Semi Formal Dress Code Explained + Video Examples

understanding the semi formal dress code

Today, the lines between formal and semi-formal are foggy at best, leaving many of us confused about what to wear to an event with a semi-formal dress code.

Semi-formal is all about creating a balance between formal and informal. This can be exceptionally tricky to do. Luckily you are not alone in this. Our team of Jaxson Maximus custom clothing stylists has put together this helpful guide to help you understand the do’s and don’ts of the semi-formal dress code.


In modern times, a formal dress code generally means simply wearing a tuxedo, dinner jacket or dressy dark suit and tie. The default is to wear or rent a tuxedo or dinner jacket outfit, leaving the dressy suit only as a back pocket option in the rare case that you do not have or cannot get your hands on proper formal attire to wear for your event.

You should never feel overdressed when attending a formal dress code event. Semi-formal is a step down from the formal dress code. It is slightly more relaxed in what you can and can and cannot wear. We recommend that for semi-formal, you simply wear your best suit or sports jacket outfit. For semi-formal, wearing the dressiest option you have with a jacket is a best practice.

semi formal vs formal outfits


You might see a semi-formal dress code chosen for weddings, annual office parties, or charity events. Semi-formal, by definition, is a dress code that falls in between formal black tie and business professional. It may be dressier than what you may typically wear to the office. With a semi-formal dress code we suggest simply wearing your best.

As a general guide, what you would wear to a swanky cocktail party with your peers and clients would be perfectly appropriate for a semi-formal dress code. Think dressy suits, sports jackets, and blazers, etc.

semi formal vs formal dress code


Having a formal dress code by default means black tie, meaning wear a tuxedo or dinner jacket outfit, however if white tie is indicated than only white tie attire can be worn.

Note: If there is a white tie dress code, this is the most formal of event dress codes which has very strict rules that you must follow. White tie simply means you must wear a black tailed jacket, white shirt, waistcoat and bowtie with formal accessories.

Black tie is just a step below white tie. This is what we traditionally think of when we see the word formal attire. A tuxedo or a dinner jacket outfit are great options for a formal dress code. For formal dress codes, neither your tuxedo nor dinner jacket needs to be in your typical colors such as black.

There are many great options in today’s modern formal attire to explore. See a video example showcasing various options.

At Jaxson Maximus, we have made hundreds of exquisite custom formal outfits in numerous color choices. The one pictured is a great way to stand out in a sea of black tuxedos.

Both of these dress codes will commonly be found at galas, weddings, balls, etc.



The biggest mistake we see with semi-formal is that most men will be underdressed for this particular dress code. With any formal dress code, a jacket is required. Whether it be a full suit, dressy blazer, or sports jacket, you always want to put your best fashion foot forward.


A suit can be an easy option for semi-formal events. If your event is during the daytime, consider colors such as khaki or light grey. See video for great daytime Semi Formal suiting choices. If your event is during the nighttime, opt for darker tones such as your classic navy, black or charcoal grey. See video for great nighttime Semi Formal suiting choices. When it comes to shirting, don’t be afraid to venture outside of the classic white button-up. Try pairing your suit with a textured solid or fancy neat pattern that is distinctive. At Jaxson Maximus, we have hundreds of very cool customizable details to create your unique one-of-a-kind shirtings to wear for your next semi-formal event. See a video example of some great custom shirt options with texture to wear to your next event.
semi formal suits


The difference between a sport coat and a blazer is simple. A blazer is solid. It can be textured but is simply one color. On the other hand, a sport coat has a pattern such as a plaid, a check, or a windowpane.

Sport coats quite often have highlighted decoration colors, for example, a grey herringbone that has a sky blue windowpane decoration. See an awesome video for some great custom-made semi-formal jacket options available at Jaxson Maximus.

Semi formal sport coats


Wearing the right footwear with your outfit is an integral part of nailing your look for a semi-formal dress code. We recommend sticking to tones and styles of shoes that look well put together and polished. You don’t want to ruin the formalness of your outfit by dressing it down with a pair of tennis shoes.

Oxfords, monk straps, derby style, dress loafers and brogues shoes would inject elegance to your look. Stick to darker, more traditional colors such as your browns, blacks, olives, burgundies, and navy. Any belt that you pair should match the tone of your shoe.



A semi-formal dress code means that you should put your best foot when choosing your attire. Altogether, you should avoid wearing: 

  • Polo shirts 
  • Jeans 
  • Shorts 
  • Flip flops or other opened toed shoes 
  • Tennis shoes 
  • Unkempt hair and or grooming
  • Untucked casual shirts 
  • Only pants and a shirt combination – semi formal should include a jacket 

Related Posts