What Does Semi-Formal Attire Really Mean?

Keeping track and paying extra close attention to every single dress code of every single invitation that crosses our paths can be exhausting, to say the least. But we have good news. There’s one kind that’s pretty impossible to mess up: semi-formal attire. The “semi” can throw some people off—we get it—but here’s what it essentially means: You need to be polished, so not too casual, and best of all, you have wiggle room.

Even when consulting one of the most trusted (and traditional) sources of etiquette, Emily Post, the rules seemed quite lax. Short dresses, “dressy” separates, and LDBs make Post’s list—essentially leaving us with plenty of room to interpret the dress code without worry about breaking the so-called rules.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the coolest examples of what semi-formal attire can be. It’s suiting and playful minidresses, but it’s also gowns with T-shirts and collared wrap dresses. The one thing it’s not: too specific. So, find your inspiration ahead, and then mix and match to your own taste for the next RSVP on your agenda.

Zoë Kravitz

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If you love shiny fabrics, opt for them in sophisticated silhouettes.

Emma Watson

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This gown might lean more toward traditional formalwear, but not with a cool graphic tee beneath.

Evan Rachel Wood

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A crisp tailored suit is always a good idea. You can pair with loafers if you're feeling more casual or go for something a bit more sleek and classic, like Wood's look.

Ashley Graham

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When in doubt, LBD.

Adwoa Aboah

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We love this perfectly coordinated yet not at all matching coat-and-dress combo.

Yara Shahidi

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Is a playful minidress with a great shade of lipstick ever a bad idea?

Alexa Chung

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If head-to-toe suiting is not your thing, mix tailored separates in luxe textures.

Tessa Thompson

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We love this mix of classic plaid and party metallics—perfect for a semi-formal event.

Gal Gadot

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A wrap dress is incredibly versatile—it's perfect for work, but it's also elegant enough for any affair after 5 p.m.

Kate Bosworth

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If you're hesitant to wear a bold print to a black-tie party, consider a semi-formal invitation a green light for the trend.

Shop Semi-Formal Looks

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Up next, take a look at the jacket trends buyers are betting will sell out this year.