Beauty & Fashion
Fashion Lifestyle

How to Style an Outfit for a Benefit Gala

Prepping for a benefit gala is like heading to an elevated adult prom —minus the pressure of waiting to be asked by the date of your dreams. While you may have already decided about volunteering your time, making a charitable donation, or placing a bid or two at the over-the-top live (or silent) auction, perhaps you still haven’t figured out what to wear and how to do your makeup.

First things first. What type of function are you invited to? Classic black tie? Casual chic? Something in between? Double-check that invite, and let’s get down to business so you can dress — and look — the part makeup-wise (bring on the volumizing mascara!). Just because you’re giving back doesn’t mean you can’t give a little of your time and effort to yourself, too.

styling for charity events

Types of Dress Codes

Each year, non-profits host benefits to help raise funds and awareness for all causes. From homelessness and domestic violence to racial and social justice and everything else in between, there’s an organization looking to spread awareness and do good.

If you plan on attending a gala, you might wonder how to dress the part correctly. While the Emily Post Institute was the OG of dress code etiquette, rules are meant to be bent when appropriate, so you can take off those opera gloves if you so desire. When it comes to makeup, there’s a similar trickle-down effect — the fancier the fete, the more you can play up your look, whereas a more laid-back affair puts you in the driver’s seat of your more casual cousin’s car.

How to Dress for Each Dress Code

Black Tie

A black-tie affair personifies elegance, class, sophistication, and Hollywood glamor. It’s the perfect opportunity to wear a floor-length gown and strappy formal sandals with heels. Have fun when accessorizing, and consider options like a maribou feather or sequined shrug, a statement hair accessory, or a bold piece of jewelry — bring on the sparkle. Don’t forget about a small evening bag to hold the makeup you’ll need for touch-ups!

Makeup Tips:

  • Every black-tie gala has dancing, so to ensure your makeup goes the distance, don’t forget to use a face and eye primer before starting your makeup.
  • There’s probably going to be a lot of picture-taking, so this isn’t the time to skip concealer and foundation.
  • Powder your face just in the areas that tend to look shiny in pictures, so your nose, chin, and the center of your forehead.
  • Give yourself a subtle contour with a foundation, concealer, or powder two to three shades darker than your natural skin tone. Apply close to your hairline on the top of your forehead, cheekbones, the sides of the nose, and jawline. Blend with a beauty blender. Follow with blush on the apples of your cheeks.
  • A black-tie affair is a good opportunity for a smokey eye paired with a generous coating of volumizing mascara and waterproof eyeliner.
  • Finish off your look with a bold, classic red or berry-colored lip.

White Tie

While they’re not as common as they used to be, white-tie galas are even more formal than black-tie galas. That said, elegant, long dresses (in the ballgown category) are a must — avoid pantsuits and short frocks. Opt for luxurious materials like silk and or velvet, maybe with some intricate beadwork. There’s no such thing as a bad accessory idea, so bring on the fascinator, gloves, fancy pumps, and long silk gloves. However, choose a stylish clutch that doesn’t compete with your dress.

Makeup Tips:

  • You can still follow the tips suggested for black tie, but focus more on creating a flawless-looking complexion and less on adding too much color.
  • Go for more subtle-looking eye makeup and leave the drama to a set of false eyelashes.
  • Balance your more natural-looking eyes with bright or bold-colored lipstick.

Black Tie Optional

As the name suggests, a black tie optional affair gives you the option to wear a full-length frock, cocktail dress, or an elegant pantsuit. Of all the different types of benefit galas, this one offers you the most flexibility to showcase your personality and personal style, so don’t forget those accessories!

Makeup Tips:

  • The clothing options are more flexible, and the same goes for makeup, so have fun!
  • Add a bit of whimsy to your look with a shimmery eyeshadow stick.
  • Give yourself a from-within glow by applying a highlighter to the top of your cheekbones, nose bridge, brow bones, center of your chin, inner corners of eyes, center of eyes, top of the forehead, and cupid’s bow.

Cocktail Attire

We’re fairly sure you already have an LBD in your closet, which personifies cocktail attire! Of course, you don’t have to be restricted to black alone. In fact, if your fete is during the day, natural colors and floral patterns (depending on the season) are more acceptable. Save the feathers and sequins for a nighttime gathering. Dress length should be either midi, knee-length, or tea-length. Jumpsuits and formal separates are also acceptable choices. Opt for stylish yet sensible heels (especially if there’s a lot of standing.) Don’t forget your jewelry, and choose a small purse with a strap to keep your hands free for those passed hors d’oeuvres.

Makeup Tips:

  • Choose your makeup look according to the time of the event so it is more natural for the day and bolder at night.
  • If you play up your eyes, go more subtle on your lips and vice versa.

benefit gala fashion tips

Business Formal

This type of event skews towards something you’d wear to the office, but a bit more fun. Think a well-tailored suit, elegant blouse paired with a knee-length skirt (don’t forget the tights or pantyhose), closed-toed shoes, and refined accessories. If you go the dress route, choose a silhouette that says professional, not prom, so something well constructed that skims (not hugs) the body.

Makeup Tips:

  • Wear your makeup as you would when meeting with a client or making a presentation. Don’t have a 9-5 like that? Think subtle.
  • Focus on creating a flawless complexion with concealer, foundation, and contouring.
  • Go for natural-looking eyeshadow (skip the lashes) and a nude, peach, mauve, berry, pink, or classic red lipstick.


Just because the invite says “casual” doesn’t mean you should sport your Sunday sweats. Think smart casual attire, such as a jumpsuit, tailored pants, a beautiful blouse or top, or a belted linen dress. Flats are acceptable, but skip the sneakers. Accessories can be a hat if it’s daytime and outdoors, a stylish scarf, and, as always, jewelry.

Makeup Tips:

  • Rather than foundation, opt for concealer and a buildable CC cream. Finish with a light dusting of translucent face powder.
  • Give yourself a healthy glow with a swipe of bronzer on the point of your chin, the tops of your cheekbones, the tip of your nose, and across your forehead.
  • Pair a lip liner with a lip tint or gloss for a more subtle look.

You picked out the perfect outfit, and now it’s time to gather your cosmetics. Considering you’re headed to a benefit gala, shop with ethics in mind and consider switching to vegan makeup!

Related posts

9 Fashion Do’s For Warm Weather: Your Ultimate Summer Fashion Guide

Sylvia J

6 Fabulous Wedding Season Women’s Fashion Ideas 2021

Beauty & Fashion

How to Find the Perfect Swimwear for Your Shape

Beauty & Fashion

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!