Ideas for a Semi-Formal Theme


A semi-formal event requires a level of attire more prim than casual, not quite as austere as formal and less sultry than cocktail. For a man, a semi-formal day event suggests a light-colored suit, avoiding linen and seersucker materials. An evening event requires a suit in dark blue or black. For a woman, the definition is more liberal; however, hem lengths should remain no less than an inch above the knee. There are a variety of ways you can play with the theme of a semi-formal event that incorporate the designated dress code, but adds a level of excitement to wardrobe choices.

Dance Theme

  • Different styles of dancing could inspire some creative outfits. These styles include salsa, swing, waltz, cha-cha, jitterbug, tarantella and the fox-trot. Guests need not be experts in the dances themselves; each theme suggests a unique way of dressing that everyone can play with a little. The themed music might also be a nice break from the usual party songs.


  • With a casino theme, guests are also provided built-in gaming entertainment. Set up a few tables including poker and blackjack. Make it clear that gamers are playing for chips and fun, not for actual cash. Provide a cigar room or outdoor table area for smoking. Guests don't have to smoke, but it might be fun to carry a cigar around or save one as a party favor.

Historical Era

  • Pick a decade in American history and ask party-goers to dress in attire inspired by that era. A 1920s and 1930s party suggests speakeasy flapper dresses. A 1940s party may have guests arriving in long pleated skirts and zoot suits. For a 1970s party, bold-patterned, long and fitted Lycra dresses and brightly-colored polyester suits along with platform shoes would match the decade.


  • Costume parties leave a lot of room to choose an appropriate outfit while stepping outside your normal personality. Guests can choose celebrities or fictional characters to mimic, as long as their attire remains at the level of a semi-formal party. You can even include a costume contest, in an attempt to inspire some real creativity.

Add a Hat

  • Adding a sophisticated hat to your semi-formal outfit will bring out the creativity in many of your guests. Fancy berets, bonnets, fedoras and derbies are fun to wear and offer an added topic of conversation for ice-breaking.

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