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Plus Size Formal Cruise Dresses: 7 Cute Outfit Ideas for Evenings at Sea

read what to wear for formal nights on cruises in plus size

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

You’ve laid down your plastic and you’re thinking about packing for your cruise. What will you wear for formal night? Well, you’re in luck my little chickadee. A bit before the holidays and just after (for sales) are the best times to find formal evening dresses, fab cocktail frocks, groovy pantsuits, and slinky separates for a fancy party on your cruise ship.

read what to wear for formal cruise nights if you're a plus size

Plus Size Long Dress

Nothing in your closet fits. It’s OK. Dry your tears little girl. Online shopping will make it all better. And, make sure your new outfit is not too snug in the waist because we all gain weight on cruises.

If it’s your first time on a particular ship or cruise line, go to a cruise forum for your ship and destination. Just google something like:

  • Cruise critic message boards
  • Cruise ship forum
  • Cruise forum Royal Caribbean (Carnival, Norwegian, Disney, whatever)

This is where you can talk to people who have been on your cruise and will tell you how formal or how laid back your cruise usually is. There are ships where my husband has snuck in to the formal night dinner in jeans, a polo shirt, and a jacket; and there are ships where my husband has been asked to change out of his tennis shoes and jeans and into dressier attire. Notice they never ask me to change.

Personally, I prefer ships where everyone dresses up, because how often do you get a chance to wear a long formal gown (or beaded mini dress) in Nebraska? NOTE: I usually pick on Kansas. I thought I’d pick on a different state for a while. Nothing personal. I've never been to either state. I just like to think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz... as someplace way far out in the wild.

  • A few cruise lines (like Oceania's small ships) have no formal nights. They have something called Smart Casual, but the women I remember from those cruises were wearing some VERY high-end casual outfits.
  • Most cruises have one formal night. Some have two.
  • Tip: If you want to look your best for photos, call the ship’s salon as soon as you get to your cabin to make an appointment for your hair on formal night.

If you’re like me, and you’re too lazy to search a forum, here’s the general idea of the dress code on Princess ships. The dress code is basically the same on all of the larger lines.

  • Formal Attire for Women: Evening gowns, cocktail Dresses, or elegant pantsuits.
  • Formal Attire for Men: Tuxedos, dinner jackets, or dark suits. (Consider yourself lucky if your man will wear something other than flip flops and shorts on your cruise.)

So, now that Princess Cruise Line has told you everything you want to know about what to wear on formal night, I guess that’s the end of this article… you can go back to packing...

Oh, wait...you want specific examples…? OK. And, you want to know what people really think about what you wear... the secret code to reading your personality from your formal outfits...? OK.

Basic Black?

Black is your basic, go-to color for formal events of all kinds, by land or by sea. You can never go wrong with black. On the other hand, you will never go viral in black.

Read what to wear for formal nights on cruise if youre plus size

Classic Long Black Dress

1. Classic Long Black Dress: A long, black dress is what you wear if you like to hang back and "people watch", which is what I do, no matter what I'm wearing. Until I actually start talking to someone, I can be very reserved. Well, to me, a long, black formal dress is a sign you've been married forever, but you want to come out of your shell and be my friend. Of course, an LBD (Long Black Dress) is also a sign to all of us that you have exceptionally good taste. You can never go wrong with a Little Black Dress or a Long Black Dress.

Can you wear these formal long dresses for cruise if you're a plus size woman over 50?

Plus Size Formal Dresses Embellished for Women Over 50

2. Plus Size Formal Dresses Embellished for Women Over 50: Can you wear a long black dress with glitter and sequins if you're a plus size woman over 50? You can if you do it right. See above. Dress 1: I think this dress has a little too much going on for petite (short) gals. Unless you are large and/or big boned, this gown may overwhelm you. I do like the deco style (Gatsby Era), so please let me know if I am wrong. (I could wear it, but I am towering when I wear big heels.) Dress 2. This black lace gown says you have perfect taste and we hate you for it. (Just kidding. We don't hate you. We want to be you.) Dress 3. You have elegance to the max, but the bright colors tell us you are also friendly and loads of fun. Dress 4. You have refined taste and we would like to hang out with you to find out where you shop... and just to hang out.

if you are a woman over 50, should you wear these short black cocktail dresses?

Short Black Cocktail Dresses Plus Size

3. Short Black Cocktail Dresses Plus Size: I'm mostly talking to women over 50 or 60. Dress 1. I really feel this dress is a little young for you, but we're all jealous that you still have a waistline. (This dress would be better if it had 3/4 or longer sleeves.) Dress 2. We all love this perfect dress. You are a hit. You are glam to the max. (I would buy this if I had a waist.) Dress 3. We are all jealous that you found such a clever way to cover your jiggly upper arms. This dress has just the right amount of glitz. Dress 4. You look a little bit like an aging starlet, but somehow you can pull off this "starlet" dress. You are still the hottest babe in the room, and you always will be.

Blue is just as formal as black, but blue usually looks better next to your old wrinkled face.

Plus Size Cruise Formal Dresses in Blue

4. Plus Size Blue Formal Dresses for Cruise: If you're under 40 or 50, you can ignore everything I say. Dress 1. We love your spunky attitude. You must have been a popular cheerleader in high school and you never lost your edge. (And, this dress is perfect for an apple shape of any age.) Dress 2. Cobalt lace is always a win and jewel tones also look great for Christmas parties. You are still sexy hot. Dress 3. A long navy dress with white lace trim is very polished. You are as sleek and elegant as can be. Dress 4. This navy cocktail dress with white-trim details is totally shipshape and I LOVE it, especially for a cruise. You look young, but not innocent.

In all honesty, I love blue for cruises. I love short blue dresses and long blue dresses. Almost every woman on your ship will be wearing black, and blue is just as formal and just as elegant as black, except for one thing... if you're over 40 or 50 or 60... blue usually looks better near your face than black does. It also makes you stand out, just a little, in a sea of black.

Which of these dresses is the best for cruise formal night?

Plus Size Cocktail & Formal Dresses

5. Plus Size Cocktail & Formal Dresses: I'm still mostly talking to women over 50. If you're 35 or younger, you can wear anything you like. Older women will mostly ignore you anyway, especially the gals with unfaithful husbands. But, don't take it the wrong way. Those ladies are just jealous of you.

Here is my take on the dresses in the photo above. Dress 1. You are only allowed to wear royal purple if you have a royal ego to match. I've yet to meet a wallflower wearing this hip shade. By the way, this jewel-tone color is to-die-for with silver accessories. Dress 2. Neutral, grayish purple is a better purple for most older chicks who have gone gray. This frock is extremely elegant and totally beautiful, just like you. Dress 3. If you can find a full-on, full-length ballgown, you should wear it, because you'll add a touch of elegance to the entire ship. I don't care what color your dress is, I don't care if everyone else is dressed in pajamas, please wear it. Dress 4. If you've been waiting all year to let your inner Kardashian out, this is the right time. The world needs more women with real curves. (And, all of you Boomerinas thought I would tell you not to wear that slinky metallic dress if you have a real-life bootie. Shame shame shame. Life is for having fun.)

See cute cruise outfits for plus size women over 50 or under 50. It's all good. Read tips at boomerinas.com

4 Plus Size Pants Outfits for Cruise Formal Nights

6. Elegant Plus Size Pants Outfits for Cruise: And, the question every woman asks... can I wear pants? Sure. Just make sure you're not wearing an everyday pantsuit that you wear to work... puleeze. If you must wear a plain pantsuit, make sure it looks festive. Add a sequined blouse or wear a fascinator (a small hat). I want you to make your outfit into something fun enough for a New Year's Eve Party.

See photo above for pants outfits. Outfit 1. Yes you can wear a chiffon top with pants. Yes, you can wear red. I've seen a ton of outfits just like this on formal nights... the only difference is that the women I saw were wearing black chiffon tops. If you like red, wear red. Outfit 2. Any groovy two-piece pants outfit in velvet is très elegant. You will look like you've been on a ton of cruises and, ho hum, this is just another trip to Hong Kong or the Continent. Outfit 3. A jumpsuit is adorable. If you can still find a jumpsuit that fits at your age, you should wear it. A jumpsuit is a disguise. We won't be able to tell if you've been married to the same guy forever or if you're the hussy who stole the guy from his wife. I love jumpsuits, but they never fit my fat tummy or my flat butt. Outfit 4. I just had to add this light pinky-beige jumpsuit. It's on sale and it's perfect for any glam event. I think it goes up to size US 24, but check measurements... and rock it out on your cruise.

If you really want to be trendy and confuse the women on a cruise wear this long mini with sheer skirt in plus size

Plus Size Mini Dress With Long Sheer Skirt

Can I Wear a Pantsuit for Cruise Formal Night? Try your very best not to wear a pantsuit unless it is silky or velvety or has a glamorous feel... or it is embellished with lace or sequins... or it has something extra that gives it the feel of a "party" outfit.

What do we really think of plain old pantsuits on formal night? We think you're too old to be any fun if you're wearing the same old machine-washable matching jacket and pants in practical, overworked polyester. I mean, if the only thing you own is a plain black or navy or beige pantsuit or skirt-suit designed for an office job, go ahead and wear it; but we will be really, really surprised if we see you out past the early-bird special. (An everyday pantsuit is fine for every other event or meal or excursion... it's just not great for formal night...unless you tart it up a bit.)

Note: I'm not saying all polyester is bad. Some polyesters... especially the polyester fabrics made in Italy... are fabulous.

What to Wear to the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party: The Captain's Cocktail Party is right before the first formal night dinner. Some cruise lines have free booze and hors d’oeuvres, but I hear that others do not. I don’t remember much about the Captain’s Welcome Party because I only went to one of them.

I suppose I have a photo of me and some captain somewhere to prove it, but the whole thing felt so contrived, I blocked it out of my memory. Note: You wear the same outfit to the Captain's Thing as you wear to dinner, because you go straight from the Captain’s Thing to the chow.

7. Plus Size Mini Dress With Long Sheer Skirt: If you're a hip, fashion-forward boomer chick or you want to confuse everyone by wearing something different that is not easy to decipher, look for a mini dress with a long, sheer skirt in lace or gauze or anything that shows off your gams.

What will we think of you if you wear something like this?

  • A. If you act like you have no idea why you're wearing a chic-ly veiled mini skirt and you wish you had worn a plain black dress like everyone else, we will nudge our friends and have them look in your direction.
  • B. If you wear your chic-ly veiled mini skirt with confidence and a smile, we will nudge our friends and have them look in your direction. Then, we'll all run out and buy something similar for our next holiday party or formal cruise dinner.
  • You determine the answer by the attitude you show the world.

Now, get your hair cut. Buy a new lipstick. Go have fun on your cruise, even if you have to wear something from Goodwill. In reality, I just made some of this dress code up. If you like something that's too "young" or too "old" for you, don't listen to me... even though I'm probably right. Heck, life is short. Go out and buy something you love.

Hugs, Tina

(I don't get paid to tell you about these cruise and party outfits. That's why I can tell the truth. Bon Voyage, baby! Send me a postcard!)

what we really think of your cruise wear

Main Photo: Plus Size Dress

Photo Credits: Prshots.com.  *Some of these websites are in the UK. If it doesn't say "US size", use the measurements to confirm your size. Some sites only go up to size 20. Others go up to 28 and beyond.

Leave a comment below if you're bored or if you want to tell me I'm wrong. You are probably more fashionable than I, and I value your opinion.

  • Main Photo: MandCo Navy Sequin Dress.
  • Plus Size Long Dress: MandCo Plus Size Blue Maxi.
  • Classic Long Black Dress: Asos Curve Plus Size.
  • Plus Size Formal Dresses Embellished for Women Over 50: Asos, Navabi, Asos, MandCo.
  • Short Black Cocktail Dresses Plus Size: Asos Curve Plus Size.
  • Plus Size Blue Formal Dresses for Cruise: Asos, Navabi, Little Mistress.
  • Plus Size Cocktail & Formal Dresses: Asos, Asos, Navabi, Asos.
  • 4 Plus Size Pants Outfits for Cruise Formal Nights: MandCo, MandCo, Asos, Elvi.
  • Plus Size Mini Dress With Long Sheer Skirt: Elvi.

More Cool Articles for Fun-Loving Boomer Women and Their Friends:

Fashion Tips for Women Over 70 -- 8 Tips From a Beverly Hills Clothing Expert

Daytime Cruise Wear for Women With Style

What to Wear for Cruise Dinners and Formal Nights

Cruise Wedding Dresses and Casual Destination Gowns

7 Wearable Trends for Spring and Summer: Women Over 50, 60, 70 or Younger Chicks

Sexy Plus Size Cruise Wear: Cocktail and Formal Dresses

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. kay kerns

    I have never been on a cruise yet so this is a great article laying out what to expect. I would probably go for a top and pants or a long dress with beading and embroidery, or a sequined motif. I think you're saying it's more fun for everyone if we wear something festive and fancy, and if not now, when?

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. You just wrote my article in one sentence.

      You are great, Kay, and if I win the lottery, I am taking you on a cruise. I really wish I could. You deserve it girlfriend. There are things I like about cruises and things I dislike about them, but it's one of the few ways I can travel without my stupid disabilities bringing Ray down.
      Hugs and aloha,

      • Tina-Boomerina

        PS Actually, I'm staying pretty close to home these days because it's hard to leave my doctors. However, I'm still doing what I can to look halfway decent. I always wear big earrings and heels to give myself a dollop of confidence. I don't know how long the chunky high heels will last, but I'm sure I'll be buried in big earrings. LOL.

        • kay kerns

          Thank you, you are sweet to say that. I hope you will be feeling better soon.

          • Tina-Boomerina

            I'm feeling better today. I walked in the park along the river and the weather was perfect. I hope it's getting cooler in Arizona. I love Arizona in winter. I wish I could spend half the year in Oregon and half the year in Arizona... maybe someday.
            hugs, Tina