What to Wear at Opening Ball

Long or short, tie or tux? An Opening Ball veteran shares her thoughts.

For many freshers, Opening Ball will mark their first foray into the world of black tie. Although photos from past events provide a glimpse of what to expect, this guide offers a more detailed explanation of the flexible dress code.

Long vs Short

While men struggle over bowties and neckties, women must choose between floor length gowns and thigh-chafing minidresses. Ultimately, anything goes at Opening Ball. In St Andrews, “black tie” tends to include cocktail attire: Many girls select dresses that would not seem out of place at The Vic.

Photo: Tilted Frame, Opening Ball 2015
Photo: Tilted Frame, Opening Ball 2015

The dress code is not strictly enforced, but some respect should be afforded to the night’s theme. Something from ASOS’s “party dresses” section is worthy of a Tequila Tuesday; Opening Ball surpasses such a banal night. In our entire lives, we will have very few opportunities to wear long dresses in a beautiful marquee, surrounded by peers and photographers. A gown is not a requirement, but it is my recommendation.

(That said, the majority of female guests do tend to wear short dresses.)


Unsurprisingly, heels are the most popular choice at any ball. Consequently, it is not unusual to witness scores of girls barefoot by midnight, their skin exposed to a carpet stained with sweat, spilled drinks, and various other fluids.

Opening Ball will have a seating area for recovery in between dances, but stilettos ought to be avoided. Not only do they become painful after six hours of wear, but they sink into the damp grass that surrounds the marquee. Heels should be three inches at their highest, and there is no shame in going lower. Ballet flats or particularly fancy boots are also viable options, particularly when hidden beneath long dresses.

Opening Ball 2014
Opening Ball 2014


A standard tuxedo is the go-to look for any male guest. This is yet another argument on behalf of long dresses: Tuxes and gowns compliment each other, establishing a cohesive aesthetic and promoting the general atmosphere of the ball.

Scottish guests are encouraged to wear kilts, a frequent sight at any St Andrews event. Beyond this, men have little to stress over when preparing for the night ahead.

Photo: Tilted Frame, Opening Ball 2015

Part of the beauty of Opening Ball lies in its lack of restrictions. Short dresses, long dresses, high heels and flats will all come together for a night that celebrates St Andrews in its purest form. The black tie dress code contributes to the wonder of the event, separating it from any standard night out. By adhering to it, we are doing our part in crafting an incredible night.



80 thoughts on “What to Wear at Opening Ball

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