How to Dress for a Semi Formal Event

by Anthony Szpak ; Updated September 28, 2017

Tuxedos are not required for semi formal events.

man image by Mat Hayward from

Dressing for a semi formal event isn't as stressful as dressing for a formal event. But it's important to remember that semi formal is still formal. Jeans, shorts, sneakers and T-shirts are unacceptable. Whether the semi formal event you're attending is a wedding, an anniversary party, or a business event, it's important to dress accordingly.

Check the invitation for the time and season of the event, which will help determine what you should wear.

If the event is during the day, men can wear dinner jackets and tailored slacks or trousers, or they can opt for a suit. According to Carley Roney, editor of "The Knot," both light and dark suits are acceptable, but reserve khaki or white linen for summer. Wear a crisp dress shirt. Ties are not required, but if you do wear one, use a four-in-hand tie (the kind worn with business suits). Finally, slip on a pair of polished shoes.

For day events women may wear cocktail dresses or summer dresses, as long as they are not too casual. No denim. Hem lengths can vary. Cocktail dresses should be no more than an inch above the knee. Another option for women is a pantsuit or business suit (but not a wool business suit, which isn't dressy enough). Pair with matching heels or embellished flats.

According to Roney, darker, more formal hues are appropriate for evening events. Men should wear dark suits (navy, black or dark gray), dress shirts, dark socks, polished shoes and usually four-in-hand ties. Vests may be worn, but they're not required.

For evening events, women wear cocktail dresses, business suits or pantsuits. Taffeta, chiffon, velvet, satin and silk are appropriate. Wear matching heels or flats. Accessorize with a clutch bag and a shawl if it's chilly outside. Be sure not to wear white if you're going to a wedding.


  • Even though you're dressing up, try to dress relatively comfortably. Keep jewelry light and simple. To avoid blisters, don't wear new shoes you've never worn.


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About the Author

Anthony Szpak started writing professionally in 1998 as an undergraduate. He has sold television pilots to Castlerock, FX and 20th Century Fox. He has also inked a development deal with Paramount Television and his fiction has been featured in the "Rockhurst Review" and on He received his Master of Fine Arts in fiction from Columbia University.