Ball etiquette

Dress code

In line with Austrian ball tradition, formal evening wear is expected.

This means full length ball gowns for the ladies, but when it comes to choosing the colour the options are endless – this year’s must-have colour or perhaps classic black? It’s up to you, but you should bear in mind that white dresses are traditionally the preserve of debutantes and younger ladies.
If you choose a sleeveless dress, we recommend teaming it with a stole or bolero jacket. Opera gloves, preferably matched to the colour of your dress, lend an additional air of elegance to your appearance – they are not mandatory, however. The length of the glove should be coordinated with the drop of the sleeve of your dress. If you opt for a shoulder free cut then it is perfectly acceptable for the glove to extend beyond the elbow. As a general rule of thumb: the longer the sleeve the shorter the glove.

Gentlemen are required to wear tails (white bow tie), a tuxedo (black bow tie) or gala uniform.

Here, “tails” means a morning jacket with rounded tails hanging well down at the back, trousers held up with braces (suspenders), a white dress shirt, and a low-cut cotton pique waistcoat, usually in white. The outfit is completed by a white bow tie and black patent leather shoes (no laces). Elegant pocket watches should be worn in preference to wrist watches.
The tuxedo ensemble consists of a classic tuxedo jacket with one or two buttons, trousers with satin piping, a plain or ruched dress shirt, cummerbund and black bow tie. Footwear can consist of patent leather shoes or highly polished plain black lace-ups. Alternatively, you may wear military dress uniform.

Both male and female visitors are welcome to appear in national dress.

Please note that the ball committee reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone not wearing appropriate ball attire.

Dos and Don'ts – avoiding faux pas on the night of the ball

On the dancefloor

Both men and women may request a partner to dance. However, once the couple reach the dancefloor it is always the man that leads, and he is expected to demonstrate his mastery of the situation. Protocol dictates that the man must accompany the woman back to her table after the dance is over. While declining an invitation to dance is perfectly acceptable, it must be done in a charming and endearing manner. Once a gentleman has had a number of dances with his partner he is expected to ask the other ladies present at the table to join him.

Table etiquette

The lady is always seated to the right of the gentleman. If the lady stands, the man must either get to his feet or make a gesture to this effect.

Ladies are always introduced to gentlemen, and older people are introduced to younger people.

An old-school cavalier will extend his greeting to the ladies with a kiss to the hand, but he must take great care to get it right: the gentlemen takes the lady’s hand, raises it slightly, tilts his head forward and move his lips towards the surface of the back of the lady’s hand. His lips must not touch her skin, and the kiss must remain a kiss in name only.

Using telephones at the table is an absolute no-no. If you have to take a call, protocol dictates that you must excuse yourself and take it outside the hall.


If you would like to smoke, please note that you must make your way to the designating smoking area in the former imperial kitchens. Smoking is strictly prohibited in all other parts of the venue.

Useful Links

Lambert Hofer evening wear rental:

Austrian ball season: