Missing your high school prom, when you got to dress up in a poufy pink dress and dance the night away with your BFFs? Worry no more; if you’re in a sorority or have a close friend or boyfriend in a frat, your first college formal is right around the corner.Think of formal as the college version of a high school dance (minus the cheesy decorations and teacher supervision). You can forget about homecoming court drama and choosing a dress that follows your school’s strict dress code. This is your chance to have all the fun you want without following too many rules. Need help deciding what to wear or who to bring? Her Campus is here with all the inside tips for making this event live up to all the hype.
DO choose your date wisely.
Whether you go with your boyfriend, best guy friend, or hookup buddy, you should be careful about picking your plus-one. It’s common for girls to get set up by their sorority sisters, but it’s probably best to meet the guy in advance.“Formals can get pretty couple-y, so it's important to go with someone who will be a good time and who's fun to dance with AND chat with,” says Jenni, a senior Delta Gamma sister at Bucknell.
DON’T be afraid to bring a friend.
If you don’t have a special guy in mind or if being set up with a random guy isn’t really your thing, feel free to bring a (girl OR guy) friend. This way you can enjoy your night without having to worry about entertaining a boring date or keeping track of a date who drank a tad too much. “It really isn’t weird at all to bring one of your girl friends to formal—think of it as a regular night out but with better clothes and better drinks,” says Danielle, a sophomore at Ohio University.
DO make sure you know someone other than your date.
If you’re being set up on a blind date, it’s smart to check if anyone else you know is going to be there in case things get weird. If you’re in a sorority and it’s your formal, you’ll have a full house of sorority sisters there to watch your back. But if you’re not in Greek life, or if you’re going to a guy’s formal, try to ask around and see if some of your hall mates or classmates are going. You don’t want to be stuck in an unfamiliar location surrounded by complete strangers, wishing you hadn’t said yes to the boy who asked you to be his date at last weekend’s frat party—which brings us to our next “don’t”…
DON’T accept a drunken invitation to formal from a frat boy you just met.
He’s not going to date you; he just wants to sleep with you. In his mind, inviting you to formal is an easy way in. You might be tempted to accept his invitation just so you can buy a new dress and brag to your friends that an upperclassman asked you to be his date. But we encourage you to say no and walk away. Doesn’t it seem a little odd that his formal is tomorrow and he still doesn’t have a date? “I once made out with a guy at a party who then asked me to his formal. I actually had a fun time but he ended up being a complete jerk. When his frat’s next formal rolled around, a girl told me her whole sorority got an email saying he needed a date,” says Christina*, a junior at the University of Michigan.
DO take pictures beforehand.
Meet as a group at your sorority or his frat and recreate the pre-prom photo scene you loved so much. This time around you won’t have 20 different cameras flashing in your face. “Bring your camera and your best hand-on-hip pageant pose, because this could be your next profile pic—and, chances are, you'll be having so much fun later that you'll forget to take pictures,” says Amanda, former Her Campus Life editor and a sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi at Cornell University.
DON’T wear a floor-length gown.
“Just because they're called ‘formals’ doesn't mean you're actually expected to wear formal attire. They really mean ‘semi-formal’, as in a cocktail party or family affair. Don't break out the micro-mini skirts and plunging necklines, though—you want to make a good impression on your date and his brothers,” Amanda says. We recommend a classy party dress and your nicest pair of shoes.
DO wear comfortable shoes.
Think about the fashion and the functionality of your shoes. If you’ve always had trouble walking in high heels, you might want to choose low heels or wedges instead. “You do not want to wear super uncomfortable shoes that you can’t walk let alone dance in, because it sucks to be sitting down at a formal all night when the whole idea is to dance and have fun,” says Annie*, a Delta Gamma sister at Harvard.
DON'T do a prom updo.
This will make you look like a high-schooler (something I’m sure you don’t want). Instead, wear your hair straight, in loose waves, or in a chic, loose bun. Turn this into a pre-pregame event and do each other’s hair before you head over to pictures.