Guide to Semi-Formal

I think we’ve all received an invitation that included a dress code and we honestly didn’t know what it meant. The rules for these seem so fluid, but at times they really aren’t, which makes the whole issue more stressful. Some are easy – the ultra formal white tie and formal black tie  have pretty clear rules – but the more common ones are generally more confusing.

This post is inspired by an event I’ve been planning for work that is “semi-formal,” which in my area could mean really anything. The western US is, generally speaking, a pretty casual place, so I did some research.

Searching for semi-formal menswear is basically like typing “clothes” into google. And all of the more specific rules I did find varied from site to site, so here is my synthesis of what you should wear to a semi-formal event.

Evening Events (after 6 pm)

evening semi formal

Do not wear a tux – that is black tie or formal – but you should wear a dark jacket. I would also lean toward dark slacks or a full suit. A tie is probably advisable, although it can be colorful or patterned. Shirts can also maybe be colored, but I would avoid anything too wild.

Be sure to take into account the type of event. Weddings should probably be more formal, whereas cocktail parties allow for a little more play.

Day Events (before 6 pm)

day semi formal

Day events have the same basic rules, although suits do not need to be dark. In fact, it is probably more appropriate to go with khaki/tan or grey (even navy is better than black for a day event). By their nature, day events tend to be a little more casual, so you could forgo the tie or play with colors, but again read the event.

An outdoor wedding is going to be more casual than an indoor, especially during the day. A garden party is usually more casual than a cocktail party (unless the former is with the queen).

In more casual places, like my hometown, you could probably really tone it down and no one would bat an eye, but here I defer to Oscar Wilde’s immortal words “You can never be overdressed or over-educated.”

Oscar Wilde on fashion

And if you are going to trust any author about fashion, let it be Mr. Wilde.

Spotlight: Kit Harington

Kit Harington

Game of Thrones favorite, Kit Harington is still fairly new to the professional acting scene, but you’d never know it with how prolific he has become. Famous for his character’s terrible luck and luscious dark curls, Kit Harington only seems to retain one of those qualities in his real life.

In the style world, Kit is the perfect example of using basic staples to create a complete wardrobe. He tends to wear dark neutrals, which means they can be combined in a ton of different ways. Building a wardrobe with basics and neutrals allows the greatest number of unique outfits with the least amount of individual pieces. Even his glasses are dark and classic.

kit harington

The basics that Kit embraces the most are: leather jackets, peacoats, henleys, button ups in solid and plaid, and well-fitting t-shirts. WAMSW has talked about all of these individually, and they are great together or separately. 

He also finds ways to dress up jeans, by choosing dark colors and pairing them with nice shirts. Dark wash, grey, or black jeans appear more like trousers, so they look more sophisticated.

kit harington

Kit’s hair is an interesting length, and could potentially be very awkward. He avoids this with his natural curly texture and by keeping it well kept up. His hair is shiny, not frizzy, and looks more disheveled than out of control (hint: this is the sweet zone). 

While rumor has it that Jon Snow knows nothing, it is clear Kit Harington has caught on to how to have a simple, but classic wardrobe that works in almost any setting.

Know Your Glasses: Clubmaster

Traditionally called Browline glasses, the Clubmaster is a term coined by Ray Ban in the 80s, but let’s be real, what Ray Ban says goes.

These glasses are distinctive for the top of the frame being distinctly heavier than the bottom and recall classic 50s and 60s looks. 

clubmaster

While the Clubmaster/Browline shape might be associated with the hipster look these days, these are really a classic shape that are really flattering. The “browline” creates a second browline which is very flattering on the face. (Don’t believe me? Just check out all those pictures of people without eyebrows)

These are also a shape that are great in both sunglasses and regular glasses. In fact the prescription version would be a nice compliment to your professor look.

classic browline