What is Semi Formal Attire - Do you Know?

Added 22/8/2011

For most people, the formal dress code of semi-formal is vague and somewhat intimidating. Since there is no official description of what semi-formal attire is, you run the risk of under-dressing, or worse yet, over-dressing for the occasion. While clothes do not make the man, it is embarrassing to stick out in the event like a sore thumb because of a failure to follow the proper dress code.

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Semi-formal attire traces its roots back to the 19th century, where Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, wished to have an attire that was more comfortable and more relaxed than the swallowtail coat that was in vogue during the time. The result of the Prince’s brainchild was the tuxedo, which was considered appropriate dinner wear for the home or club, while swallowtail suits remained reserved for formal and public occasions.

In modern times, the definition of semi-formal has relaxed to some extent. The concept of semi-formal attire varies from country to country, and depends on the social context of the event. However, Western countries such as the United States have a rule of thumb to follow: semi-formal usually calls for a full suit with the vest optional. A tie is also mandatory for this attire, and the shirt should be a long sleeved button down one. Make sure that the fabric of your suit is appropriate for the attire: gabardine, cashmere and wool are acceptable for the suit. Linen will not pass the demands of etiquette. Dress shoes are also important. However, it will be overkill to attend a semi-formal event in a tuxedo.

There is some variation on this definition in tropical countries. Semi-formal attire is considered looser, and the tie is not considered mandatory. Other places consider a blazer and trousers appropriate for semi-formal attire. It is important to get to know the trends of the place you are in as not to be an outsider.

Women have more options in choosing their gowns for semi-formal events. They have the options to choose from dresses, pant suits or short prom dress suits. The fabric may vary according to fashion trends or individual tastes: silk, velvet, cashmere and rayon are considered appropriate. Fabrics have to be dressy, and wool is once again considered to be too casual for the semi-formal events.

The length of the dress will also vary according to fashion trends and individual tastes, however as a rule, long and flowing evening gowns are reserved for formal events and shorter dresses may be used for semi-formal events. Cocktail dresses and ankle-length dresses can be used, and for a more business-like appearance, dress suits are still appropriate. Fabric choice is central to women’s clothing – with the right fabric, you can enter a semi-formal event with a top that is dressier than normal, and tuxedo pants.

Women are also expected to appear in dress shoes, usually heels that are appropriate for the outfit. Dressy flat shoes and dressy sandals may be considered semi-formal if they fit into the whole look of the entire outfit. Flipflops and sandals are a no-no in semi-formal events.

It is always best to inquire the host as to the expectations of the event, because the definition of semi-formal varies from region to region. To avoid embarrassing yourself, try as much as possible to err on the side of underdressing – when you overdress, you call too much attention to yourself.

Category : Formal Dresses