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Sometimes it can be tricky finding just what you need.  Here are some helpful hints and suggestions.

Suits and Dresses

Nordstrom, JC Penny, Land’s End, Burlington Coat Factory.   An online company called The Wooden Soldier has beautiful dresses for girls.  Macy’s Junior department often has appropriate dresses for older girls.  Sometimes the Petite department is your best bet for sizing your in-between young lady.

The “Bare” Essentials

Here are some ideas for dresses that don’t meet the “2 Inch Rule.”

Bolero Jackets and Shrugs:

A variety of boleros and shrugs are widely available since they are in fashion, especially in junior’s stores.  Now would be a good time to think ahead to dresses you might have in the future, picking up an extra pretty shrug or light sweater in another neutral color.

How to Utilize that Matching Shawl:

Many “strappy” dresses come with a matching shawl which can be used as material to make fluttery sleeves or to make ruched or shirred covering - very easy to do!  Just cut the shawl using it’s full finished width into pieces the length of each shoulder strap.  Gather at each end and sew to the front and back of the dress over the strap making a new wider ruched strap out of the shawl material.  Voila!  Another way to use that material is to make an easy flutter cap sleeve out of each finished end of the shawl, again, attached to the narrow shoulder strap. 

If the dress doesn’t come with a shawl, two and a half inch wide opaque satin ribbon can do the trick in a pinch.

Finishing Touches

Why Gloves?

Gloves may seem old-fashioned but they are actually very practical in this setting.  They help keep hands dry and comfortable while dancing for both boys and girls.  They also serve as a prop for the young ladies and gentlemen to use in practicing certain thoughtful courtesies.  Ladies may find short white gloves at bridal stores, dance stores or drill team supplies.  Many department stores, such as Nordstrom, are aware of the needs of Cotillion shoppers.  You can also find gloves online.  Try


Little Girls:  Mary Janes are perfect and easy to find.

Older Girls:  Stick to traditional shoes.  “Cool” shoes look silly at Cotillion.  Plain pumps with a low heel are best.  Sling backs are fine.  Add a shoe bow for more style.  Besides the usual department stores you might check Talbots and even Payless.  Remember - no mules, slides or sandals!  Mules and slides fall off, and we don’t want any crunched toes!

The Dress Code

These rules are designed to enhance the comfort and success off all our members, and to prepare them for the myriad social and business events they will attend during their lives.  Thus, we promote a traditional appearance, avoiding fads and trends in both dress and hairstyles.

For Young Ladies

Each lady is required to bring and wear her own pair of short, full finger white gloves.

A traditional short party dress with covered shoulders.  Sleeveless dresses with a minimum of 2 inches of fabric covering the shoulders (not transparent) are permitted.  

The “2 inch Rule” is strict!   Dresses with thin straps are not permitted without a bolero jacket, sweater, shrug, or other sleeved cover-up.   Shawls will not do - they do not stay in place during dancing.  (See  “The Bare Essentials” - below- for more tips.)

Dresses must have a modest front and completely covered back.

Dresses must be no more than four inches above the knee with the arms raised overhead.

Leggings, pants, shorts or split skirts are not permitted.  Hats are not appropriate.

Closed-toe shoes must be worn.  Shoes should be low heeled and appropriately dressy.  Backless shoes (mules, slides) are not permitted because they will not stay on during dancing.

Tights or dressy socks through 5th grade.  Stockings grades 6 and up.  Bare legs are not permitted.

For Young Gentlemen

A traditional dark suit.

(Sport coat and dark slacks permitted.)

A long-sleeved collared white dress shirt.

A gentleman’s standard tie.

Traditional thin soled dark leather oxfords and dark socks.  

Traditional gentlemen’s jewelry and hairstyles, only.

For Hosts and Hostesses

     When acting as a Host at a particular Cotillion, we ask that you dress the part.  A Cotillion is a dressed-up affair, and your attention to this helps reinforce the manners and behavior the children are practicing. 

Hosts -  a suit and tie.

Hostesses -  a dress or skirted suit.

For Guests

A Cotillion is a dressed-up affair, and your attention to this helps reinforce the manners and behavior the children are practicing. When they see you get dressed up more than you usually might, it shows them how much you value the experience of Cotillion for them.

Business or Country Club attire at minimum for adults. 

Children observers should be appropriately attired according to age.



The importance of appropriate attire for any activity cannot be overstated.  Tuxedos on the beach or swimwear in the ballroom evoke a sense of the ridiculous and illustrate the point we are making.  In between these examples, we all find our own shades of gray.

It is important for the members to understand that we either compliment or slight not only our hosts, but the people we are with by the way we dress.   We show how important and worthwhile an activity is by the level of formality we choose to display.  The appropriateness - or inappropriateness - of our attire  broadcasts a  message for everyone to see.   And of course, as we all know, those who dress as invited to any event are those most likely to be invited again.

On the sidebar, you will find descriptions of appropriate attire for Cotillion members, Hosts and Hostesses, Observers and Guests.

the cotillion dress code

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