Semi Formal - Perhaps the Most Confusing of all Dress Codes
The term semi formal dress code is perhaps the most confusing of all the dress codes that you may encounter. As it stands, semi formal is in and of itself an oxymoron so it comes as no surprise that many people are left befuddled when they receive an event invitation that calls for semi formal attire. Fear not, however, even though semi formal may seem mysterious it is actually one of the easier dress codes to follow.
Leave the Tux at Home
The first rule of semi formal attire is that you do not want to wear a tuxedo. Tuxedos should be limited to formal engagements (see White Tie and Black Tie Attire for more details on formal dress codes) and have no place at an event where semi formal dress is requested. You may think you're playing it safe by over dressing for the event and thus avoid under dressing; however this is definitely not the right move as over dressing in a tuxedos is just as much of a social faux pas as under dressing.
Keep it Simple with a Suit
A nice suit is the ideal wardrobe piece for a semi formal event. It hits all the right notes and is formal enough to meet the formal requirements of the event while relaxed enough that you are not in danger of over dressing by wearing one.
The detail here lays it what type of suit you decide to wear to the event. For daytime events it is often common to wear a suit of a lighter color such as a cream or tan. Whereas for evening events it is generally the norm to wear darker colored suits like a dark charcoal or midnight-blue. Obviously there is leeway here with the color choice, though as long as you are wearing a suit you should be just fine.
Combine your suit with a dress shirt as well as a tie. Play with patterns on shirts, handkerchiefs as well as your ties. Mixing in different patterns as well as adding a little bit of colors on the accssories is a perfect way to add a more personal touch to your look.
Do Not Under Dress
It is far more common for men to make the mistake of under dressing for semi formal events than over dressing. It seems that over time the idea of a polo shirt being acceptable for semi formal events has worked its way into common knowledge. This is most definitely not true as it is never acceptable to wear a polo shirt to a semi formal event.
Similarly many men believe that a nice pair of jeans is also acceptable. Jeans cannot be worn with suits; therefore this is also a fallacy.
There is a bit of grey area around the wearing of sports coats to semi formal events. If the event is strictly semi formal then a sport coat will be woefully out of place; however if the event is an afternoon outdoor luncheon then a sports coat will probably suffice. Remember however that for the majority of occasions sports coats fall into the category of semi casual or business casual attire so when in doubt wear a suit. Blazers on the other hand are always a good alternative to the suit – especially for daytime outdoor events.