If you’re going to a semiformal affair, you might or might not have options. Semiformal can have two meanings. Modern semiformal affairs want you to look polished and poised, but you don’t need to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. It’s a kick up from cocktail attire. Traditional semiformal calls for a black-tie dress code. When in doubt, contact your host to clarify their stance on semiformal dress.


For women, semiformal attire has many options. Traditional semiformal affairs call for an ankle-length evening gown, and can include accessories such as gloves and fine jewelry. For a modern semiformal affair, cocktail dresses are appropriate, as long as they are not revealing. Strapless dresses are fine, as long as they fit properly and do not show too much cleavage. The same goes for any other type of low neckline. Hemlines should fall just above the knees, and can carry to ankle length. Pantsuits are welcome, but must be dressy. Reach for fabrics such as silk, heavy rayon blends, brocade and velvet. You want the fabric to be rich and full of texture, not flat like cotton or Modal. If it’s cold out, accompany your look with a shawl or fur stole. If the event is a semiformal affair for day, keep the look pulled together, but take a gentle approach to colors. Opt for soft shades like yellow, pink, blue and silver. Hair should be coiffed and pulled away from the face or a fresh blowout. Makeup should be minimal, but create a pristine face. Dark lips are fine, as long as the rest of the makeup is balanced accordingly, allowing the color to be the focal point. Makeup should never be garish.


For a traditional semiformal affair, men are required to wear black-tie attire. This includes a dark tuxedo. Under the modern terms of semiformal attire, men should wear a dark suit. The jacket and trousers should match and should be more than a sports jacket. Wool gabardine, cashmere and other natural wool blends that create a “year-round” suit will work well. More casual suits or jackets like cotton blends or seersucker are not dressy enough for a semiformal event, even in the midst of summer. If the event is in the day, you can opt for a lighter color suit such as blue or a shade of gray. Ties are not mandatory, but do create a polished finish for a modern semiformal look. Hair should be combed. A disheveled look, no matter how fashionable, does not work at a semiformal event.


Women should wear heels. Any sort of strappy heels, or D’orsay-style shoe creates a longer, leaner line. Mature women who cannot wear heels should opt for a sleek, dressy flat or loafer or some sort. Even a very short, stacked heel reads well, especially when worn with a dressy pantsuit. Men should wear oxford shoes that coordinate with their suit and socks that match their trousers.

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