What Do Dress Codes for Events Mean: Semi-Casual Attire for Women

Dress codes can feel like the worst thing about attending an event, especially when the invitation suggests semi-formal attire. What exactly does it mean, and how we dress appropriately if we don’t know?

A few months ago, we briefly touched on the differences between semi-formal business formal and casual dressy attire. Since so many of you keep coming back, we decided to break it down once again, except this time we’re devoting entire posts for men and women. Ladies first, after the cut!

What is Semi-Formal Attire?
As the dress code suggests, semi-formal attire sits between the long, fancy gowns of formal wear and the casual feel of breezy dresses. The idea here is to look appropriate and sophisticated, without the stuffy floor-length skirts.

Quick Tip: Take note of the type of event you will be attending, before deciding what to wear. The appropriate attire really does depend on the specific event you will be attending. If all else fails, ask yourself this. What would be your choice of attire if you were to meet the President and The First Lady for a quick photo-op?

KISS: Keep It Simple, (and) Solid 

When in doubt, always go for dresses that are not fussy, and of solid color. Ditch the typical little black dress, though. Experiment with clean colors like off-white, beige or grey. Don’t attempt bright prints if you’re not confident! The idea here is to look put-together without trying too hard, like Serena Goh of The Spicy Stiletto (pictured above). We love the 1920s feel of her dress, with lace details and Art Deco-inspired jewelry.

Quick Tips: Your accessories shouldn’t be too “noisy”, or it might look too gaudy! If your event is in the evening, slip on black stockings and a shawl to complete the look.

It’s About The Length (Of Your Dress) 

Photo: Keith Hodne via Brooklyn Blonde

Photo: Keith Hodne via Brooklyn Blonde

Semi-formal attire is about the balance of dress length, it shouldn’t be too short and it definitely shouldn’t be a floor sweeper. If you’re in the mood for the whimsical, take a cue from Helena from Brooklyn Blonde! It’s perfect for heady summer weddings, and is both modest and feminine.

Quick Tips: Hair and makeup will also play an important role! We suggest an elegant updo, to pull the look together. Jeweled bobby pins for side-swept buns, or braided styles will work nicely too. Remember, keep the eye glitter to a bare minimum! Semi-formal events aren’t disco parties.

Pair Everything With A Blazer 

Photo: Sylvia G via Gabi Fresh

Photo: Sylvia G via Gabi Fresh

For those of us who don’t have the luxury of changing out of our 9 to 5 clothes, it is key to keep a cover up near. We love Gabi Fresh’s white blazer, appropriate for both the office and after work events. The semi-formal dress code allows a bit of sparkle, so pair a beaded tank with a fitted blazer to keep a neat look. Go with cigarette or palazzo pants, if you’re not sure about skirts. Remember, no denim allowed! (We mean it, ladies. We love jeans as much as you do, but we’re not going to an office party with ripped jeans.)

Quick Tip: Choose a clutch or small handbag to complement your outfit, and keep things in the same color palette for an overall cleaner feel.

Let Your Personality Shine Through 

Don’t let any dress code worry you, what’s important is to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing! You don’t need to stick to safe colors to be appropriately dressed. We’re so in love with Wendy’s (of Wendy’s Lookbook) vibrant green midi skirt, that she paired with a darker top so the ensemble won’t look too busy. The skirt is the perfect length, just below the knee.

Quick Tips: Pair a vibrantly colored skirt with a crisp white shirt, for a day event. If you didn’t have time for a pedicure (people do notice!), wear covered pumps to complete the look.

Yes, You May Wear Pants 

For the ladies who aren’t big on skirts or dresses, a classy pantsuit (see Ashley of Ring My Bell, above!) is the perfect answer for evening events. Pay attention to the material of the jumpsuit, it shouldn’t be cotton, typically a casual material. A jumpsuit can look pristine, only if it fits you perfectly. The same mantra goes for any other outfit you might consider as your semi-formal ensemble. Make sure your clothes are ironed! We’d hate to see you look less than immaculate.

Quick Tips: Understand how to properly choose the accessories to use. A tasteful selection can completely elevate your outfit, without hurting your credit card. Also, accessories can definitely make you stand out, for the right reasons!

Ladies, it’s possible for you to look like yourselves and still rock the semi-formal dress code! If you’re still unsure, just ask your host/hostess about what they’d be comfortable with. Remember: It’s not cool to be underdressed, but it’s not cool to be overdressed as well. It’s all about balance. Good luck!

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