we have picked up many ideas from young ladies who have attended the ball in the past – we hope this tab will help you find a gown that you like and that meets the dress code. Tailoring may be required to help bring a dress “up to code” – please see below for tips from other young women.

Also, almost all of the Planning Team moms have teenage daughters – we understand the challenges of finding a gown that honors your daughter’s dignity. There are things we have learned over the years as well and we have added those below to help you.

REMEMBER: St. Monica’s Ball happens at the height of prom season….any tailoring you will need should be completed as early as possible to prevent any timing issues w/ regards to tailoring – many tailors are extremely busy during that time of the year….keep this in mind

FYI: If you are borrowing a gown from someone who attended the ball in past years PLEASE be sure you note the updated dress code to be sure that dress meets the dress code – what may be a modest cut on one young lady may be revealing on another. Do not wait until the last minute to confirm your gown meets the dress code.

If you still have questions after reading this tab and the LADIES tab feel free to contact Enid at: (Please realize we are all busy moms planning this event – you will receive a response in 24-48 hours. The week leading up to the ball is INSANE for our entire planning team…please do not wait until then to ask questions as you may not get a timely response. Thank you! )


  1. Purchasing a Gown: Buying a formal gown does not have to break the bank! Many of our young ladies purchased their gowns for $5 or $10 at thrift stores – thrift stores carry “once worn” gowns at incredible prices! Some meet the dress code off the rack, others might require adding fabric to the bust or straps over the shoulder…still others might just need a sweater/shrug/jacket because they are spaghetti strap (remember, strapless is not allowed even w/ a cover up). Also, check out MARSHALLS, TJ MAXX and other discount stores – young ladies have purchased gowns there for $30 or under. ****Formal gowns are typically cut LONG for tailoring…you can use that extra fabric to make straps if you are handy with sewing or a good tailor can do that for you .
  2. A number of moms/daughters have had great luck at places like Dillards and Macy’s over the years. Also, check out bridesmaid gowns at some of the sites listed below – formal and bridal stores may carry them in stock as well so you can be sure it fits before purchasing. FYI: ordering online requires professional fitting from a tailor to ensure proper size – it can also take anywhere from 8-14 weeks..keep this in mind!
  3. Minor Alterations: Minor alterations can help bring that gown up to code with minimal effort. If the bust is showing cleavage you can pin or baste fabric across that area – PLEASE do not cover cleavage with flesh tone fabrics as it still looks like the dress is too low. Flesh tone fabric is not allowed – please use a base (solid colored – visible) fabric.
  4. Too short: If the gown is at or above the knee (if we can see your knees you will not be allowed in – formal length gown is tea length or longer) you may be able to add solid material to the hemline to bring it up to code. See thru materials (netting/chiffon, etc) cannot be used for this – the solid fabric must meet the dress length. Again, if you are borrowing a gown be sure that the length is proper on YOU – look in the mirror while standing…if you can see your knees it is too short and cannot be allowed in.


  1. COVERED SHOULDERS: Shoulders must have a “substantial” strap – this is defined at 1.5 inches or wider – anything smaller is considered a spaghetti strap and requires a sweater/shrug/jacket. Shawls are not acceptable since they do not stay on the shoulders. *Clear straps are allowed but require a sweater/shrug/jacket (not shawl) to be worn no matter how wide the straps are.
  2. NO STRAPLESS: Strapless gowns are not allowed for very practical reasons: there is no way to keep them from sliding down while dancing – constant tugging up results. If a young lady decides to wear a strapless gown with a jacket we will notice and she will not be allowed in. Our door greeter will ask if she thinks the gown might not have straps.
  3. TEA LENGTH OR LONGER HEMLINE: A formal event requires a formal dress. A formal length for a gown is tea length (mid calf) or longer. If you can see your knees when looking in the mirror the dress is too short and will not be allowed in. Slits in skirts cannot go above the knee.
  4. FORM FIT/CUT-OUTS: Gowns that form fit over the hips and thighs are not allowed (example: mermaid gowns). Dresses that have open back, cut outs in the side or mid-drif are not allowed (filling these in with flesh colored material is also not allowed). No see through or flesh colored materials – base material must be solid color.
  5. BODICE (Top of Gown): The bodice of the gown must be modestly cut – this means absolutely no cleavage should be showing. Every young woman is different in size and shape – what may be a modest cut on one young lady might be revealing on another young lady (please keep this in mind if you borrow a gown from someone who has attended SMB in the past).
  6. HALTER TYPE GOWN: These gowns are allowed but as the strap goes around the neck and not over both shoulders a sweater/shrug/jacket is required (“Collared” type of gowns are acceptable w/out the required sweater/shrug/jacket – please see pictures on right for example).
  7. OVERLAYS: On gowns with an overlay: base material must meet all dress code requirements…the overlay cannot make up for the base material not meeting the dress code. Example: base material does not go below the knee and/or has slits above the knee but the overlay meets those two requirements – this is not allowed as it is obvious the base material does not meet the code since the overlay is see thru.

Dress Examples

"Collared" gown with material covering most of back and meeting the dress code requirement for the bodice, can be worn without a sweater/shrug/ jacket - a halter gown must have sweater/shrug/jacket.

BEFORE: Strapless dress found at thrift store BEFORE tailoring.

AFTER: Strapless gown after tailoring (mom did the tailoring here - way to go mom!)

Look at the gowns on this page, these are all from past balls and these young ladies look wonderful!! And they had a great time. If you have any questions feel free to contact us at any time ☺ Also check out the websites below for more examples.