Beauty & Fashion

Demystifying Semi-Formal Attire for Women – 10 Elegant Outfits & Style Tips

Demystifying Semi-Formal Attire for Women – 10 Elegant Outfits & Style Tips

Do you have a semi-formal event coming up? Dress codes can be tricky and a little baffling when you’re not exactly sure what’s considered appropriate! In particular, semi-formal dress code attire can be confusing because of the endless outfit possibilities. Understanding the dress code will give you a sense of belonging so you’ll feel confident at the event you’re attending. Alternatively, not following the dress code can lead to feeling uncomfortable or sticking out…and not in a great way. In this post, we’re breaking down the ins and outs of semi-formal attire. We’re also sharing 10 appropriate outfit ideas to offer inspiration for your next semi-formal party or event.

If you are attending a wedding and need some beautiful dress options, you’ll find a roundup of 10 fabulous dresses here.


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What Is Semi-Formal Attire For Women

While formal and casual dress codes are pretty straightforward, the semi-formal dress code leaves some room for interpretation and lots of options. Think of semi formal dressing as striking a balance between formality and comfort. Many weddings have a semi-formal dress code, but so do some elevated work events, parties, and dinners. You’ll want to consider the time of day for the event, the type of celebration, and the location. A daytime event could inspire you to wear lighter colors and patterns while an evening semi-formal gathering is a great time to wear black, dark, or jewel tone colors and patterns, and add a touch of evening glam.

Semi-formal outfits for women can include almost any length of dress (mini, knee length, midi, maxi), except floor length. If you are looking for formal attire for women or black-tie attire, a floor-length gown is the way to go. Dressy jumpsuits, skirts, rompers, and dress pants are all appropriate for semi-formal attire. But…you want to consider the style and fabric. Silk, lace, crepe, and velvet are examples of elevated fabrics. Jeans, t-shirts, and most cotton or twill pants are too casual for the semi-formal dress code. Semi-formal attire has a more polished and refined look. When in doubt, ask a friend or coworker what they are planning to wear so you can gauge the level of formality and plan your outfit accordingly!

Still unsure? Keep scrolling for 10 semi-formal outfit ideas.

Summer Special Occasion Outfits

10 Semi-Formal Outfits For Women

#1) Elevated Jumpsuit

We mentioned above that jumpsuits can be a wonderful option for semi-formal events and wedding attire. The key is finding an elevated jumpsuit with chic details that won’t look too casual. The Jonathan Simkhai jumpsuit Erin is wearing above is a perfect example. The sexy neckline and cutouts definitely make this a standout piece. If you are worried about showing too much skin or being cold, just add a blazer over your shoulders.


Erin Busbee of busbee style outside Dior store in paris on 30 montaigne

#2) Head-To-Toe Black

If you want that fail-safe semi-formal outfit, you can’t go wrong wearing head-to-toe black. Black is SO sophisticated and elegant. In this look, Erin is wearing a black midi dress, belt, heels, and a cape. She actually wore this outfit to the Dior Fashion Show in Paris last spring. If you’re interested, you can read more about her experience here. Again, you’ll want to be intentional about fabric choices and elevated accessories, but you can absolutely wear black separates to create a monochromatic outfit. Black is slimming and elongating, and if it makes you feel confident, it’s a great choice for a semi-formal event.


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#3) Black & White

When it comes to classic and stylish color combinations, black and white is always on-trend. Decisive and sharp, this is another no-brainer for a semi-formal event. You could wear black and white separates, a black and white dress, or a jumpsuit. The Zhivago dress Erin is wearing is a perfect example of an appropriate and oh-so-chic black and white dress. If you’re attending a semi-formal wedding, we suggest you limit the amount of white you wear in your black-and-white combo. Erin’s rule is that if the majority of the dress is not white, you can wear it to a wedding. This exact dress is no longer available, but we’ll share some elegant options to recreate her look.


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#4) Bright Colors

While black, white, and neutral shades are a slam dunk for semi-formal attire, it’s ALSO completely acceptable to wear color. Brightly colored pieces add excitement and can still be very appropriate…especially for daytime events. You can always tone down your accessories if opting for a bright colored outfit or dress. The exact dress Erin is wearing here is no longer available, but we’ll link some other gorgeous and colorful dress options below.


#5) Red Dress

How gorgeous is this bright, bold red dress? Several years ago, it was actually considered in poor taste to wear a red dress to a wedding, but this is no longer the case. A pretty, red dress can absolutely be appropriate for most semi-formal dress code events, including weddings. In this look, Erin is wearing a stunning off-the-shoulder red dress by Amanda Uprichard. This is definitely more of a sexy semi-formal dress, but the bare shoulders and thigh-high slit are offset by the longer midi length. Erin paired the dress with See By Chloe metallic wedges and kept her accessories super simple to let the dress do all the talking. This dress is selling out fast, so we linked some similar red options below.


#6) Printed Dress

A printed dress is another wonderful option for a semi-formal event. But…fabric matters. Some printed dresses can easily read very casual. Look for elevated details and fabrics when choosing a printed dress for your semi-formal event. Erin is wearing a red print dress by Wayf made of a pretty crepe fabric. It has hook and eye closures down the front, a gathered waist, and a flattering midi length. To dress it up, Erin paired it with a modern clutch and platform sandals, but a strappy heel or pump would also look great for a semi-formal dress code. In fact, accessories are the key to elevating your printed dress! This dress keeps going in and out of stock so we’ll link a few similar printed dresses in multiple colors below.


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#7) Dark Pantsuit

Not everyone loves wearing dresses OR maybe you want to mix things up at your next semi-formal event. A dark pantsuit can be a super chic option. You can always try to add texture with sequins, satin lapels, velvet piping, or gold buttons to make your pantsuit look less “office-ready” and more “semi- formal ready”. Adding accessories like heels, a sleek clutch, and statement jewelry will also make a world of difference. Under your blazer, you can wear a lace cami, silky blouse, or crisp white button-down.


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#8) Light Pant Suit

Similar to the previous look, a light-colored pantsuit would also make an elegant choice. To make this outfit more semi-formal friendly, Erin would likely swap out the plain white tee for a silky camisole or blouse. She’d also replace her more casual handbag with an elevated clutch. You could also add a statement belt and jewelry to really rev up the volume for your next semi-formal event. I know we keep mentioning this, but… the accessories play such a key role in leveling up any basic pieces to make them semi-formal attire friendly.


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#9) Black Pants & An Elevated Top

While we’re on the topic of pantsuits, we also wanted to mention that you can wear your elevated black pants with a pretty top for the semi-formal dress code. The lace Wayf top Erin’s wearing above is a great example. It comes with a tonal cami underneath, but you can also add your own if you prefer. It has elegant details like gold buttons at the sleeves and a ruffle neckline. The great thing about this top is that you can dress it down with jeans too…lots of options with this one! And, it’s under $100!


Black Leather Skirt Outfit Ideas

#10) Semi-Formal Skirt

Finally, we wanted to throw in one semi-formal look with a skirt. In this example, Erin is wearing a leather mini skirt with a sheer gold sweater. If you’re someone who prefers separates, a stylish skirt paired with an elegant blouse, delicate sweater, or chic blazer can create a stunning semi-formal look. We’ll share a few elevated skirts below.


Do you have any questions for us about semi-formal dressing? If so, just leave us a message in the comment section below. We’re here to help!

When it comes to dressing for ANY occasion this spring/summer, be sure you check out our lookbook of 50 outfits here. And, by subscribing to our newsletter here, you’ll be the first to know about all of our amazing style resources!

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