It’s fun to witness your loved ones walk down the aisle, but deciding what to wear can be a huge pain. You want to make sure you look your best, but you don’t want to upstage the bride. And vague dress codes can make selecting an outfit even more difficult. Luckily, there’s no need to freak out. If you’ve received an invite that has the words ‘semi-formal attire’ in calligraphy across the bottom, this resourceful guide will break down exactly what that means.
‘Semi-formal’ refers to ensembles that are more relaxed than black-tie requirements. “I approach semi-formal dressing knowing that it should still have a formal element,” celebrity stylist Lindsey Dupuis tells SELF. In addition to adhering to the bride and groom’s request, you’ll want to pay close attention to what time the wedding is scheduled. “If it’s during the day, lean towards lighter colors,” adds Dupuis, who has dressed Sharon Stone, Nikki Reed, and Brittany Snow. “And if the event is in the evening, opt for darker tones.” Here are five more rules to help guide your semi-formal outfit selection.
1. Try to avoid going too long or too short. “Miniskirts and floor-length gowns are off limits,” says Dupuis. Semi-formal is all about finding that happy medium. “If you fancy wearing a maxi dress, just make sure the fabric isn’t too dressy,” the fashion expert says. Remember: You want to feel dressed up, but this isn’t the time to whip out that ballroom gown you’ve been saving.
2. And you shouldn’t even think about wearing white. Unless you were specifically instructed to show up in an ivory hue, don’t do it. Dupuis says, “It’s all about the bride, and it is her time to shine bright in white.” It’s also a good idea to find out what color the bridesmaids will be wearing, so you won’t be mistaken for a member of the wedding party.
3. If you have more than one semi-formal ceremony on your calendar this season, don’t be afraid to repeat a look. Even the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton does it. “I always suggest switching up the way you wear your accessories or adding a fun new layer,” says Dupuis. You’d be surprised how adding a silk scarf or substituting stilettos for wedges can drastically transform a dress.
4. Don’t overdo it with accessories. Dupuis shared the number one styling rule that she never breaks: over-accessorizing. “If you sport a statement necklace, keep your other jewelry (including hair accessories) simple,” she says. “Let the statement piece speak for itself.”
5. And instead of running from store to store, you can turn to online shopping to finalize your purchase. “It’s so easy to get lost online, so have a vision for what you want before starting your search,” says Dupuis. The cocktail dresses and elevated separates sections are great places to begin your search. If you’re still feeling uneasy, Dupuis summed things up by saying, “When in doubt you can always count on an LBD (little black dress)!”
Scroll down to shop some of our favorite semi-formal looks perfect for wedding season.
A midi dress with a backless design.
Elliat Boheme Ocean Dress, $119; shopbop.com.
A lace number with romantic cutouts.
Self Portrait Azalea Lace Dress, $480; intermixonline.com.