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What Is Semi Formal Attire?

“Formal” attire is simple enough: tux and gown. “Casual” makes sense too. What throws people for a loop is “semi formal attire.” Obviously, it’s somewhere between formal and casual—but that doesn’t help when you’re looking in your closet and thinking, “Should I wear these pants?” or “Is this dress too formal? Can I wear a skirt?”

It’s a good thing etiquette experts have come up with a clear indication of what semi formal means.

For women, semi formal clothing includes dresses, pants suits and dress suits. When it comes to dresses, the fabric is key. A cotton sundress won’t make the cut, but silk, cashmere, high quality polyester, rayon and velour will. Dress suits can be made of silk; pants suits can be made from cashmere, polyester or silk.
Wool is out of the picture.

Dresses don’t have to be long; however, it is not advisable to wear very short dresses especially at business functions. As a rule, the hem of a cocktail dress should not fall more than one inch above the knee.

Shoes can also make a big difference in “dressing up” or “dressing down” a particular outfit. In fact, many women who have to run to a function after work will pair a dress with casual mules then slip into high, strappy feels when they’re ready for the party.

Men will still wear a suit, though they can skip the vest. They will still wear a tie. Again, fabric is a big consideration: linen and seersucker are too casual, while wool, gabardine and cashmere are acceptable. The suit should be paired with dress shoes.

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