9 Gala Ideas: Hairstyles for Formal Occasions

Keep your glam game strong.

Now that we’re knee-deep into the dog days of summer, it’s easy to put grown-up glamour to the wayside (#loosehairdontcare). But although awards and red-carpet season has come and gone, we still look to these glam events for dazzling beauty inspiration, especially when it comes to copping hairstyles for formal occasions. Call us suckers for a good updo—and in this weather, that’s a hard yes—but there’s always a time to dress up to the nines and look your best.

Maybe it’s a graduation party, your cousin’s bachelorette, a swanky Friday night date or your college roommate’s wedding (because there’s always a wedding). Whatever the red-letter occasion is, it calls for hair that wows, full stop. Read on for some dazzling, red carpet-inspired looks that will have you set to stun:

9 Glam Hairstyles for Formal Occasions

hairstyles for formal occasions vintage waves
Vintagey waves are dramatic and hyper-romantic.

1. Vintage curls

Maybe it’s a nod to their superglam foremothers, but several Hollywood A-listers have been sporting Jheri curls and pin waves as their ’do of choice. This vintage look is making a renaissance, as retro-inspired hairstyles have been reaching a fever pitch in the industry. It’s also a wildly flattering look and a refreshing break from other longer hairstyles, and puts the spotlight on classic features, luminescent skin and rosebud lips.


hairstyles for formal occasions tousled lov
Matching side clips make the look more playful and ethereal. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

2. Tousled waves

The big sister to the chunky, messy lob, tousled waves for evening look fresh, fun and very urbane. This hairstyle complements almost all face shapes, and, more relevantly, is one of those hairdos that look better as the night wears on. Part hair the middle or slightly off-center and pair with your most buttoned-up formal outfits for a nice little contrast.


hairstyles for formal occasions stick straight hair
Super-straight hair: You’re sophisticated and that’s that.

3. Stick-straight hair

There’s something to be said about hair that’s perfectly in place. Be the envy of frizzy gals everywhere with immaculately straight, shiny, expensive-looking locks—but make sure your color is flawless though, as mistakes have nowhere to hide here. Dry in a downwards motion to seal down the cuticle and make hair more light-reflective, and get ready for the jealous stares.


hairstyles for formal occasions glitter roots
A fluffy blowout looks younger and is more day-appropriate. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

4. Side-parted with glitter roots

Chic-ify that off-the-moment viral trend by keeping things minimal. A strip of glitter on a sharp side part elevates what’s already considered one of the most timelessly sexy hairstyles for formal occasions. Choose a glitter color close to your hair undertone for a truly complementary effect: Cool ashes can go for silvers, blues, purples and pinks, and warm honeys and caramels can try golds, oranges, reds and greens.


hairstyles for formal occasions slicked back hair
The modern-day femme fatale smolders with slicked-back hair. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

5. Slicked-back hair

Fulfill all those ’90s video vixen dreams and slick your hair straight back at your next formal event with some high-shine gel or pomade. Wearing your hair away from your face gives an instant shot of confidence (not to mention puts the focus on your features), which makes this look perfect for times when you need to make an entrance, like club openings, an ex’s wedding (because SLAY!) or a power-networking event.


hairstyles for formal occasions ingenue bob
Bobs with a micro-fringe are charming and unexpected (just like your singing skills, after three cosmopolitans). Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

6. Ingénue bob

What do most Manic Pixie Dream Girls in the movies have in common? Some version of a quirky short hairstyle with an irresistibly charming micro fringe. We never really saw this trend trickling down, but are thankful that the baby bang has hit the mainstream—nothing lightens up a bob (and a beautiful dress) more than a slightly unconventional, not-so-serious bang that puts those sparkling doe eyes front and center. Wear at social events or whenever you want to take your flirtationship with your soon-to-be-summer fling to the next level.


hairstyles for formal occasions old school waves
The key: It <em>must</em> be shiny. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

7. Old-school waves

No list would be complete without giant, molten, screen siren curls. Popular during the Golden Age of Hollywood for its unapologetically glamorous feel, this look is hallmarked by shiny, uniform barrels worn with a cascading side part and is usually swept over one shoulder (the better to seduce with my décolleté and fur, my dear). High tea with the ladies, or meeting the future mother-in-law over brunch? Nailed it.


hairstyles for formal occasions dutch braids
Wear in full pigtails, or bundle up in a bun on your nape.

8.Tiny Dutch pigtails

Turn the inherent street cred of this cool, über-trendy look into something sleeker by wearing them microsized on the scalp (as opposed to thick, banana-like bumps). Small, thin Dutch braids worn on each side of the head and secured in a bun or pigtails, are the It Girl’s hairflip answer to stuffy black-tie situations. And, oh yeah, they look majorly directional with strapless gowns.


hairstyles for formal occasions diva pony
Business on top, party all night.

9. Diva ponytail

Anything worn high on the head, crown-like, depicts a sort of regality. For times your outfit/occasion warrants nothing short of perfection, i.e. your wedding, your best friend’s wedding, an evening garden party or even on sultry summer date nights by the boardwalk, a high pony keeps you looking put-together without sacrificing an ounce of style.

Which of these hairstyles for formal occasions are you going to try?