Definition of Semiformal Dress

More fancy than folksy, semiformal attire is a broad term that describes a dress code that is elegant yet not extravagant. If the lavish look is really required, the invitation should indicate that black-tie dress is recommended. Semiformal dress is just a little less formal than black-tie attire. Typically, events like engagements, weddings, receptions, graduations, dances, birthdays, anniversaries and religious ceremonies call for a semiformal dress code.

Ladies' Lengths

Semiformal dresses are not as ornate or long as formal floor-length gowns; they usually don’t even reach the ankles. Semiformal dresses also tend to have slim silhouettes, while formal dresses can branch out into more layers and fuller fabrics. For afternoon events, tea-length dresses that sweep at mid-calf or slightly below are appropriate. Cocktail dresses are perfect for nighttime parties, hitting just above the knee, coming to the knee, or grazing mid-calf. Dressy separates and tailored dress suits are acceptable alternates to dresses.

Getups for Guys

Men's semiformal wear is a step down from tuxedo wear, but it remains dapper. Dark suits with white or light-colored shirts and silk ties are spiffy. Dress shirts are typically made from cotton or cotton blends. Spread collars or straight point collars that use collar stays are dress-code definites. Button-down collars are too casual for semiformal settings, and flaps and pouches should be dodged unless shirts have tailored chest pockets. Forget casual barrel cuffs and opt for French; the double cuff fastens with cufflinks, not buttons, for a more formal feature.

Hues and Shoes

Ladies' choices should express the significance of the occasion. High heels, pumps and elegant dress shoes should be worn, and darker fabric colors -- especially jewel tones like emerald, ruby and deep purple -- enhance the elegance of evening events. The season, time of day and location of the event help guide your choice of color. Bright, light and pastel shades suit spring and summer shindigs. Cooler fall temperatures set the scene with subdued hues like navy, plum and purples, burgundy, rustic reds, deep oranges and dark greens. Winter wardobes typically display dark tints of blues, black and reds in addition to icy whites, creams, pinks and metallic mint.

For men, summer or daytime festivities see drab dress clothes traded for lighter tan or cream trousers and jackets. Evening gatherings call for dark suits in charcoal, navy or black, and the standard dark leather dress shoes should match the color of the belt and be slightly darker than the pants. Killer combinations include black suits with black or burgundy shoes, navy suits with brown shoes, gray suits with light brown or black shoes and charcoal suits with black or burgandy shoes. Dress socks, which match the suit, should extend past ankles to cover calves.

Fancy Fabrics

Semiformal dresses have elaborate “celebration” fabrics. For afternoon affairs, materials can be light and airy like dotted Swiss and chiffon. Embellishments like embroidery and appliqués are fancy touches to lightweight dresses. For nighttime events, after-five cocktail dresses can be playful with shiny fabrics. Velvet, georgette, crepe, silk, satin, faille, fine wool and shiny chintz make for elegant ensembles. Classy dress suits can be made of fine wool, crepe, silk or brocade; flowing chiffon or velvet trousers should do the trick, too. Delicate details like lace, ruffles and sparkles in tops or dresses are stylish, smart options. Most men's suits are wool, cotton or dressy gabardine drapings.

Acceptable Adornments

Special occasions deserve some sparkle. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets that glow with rhinestones, gems or crystals are pretty additions to any outfit. Little evening bags, clutches and petite pouches are better than big bulky bags. If the weather or venue is chilly, short evening jackets, wraps, stoles, and shawls serve as sophisticated layers. For men, wool or cashmere topcoats make refined retreats from cold weather. Tan or camel topcoats match brown, navy and olive suits, while dark navy, charcoal or black topcoats match gray and black suits. Patterned socks and pocket squares are optional accessories which sprinkle personality into an otherwise-conventional ensemble. Hairstyles should look neat and stylized; a half-up twist, French-braid updo and side-twist updo are all simple yet chic ways to pull together a glamorous guise.

About the Author

Lexie Delaney, a Chicago native, attended the University of Missouri, where she earned a B.A. in journalism (magazine writing) and a B.A. in Spanish. Delaney began writing and editing more than five years ago, for the "Columbia Missourian," "Vox Magazine" and "Retail Jeweler."