What to Wear to a Homecoming Dance

Michele Meleen
teens ready for homecoming

Whether you're headed to your first homecoming dance or your last, what you wear can help make the event a night to remember. Work with your date to coordinate the tone, style, or colors of your outfits. If you're going solo, choose an outfit that makes you feel great or coordinate outfits with a group of friends.

Homecoming Outfit Ideas for Guys

Your homecoming outfit is a reflection of the refined part of your personality. It should reflect your personal style in a semi-formal or formal way.

Business Casual

You really can't go wrong with slacks, a button-down shirt, and a tie. It's beyond casual but doesn't quite meet expectations for a formal look, so it's the perfect middle ground for a homecoming dance. Grays, browns, and blues are all considered neutrals for men's clothing. If you want to add more personal style, opt for a patterned shirt or monochromatic look where your tie and pants match, but your shirt is a contrasting color. Pair the outfit with loafers or dress shoes that coordinate with your belt. To coordinate with a date, match either your tie or shirt to her main dress color.

Teenage boy in blue shirt and tie

Suit Without a Tie

A full suit and tie look is more appropriate for formal events such as prom. Tone down this classic dressy look for guys by ditching the tie. Choose a suit with a comfortable fit that doesn't include any special details like coat tails or a tuxedo stripe on the pants. A clean, standard suit jacket and pants outfit paired with a white, colored or patterned button-down shirt looks great on any guy. While dress shoes are the obvious choice with this look, you could add style by subbing in clean, fashionable sneakers.

Young man in suit without a tie

Suspenders and a Bow Tie

If you love the hipster style or want an unconventional semi-formal look, add suspenders and a bow tie to your homecoming outfit. You'll still need to wear dress pants and a nice button-down shirt to fit the occasion. When choosing suspenders and a bow tie, look for a matching set that is meant for formal looks. Match these accessories to your date's look for a coordinating couple's outfit.

Young man wearing suspenders and bow tie

Sweater With a Tie

If your homecoming event is a little more casual, you could opt for a sweater over a button-down shirt with nice slacks. Adding a patterned tie gives the look a fun edge while ditching the tie makes it look more effortless. When your normal day look is jeans or sweats and a t-shirt, this look is much more formal. If you wear a school uniform on the daily, one of the other suggestions is probably a better choice for your homecoming.

Teenage boy wearing a sweater with tie

Tips on What to Wear to Homecoming for Guys

Guys, this is one formal occasion when you definitely want to look every bit as great as your date! When it comes to figuring out guys' outfits for homecoming, there are some tried-and-true rules to help you look the part.

Decide on How Formal You'll Go

Some schools have restrictions on what is appropriate for homecoming, but for the most part, it is expected and appreciated when a guy turns up in semi-formal attire. Full tuxedos and suits are usually reserved for formal occasions such as prom while pieces of these formal looks are acceptable for semi-formal occasions. Find out what your homecoming is labeled, formal or semi-formal to see how formal to dress.

Discuss Dress With Your Date

If you've got a date, talk to them and get a sense of what they are wearing. Usually, the two of you can match a bit, but don't take matching to the extreme. Coordinate your accessories with your date's main outfit color for a sophisticated look.

Be on the Same Level of Glamour

This means that you and your date should match the same level of formalness or lack of formalness. If your date is in a ball gown, it may not be appropriate for you to show up in a sports coat. The reverse is true if she's in a slip dress and you're in a tuxedo. You and your date should present a united front, and this is one great way to do that without saying a word. Don't be afraid to show off your collective personality with your outfit choices.

Homecoming Outfit Ideas for Girls

Homecoming is a chance to look great and have fun with your friends. Keep fit in mind when choosing an outfit because you'll want to be able to move around comfortably. A great look will get you immediate positive reactions, but a great fit ensures you can move around and have a great time all night long.

Cocktail Dress

Many girls opt for short dresses for homecoming to distinguish this look from the more formal look they might choose for prom. Cocktail dresses come in all different designs and colors and could be strapless, one-shoulder, or even long-sleeved. Since the dress is short, you can get away with a lot of embellishments on it because the length keeps it semi-formal. Look for laces and silks to make sure the dress feels formal enough and accessorize with cute heels and blingy accessories.

Teen girl wearing black cocktail dress

Skater Dress

Skater-style dresses look similar to figure skating outfits but have a more formal feel. These dresses are a tad less casual than a cocktail dress, but you can make them look more elegant by choosing jewel tones and elegant fabrics. Since the neckline is high, your main accessories will be your dress shoes and maybe some fun earrings. If you like the look of a cocktail dress, but really value comfort the skater dress is a great compromise.

Teen girl wearing skater dress

Semi-Formal Separates

Semi-formal separates for girls are trending. The trick to pulling off this two-piece look for homecoming is choosing luxurious or formal fabrics and accessorizing with expensive-looking items. A mid-length tulle skirt with a fitted lace or satin shirt is one way to get the look. Another trend is long-sleeve satin crop tops paired with formal skirts in medium or full-lengths. A bold pattern on the top or the skirt with a solid color on the opposite piece of clothing gives you the semi-formal feel.

Girl wearing trendy semi-formal separates

Slim Gown

Gowns work great for homecoming when they have a slimmer fit and don't include tons of beading and bling. If your homecoming is more formal, look for a dress that has some minor beading around the top or bottom, just not all-over. You can find slim gowns with one sleeve, long sleeves, no sleeves, and strappy sleeves. Choose the style and color that best compliments your skin tone and body type.

Teen girl in slim green gown

Tips on What to Wear to Homecoming for Girls

Homecoming is one of those few chances in high school you get to show off your mature side. Most girls will be wearing super cute outfits, so make your style stand out with a few simple tips.

Find a Dress That Flatters You

Your body type makes you unique and so will finding the outfit that looks best on you. Read about body types and the styles of clothing that fit them best, then try on different style options. Don't get discouraged when something doesn't look right, every girl and woman encounters this because clothing comes in standard sizes while people don't. Instead, use this information to narrow down which styles will make you feel like a bombshell.

Consult Your Date

If you're hoping the guy you're going with is left speechless by your outfit, ask for his opinion on your outfit. Keep this info in the back of your mind and see if there's a way to mesh his ideas with yours. You might also want to coordinate with him, so finding out what style and level of formality he's comfortable with can narrow your options from the start. If you're going with a group of friends, try shopping together to make sure you don't all pick the same outfit.

Focus on Accessories

Your outfit is really just a backdrop for you and your accessories. Getting the hair and homecoming makeup looks you want might even get more notice than your outfit. Choose shoes that match your glamour level, but make sure they're going to be comfortable for the whole evening. It's easy to get caught up in body issues when focusing on the dress, so focus on the other aspects of your outfit instead.

Should You Buy or Rent an Outfit?

Thanks to technology, your options in buying and borrowing semi-formal or formal attire are nearly limitless. Everyone deserves the opportunity to feel like they look great, so don't let your budget get you down.

Girls with friends trying on dresses

When to Buy

You can find semi-formal and formal outfits at any price point, but there are certain times when buying makes more financial sense than renting.

  • You are purchasing separates you can wear with other wardrobe items.
  • You know you'll need this item/outfit again for an occasion with a totally different guest list.
  • You don't care about designers and labels because the style is most important to you.
  • Budget isn't a concern for you.
  • Outfits for your body type or clothing style are difficult to find.

When to Rent

Renting an outfit can help you save on costs, but it can also widen your pool of outfits to choose from.

  • You want a designer outfit, but don't have the budget to buy it.
  • You know you'll only wear this outfit one time.
  • You want something no one else in your school will have.
  • Fit is not typically an issue for you.

Where to Shop for Guys

Nearly every department store with a men's or young men's section carries basic dress pants, dress shirts, and ties.

  • There are multiple homecoming special offers at Al's Formal Wear, such as an entire outfit rental for just under $100 or rental of an outfit with no suit jacket for $50. You pick the outfit elements you want, schedule an in-person fitting in their stores, which can be found in 4 states, then you pick up your outfit when you need it.
  • Tuxedo's Online has a great selection of homecoming outfit pieces from funky ties to standard button-down shirts. Ties cost around $15 while a whole suit starts at about $100 to buy.
  • You can either buy or rent whole outfits or pieces from Men's Warehouse stores or their website. Designer options cost several hundred dollars while individual standard pieces such as pants start around $50.

Where to Shop for Girls

While many department stores carry dresses during homecoming season, girls often find a better selection at specialty stores that sell only formal and semi-formal attire.

  • Rent the Runway is a great retailer where girls can rent designer dresses for all occasions. You choose whether to keep the outfit for four days or eight days, then return it for free without having to worry about dry cleaning. Prices start as low as $30 per dress.
  • Despite its name, David's Bridal carries a large selection of semi-formal and formal outfit options for all occasions including homecoming. Styles start as low as $30 for both traditional and trendy looks.
  • Lulus is an online retailer specializing in "affordable" luxury in their selection of formal attire, shoes, and accessories. Dresses start at $25 making this modern, chic retailer truly affordable for any girl.

Dress Your Party Persona

Homecoming attire is often less formal than prom dresses and tuxes, but more formal than a typical school dance outfit. It's basically the equivalent of an adult cocktail party where the focus is on having fun. Choose an outfit that shows your fun side with a bit of formal flair.

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What to Wear to a Homecoming Dance