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What to wear to a semi

Apr 30, 2023Apr 30, 2023

Wedding season is upon us and if your social calendar looks anything like ours, it's going to be a fun-filled summer. One of the best parts about attending a wedding is planning out your outfit, but interpreting the dress code isn't always easy.

To ensure that you're the best dressed guest, the Shop TODAY team sought out wedding experts to break down one of the most popular dress codes — semi-formal — and we're also sharing some beautiful shoppable picks to spark some inspiration.

Dress code meaning | What should you wear? | Outfits to shop | How to accessorize | Accessories to shop | Meet the experts

Just like the name suggests, a semi-formal dress code simply means you should show up wearing a somewhat dressy look. "It falls at the intersection of casual and formal," Emily Forrest, Zola's director of communications, says.

Not sure what the difference between semi-formal and cocktail attire is? The latter is slightly fancier.

If you've been invited to a semi-formal wedding and want to purchase a new ensemble, you're in luck! This polished yet approachable dress code means you'll be able to repurpose the outfit again.

"It's one of the most classic wedding dress codes because it's a safe option for couples that want their guests to dress up without feeling too stuffy," Forrest adds.

While black tie affairs call for floor-length gowns and tuxedos, semi-formal weddings require a less fancy aesthetic. Jumpsuits, pant suits and dresses (knee-length and midi) are all great options.

"Consider wearing solid-colored midis or jumpsuits and try to stay away from wearing a long ensemble or anything black, which tends to be very formal. Consider wearing a dress with an asymmetric neckline or ruffles to add a bit of a casual element," Azazie CMO Ranu Coleman mentions.

When it comes to materials, chiffon and satin are two great options. The time of year can also help dictate the color and style of your semi-formal wedding ensemble.

"If I was heading to a summer semi-formal wedding, I would probably opt for a fun floral dress that's shorter in length or a comfortable jumpsuit, and in the winter I would likely wear something more dark and formal feeling," Forrest suggests.

Prefer a more sassy aesthetic? This smocked dress might be right up your alley! Whether you opt for the yellow, green, blue or pink hue, you can't go wrong with the puffy sleeves, square neckline and low-cut back. It'd also look great with a denim jacket and tennis shoes when you're done toasting the lucky couple.

With its flowy chiffon material and flirty silhouette, this affordable find simply screams "semi-formal." We're digging the halter neckline, flirty hem, midi length and front slit. The style is available in three colors — purple, green and black — and a plethora of sizes ranging from XXS-XXL.

Whether you're a fan of solids or prints, this lightweight maxi dress aims to please and comes in 45 colors and patterns. The V-neck bust, comfortable elastic waist and high-low design lend the design a flirty vibe, while the affordable price tag has us tempted to pick up a few different colors.

A little bit of bling goes a long way with this fabulous frock that features a rhinestone keyhole at the neckline. The tiered asymmetrical ruffles add plenty of visual appeal and the sheer sleeves lend the look even more dimension.

Front ruffles and a cowl neckline add a luxurious touch to this sleek style. We're quite partial to the powerful pink hue and could see ourselves rocking it with a chic updo, a choker necklace and some metallic heels.

Not sure if a jumpsuit is acceptable for a semi-formal affair? It sure is, according to Coleman. "Fashion and dress code rules have shifted and a chic suit or jumpsuit with elegant accessories is just as acceptable and looks just as good as wearing a flowy dress," the expert said.

This gorgeous light blue sleeveless jumpsuit has sleek lines, a high halter neck and roomy pockets. Plus, it's machine-washable!

Worried about nailing the semi-formal dress code? Forrest shared some sage words of wisdom. "It's really all about wearing what you feel comfortable and confident in," she emphasizes.

Flowy tiers take this chiffon dress up a notch and quite honestly, they'll look fabulous when you're twirling on the dance floor. The polished dress (available in 40 colors) features an adjustable ribbon waist, a relaxed fit and a flattering V-neck.

This marvelous maxi dress is the perfect example of a semi-formal look you can wear many times. For a wedding, we'd pair it with sparkly, strappy heels and for work, we'd rock flats and a cardigan. The versatile piece has ruched detailing, a front slit and flowy sleeves we're crushing on.

The word "bombshell" instantly came to mind when we first saw this stunner. From the abundant ruffles at the top and bottom to the cold shoulder design, the dress oozes femininity in the best possible way. We adore the midi length and fit and flare silhouette, and are pretty sure you will too.

There's something so celebratory about bows, so we're always psyched when we come across a style that incorporates them well without going over the top. This midi dress from Draper James RSVP toes the line between whimsical and polished with panache.

Lace is always a lovely option for a more formal occasion and this lacy sheath dress is a worthy contender if you're craving some texture. The feminine style is available in 13 colors and has a modest scoop neckline and elbow-length sleeves.

Depending on the way you accessorize it, this sweet wrap dress can work for a semi-formal wedding or a day at the office. It's available in five colors and sizes XXS-3X, meaning there's something for everyone. We're quite fond of the high-low ruffled hem, the semi-sheer material and the comfy elastic waistband.

Dreaming of pastels? Us too! That's why we're crushing on this fancy frock. The shirred, flutter sleeves instantly add a dressy vibe, while the crew neckline and fitted silhouette offer ladylike appeal. It's the type of look that will never go out of style, so you'll find yourself reaching for it in your closet year after year.

Perfect for a summer soirée, this pretty purple halter dress will get you loads of compliments while you celebrate the happy couple's nuptials. The halter neckline means you don't have to worry about finding the perfect necklace and the loose fit makes it universally flattering.

If you're attending several weddings and don't want to buy several outfits, something like this sleek black jumpsuit from Spanx can work for multiple dress codes with the right accessories. It's available in regular, petite and tall sizes ranging from XS-3X and has a smoothing, stretchy material that hugs your curves in all the right places thanks to core shaping technology. Sounds like a worthwhile investment to us!

Accessories can really step up your semi-formal ensemble. Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules about what you should choose.

"If the event is outdoors, a chic flat or a fun sandal would look great. You can't go wrong with any shade of nude for shoes and consider wedges if it is an outdoor wedding," Coleman says. "If the color of your dress is on the bolder style with ruffles or other trendy elements, go minimalist on the accessories. But if the dress is more on the classic side, you can be trendier with jewelry or a belt."

"I would wear an evening clutch and heels if I was going to an evening wedding. For a daytime wedding, I might wear dressy sandals and bring a purse! Accessories are the perfect finishing touch for every dress code," Forrest said.

We're eyeing this snazzy evening bag with a detachable chain and interior pocket. Plus, the price tag makes it that much more desirable.

Accessories can jazz up your evening look, but you don't have to spend a ton to make a big impact. This sparkly bag comes in three colors - champagne, silver and navy - and has just enough room inside for all of the essentials, including your phone, compact mirror and lipstick.

Planning to rock an updo? A pop of color on your ears is always a good idea. These beautiful turquoise drop earrings are vibrant, sassy and classy, and will show up wonderfully in photos.

Love is in the air (it's a wedding, after all), so a heart necklace seems quite appropriate for the occasion. This one from Alex + Ani comes in two finishes — rose gold and silver — and features delicate pearl hearts all over. So elegant, right?

Ready to dance the night away? A pair of metallic flats will look and feel good on your feet. These silver shoes have high rebound cushioning to keep your tootsies cozy, a slip-resistant outsole and an easy-on, easy-off slip-on design you'll be grateful for when you want to dance barefoot halfway through the night.

Whether you're sporting a dress or jumpsuit, strappy sandals are an appropriate footwear choice. These ones just so happen to combine fashion and function with their walkable block heel, ample cushioning and multiple color options.

Chrissy Callahan covers a range of topics for, including fashion, beauty, pop culture and food. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, watching bad reality TV and consuming copious amounts of cookie dough.

Dress code meaning | What should you wear? | Outfits to shop | How to accessorize | Accessories to shop | Meet the experts Emily Forrest Ranu Coleman