What exactly is a semi-formal dress

What is Semi-Formal Clothing for Women?

Semi-formal events can range from wedding receptions to vacation parties, work events, and even a night out in a fancy restaurant.

It's a dress code that comes up pretty often, and yet it can be difficult to figure out exactly what semi-formal dress means.

But don't worry - we're here to walk you through it.

From budget tips to clothes staples, you'll learn everything you need to know about semi-formal dressing.

What is semi-formal wear?

In the simplest sense, semi-formal is exactly what it sounds like - somewhat elegant clothing that is one step inferior to the formal. Semi-formal clothing can include a variety of pants, dresses, skirts, and blouses, and clothing can be mixed and matched to find the best outfit for your style. However, there are a few basic rules that you need to know in order to get dressed for your next semi-formal event.

Semi-formal tops

Semi-formal tops should likely be silk or satin blouses and should stay away from cotton or materials that may be misunderstood for casual workers. Semi-formal tops can vary in color and style and can be combined well with skirts or dress pants. A good staple is a red or black satin blouse that goes well with slim pants, skirts and heels.

Semi-formal floors

Semi-formal bottoms can either be elegant pants or skirts and should be paired elegantly with the right blouse. When it comes to pants, it's always good to wear black pants that go well with a variety of shoes and tops. With semi-formal skirts, make sure that you stay away from mini skirts and revealing skirts and prefer a more midi or pencil skirt look.

Semi-formal dresses

Semi-formal dresses shouldn't be confused with floor-length ball gowns - just remember, we're talking about Half- formal, not formal. So when it comes to dresses, a good rule of thumb is to choose a length that is at or slightly below the knee. Ankle length dresses can also be a great option if they are not too formal.

Semi-formal dresses should have some kind of sleeve, made from fancier materials (such as silk, satin, or lace), and come in a variety of colors and styles. However, it's always good to have a classy black dress that goes well with chic heels and beautiful jewelry.

Semi-formal shells / outer shells

A great way to spice up a semi-formal outfit is to add a wrap, blazer, or jacket (especially in the colder months!). Semi-formal outerwear should be elegant and match the rest of your outfit - a clashing piece of outerwear can ruin your entire look. Two staples for outerwear are a simple but chic blazer or jacket, which will make your outfit more elegant, or a satin or transparent cover that falls over the shoulders. The latter is an especially nice option when it comes to wearing clothes and adds extra spice to your look!

Semi-formal shoes

Semi-formal shoes should almost always be heels. But don't worry, not all paragraphs are difficult to step on! If heels are not usually your forte, try a shorter height. Even an inch or two can make a difference to a semi-formal outfit.

But size isn't necessarily what defines a heel. The style - the actual design of the shoe - is just as important. For example, pointy shoes are a great way to create a semi-formal outfit and give your look a timeless look.

Semi-formal accessories

Earrings, necklaces, and bracelets are all great ways to add a little d├ęcor to a semi-formal outfit. However, semi-formal accessories shouldn't be too distracting. Instead, look for accessories that add a pretty and dainty accent to your look - gold hoop earrings, diamond accents, or a silver bracelet are good choices. Try not to wear clashing colors or styles. As a rule of thumb, you should only wear one or two types of jewelry instead of fully adorning yourself.

On a budget? No problem!

Semi-formal clothing usually costs more than your regular clothing, and if you are on a fairly tight budget (like me and virtually every other college student) you may think that buying semi-formal clothing is a little too out of reach.

But it doesn't have to be!

With the right resources, buying semi-formal attire in college won't put you in a financial void. Ever heard of student discounts? Notable brands like BCBG, LOFT, Kenneth Cole, Topshop and Steve Madden are offering generous student discounts (10-15%) and having great sales that can even save you up to 80%. You can also find department stores like Macys which has some pretty incredible deals on the latest fashion trends and styles.

If you still can't find what you want, check out the University Network for student discounts and other offers. DOs Student Save Engine is designed to save students money. You can also earn TUN tokens when you shop at participating brands that you can redeem for quality products, gift cards, online courses, or cash.


Semi-formal events provide a great opportunity to get dressed without the burden of looking overly formal. Semi-formal is a good mix of elegance and class, and with the right resources you can build a semi-formal closet to meet all of your event needs.