A Semi-Formal History
The semi-formal dress code traces its unofficial beginnings in the late 19th century, when nobles wanted something more comfortable than tails to wear during dinner. Not long afterward, this mode of dress also extended to public places such as churches or any other place that isn’t formal enough for black tie.
Today, semi-formal just refers to a dress code that is required for public events that aren’t grand ceremonies. Evening parties, weddings, birthdays and corporate socials are all events that call for semi-formal clothing.
So What Is The Semi-Formal Dress Code?
Semi formal attire encompasses dresses that are more casual than formal, but are a step up above cocktail dresses. They’re best suited for social functions that don’t take place in someone’s home, like a restaurant party or other public gatherings. For men, that would mean a three piece suit (not a tuxedo), and for women, the knee-length dress.
A Woman’s 3 Tips To Choosing Semi Formal Clothing
No long dresses: Gowns are too formal for semi-formal events, not to mention liable to wardrobe mishaps because you rarely sit around too long on ceremony. Choose a nice, knee-length dress for free movement with better coverage.
Sleek, not puffy: Semi-formal clothing is elevated business attire, so it’s actually better if you wear something a little more form-fitting than flowy dresses.
Colours depend on the occasion: For weddings, choose something a little more playful like bright reds or yellows. For social evening parties, understated shades like grey or pastel blue can work wonders. And of course, avoid white or off-white for weddings.
If in doubt, you can always ask the host of the event what they’d consider acceptable for semi-formal clothing. Unlike men, women have a lot of leeway to interpret semi-formal clothing, so expect to be pleasantly surprised to find out that you already own most of the pieces you’ll need. And speaking of pieces…
Absolute Essentials For The Perfect Semi Formal Outfit
A Knee Length Dress
Knee length dresses (or a dressy top combined with a somewhat loose pencil skirt) are good ways to carry yourself with both decorum and style.
A Blazer, A Shawl, Or A Scarf
You’re not going to a ball, but don’t discount the cold, especially for dinner parties. Having something you can layer over your clothes is an absolute must for both style and comfort, and can accent your overall look. Don’t bring tops like jackets or cardigans. And if you have a coat, check it at the door.
Heels, Strappy Sandals, Or Flats
Your choice is shoes is more varied since semi-formal events can take place in many locations. If it’s a garden party, get some strappy sandals for better traction. Indoor events pair well with heels or elevated platforms, and dressy flats are a good idea if you expect to be dancing or walking around all evening.
A Clutch Or A Purse
Backpacks are a no-no. Dresses aren’t exactly the most pocket-friendly of clothes (unlike suits for men) so having a small container for your belongings can be very useful. A small purse or a notebook-sized clutch works wonders during long evening celebrations – just make sure you don’t lose track of it.
A Necklace, A Bracelet, Or A Headband
Accessories should be on the light side, yet still eye-catching enough to offset your clothes. There’s no harm in being a little creative with how you tie your hair back or bringing a simple leather watch to these events – not only are they decorative, they’re also functional.
Simple Yet Elegant
While it’s difficult to pin down, the versatility of semi formal clothing means that any woman can string together a fashionable outfit from a variety of places with very little effort. In fact, it might be one of the most creative ways to combine a chic disposition with the sophistication of formal wear!