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What does "Semi formal/Cocktail" mean in clothing??

 
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Hi there. So glad to see this sewing forum!! I have a question about clothing and wonder if you knew the answer. I am invited to a wedding this summer, and it is described as a "Semi Formal" event. I am pretty clueless to what that means. I would like an idea so I can research patterns to sew an outfit. Thanks in advance.
 
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"semi-formal" ug.  No clue what it means.

Not jeans?  Not shorts?  not black-tie... not sure what else it means.

mostly I'm just commenting to bump the thread and follow along.  
 
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r ranson wrote:"semi-formal" ug.  No clue what it means.

Not jeans?  Not shorts?  not black-tie... not sure what else it means.

mostly I'm just commenting to bump the thread and follow along.  



Thanks for the reply. I read up a little more and it sounds like cocktail dress refers more to the length of the hem? Like to the knees or above the knee. And Formal is like a long evening gown. Perhaps the fabric makes it more "semi formal" by using a silk type of fabric rather than denim or t-shirt lol.
 
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I asked a lady a similar question once and her reply was "Nice, like you'd wear to church, but cut up to there and down to here."

 
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I don't think you have to wear a cocktail dress to a wedding. Semi-formal to me means a skirt or really nice slacks. You could also wear a cocktail-dress. I usually have just gotten by with a nice floor length floral skirt like this:

semi-formal floral skirt

Like Pearl said, the sort of clothes you'd wear to church, but can be more "immodest" than you'd wear to church. You just don't want to out-shine the bride.

I just did a google search for "semi-formal attire summer wedding." I can't believe my floral skirt was right-on!



Here's one that kind of breaks it down by what each term means:



You don't have to wear flowers if you don't like them. A solid color skirt (preferably in a "summery" color works well!)

If you don't do skirts, you can get by with nice slacks (like you'd wear to an interview--these are easily found at thrift stores for cheap!) and a button-up blouse, maybe in a spring color.

Maybe something like this:



or



Here's a page full of slack-type outfits for a semi-formal wedding: https://www.asupervip.top/products.aspx?cid=54&cname=semi%20formal%20pants%20and%20blouse%20for%20wedding
 
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Good question! A quick look at google confirmed my initial reaction: "Semi-formal attire is an outfit that is dressier than what you'd wear to an office but not as dressy as a formal evening gown or tuxedo."  

The problem is that "what you'd wear to the office" is really affected by the "office" you're going to! Also affected by the socio-economic status of most of the people involved.

Then there's the "permiculture' factor. I have total disgust for putting a bunch of effort/money/resources into a dress I'd only wear once! If it were really necessary to be fancier than what I could pull out of my closet (which isn't very fancy), I'd be checking out thrift shops for something I could make-over. If I were going to make something, I'd be looking for a fabric and pattern that would look "fancy" because: 1) the colour *really* suits me
2) the style flatters me as much as is possible
3) that could be dressed up for this occasion - think hand-sewing on some quality lace +/- seed pearls for example - that can be removed after, leaving a practical, more every-day dress behind

If that doesn't work, I'd at least consider a "blouse/skirt" combo with one being dressier than the other, so at least half the outfit gets more use.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:Good question! A quick look at google confirmed my initial reaction: "Semi-formal attire is an outfit that is dressier than what you'd wear to an office but not as dressy as a formal evening gown or tuxedo."  

The problem is that "what you'd wear to the office" is really affected by the "office" you're going to! Also affected by the socio-economic status of most of the people involved.

Then there's the "permiculture' factor. I have total disgust for putting a bunch of effort/money/resources into a dress I'd only wear once! If it were really necessary to be fancier than what I could pull out of my closet (which isn't very fancy), I'd be checking out thrift shops for something I could make-over. If I were going to make something, I'd be looking for a fabric and pattern that would look "fancy" because: 1) the colour *really* suits me
2) the style flatters me as much as is possible
3) that could be dressed up for this occasion - think hand-sewing on some quality lace +/- seed pearls for example - that can be removed after, leaving a practical, more every-day dress behind

If that doesn't work, I'd at least consider a "blouse/skirt" combo with one being dressier than the other, so at least half the outfit gets more use.



Thanks. I am planning on making something from scratch. I have a lot of fabric, just was not sure what the term meant for sure.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I don't think you have to wear a cocktail dress to a wedding. Semi-formal to me means a skirt or really nice slacks. You could also wear a cocktail-dress. I usually have just gotten by with a nice floor length floral skirt like this:

semi-formal floral skirt

Like Pearl said, the sort of clothes you'd wear to church, but can be more "immodest" than you'd wear to church. You just don't want to out-shine the bride.

I just did a google search for "semi-formal attire summer wedding." I can't believe my floral skirt was right-on!



Here's one that kind of breaks it down by what each term means:



You don't have to wear flowers if you don't like them. A solid color skirt (preferably in a "summery" color works well!)

If you don't do skirts, you can get by with nice slacks (like you'd wear to an interview--these are easily found at thrift stores for cheap!) and a button-up blouse, maybe in a spring color.

Maybe something like this:



or



Here's a page full of slack-type outfits for a semi-formal wedding: https://www.asupervip.top/products.aspx?cid=54&cname=semi%20formal%20pants%20and%20blouse%20for%20wedding[/quot
e

Thanks. I really like that flowered skirt. I am planning on sewing something and using the fabric and patterns I already have.

 
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Howdy!

It sounds like there are a lot of really knowledgeable people on this forum. Fantastic! (I have questions .. so many questions!)

Semiformal is what everyone has said - personal decision and ... what I would wear to a funeral of someone I liked, respected, and may have been related to. The "Simple black dress" cliché.

In fact, that's what I did late last year - simple black dress. It was a little too floofy for my usual taste, but some minor alterations helped. If I had more time, I would probably go the blouse and nice skirt direction.

For a different gathering, that was also a semi-formal ceremony, I had found a length of teal panne velvet in my stash, almost the most unsuitable fabric for my lifestyle, but it was enough for an ankle length, elastic-waisted skirt, with some left over.
I have enough left, in the right directions, to probably get a very creatively seamed top out of what's left.
Going the separates route with that came in handy - with a nice belt to tie everything together.

The husband was able to get away with "cowboy chic", and wore a nice long sleeved button-up, dark jeans, and a nice belt (with buckle that was noteworthy), and added a bolo tie for the second ceremony, to jazz it up a bit.
Now that I think about it, I could have gone with a more "Cowboy chic" sort of outfit, just used a broomstick skirt instead of the jeans, and something less likely to scare me with all the potential stain situations.

I hope you have been able to narrow your decision making. There are just so many alternatives and interesting new definitions as to what is considered appropriate wear.
I also hope whatever you decide on is comfortable and makes you feel good.
 
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The velvet sounds lovely-will it be comfortable if it is  a warm day?
For semiformal, no shorts, capris, anything denim, fleece  or leather. Yes, nice church clothes, good officewear. Colourful is good (I, personally, consider black inappropriate for weddings although I know people do it.) Dress up a simple dress/outfit with jewelry, a scarf and/or a jacket or shawl. Wear nice shoes: clean and comfortable but not runners/sneakers, moccasins or boots. Like others already said, you want to look and feel great but not take attention away from the bride!
 
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Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I tell my Wedding Attire Fail story?

A guy I was seeing had a couple of friends getting married in a nearby town.  The friends were Very Wealthy, and he hadn't seen them for a bit, and the invites gave no clue, so he emailed the guy friend (tactical error) and asked what the dress code was.  "Formal-ish" was the reply.  This... is not a dress code.  The guy I was seeing, a theater costuming graduate, and I, owning every Miss Manners book in production, pondered.

Mind you, we were both young, skinny, and funny-colored-haired (mine the adorable bob in my profile pic but bubble-gum pink, his shoulder-length green).  He went malicious-compliance-correct and rented a morning suit for the 2pm ceremony.  I wore a tea-length sheath dress in dupioni silk, crossdyed lilac and pink.  We looked fab, but respectful of the occasion.  We showed up, and all the women were in Laura Ashley florals.  All of them.  I don't even know where they got them - LA stopped doing those dresses in 1989 and this was 2003 or so.  And all the men were in khakis and navy blazers.  All of them.

Ok, I had hot pink hair.  I was not unused to being stared at.  Whatever.  We had a few hours downtime between the wedding and "cocktail" reception, so we met up with friends, chilled, and I changed into a cocktail dress:  Strappy just-above-the-knee, exactly matching my hair, sheer overlay with silver embroidery.  Got to the veddy veddy fancy reception, and all the women were in Laura Ashley florals.  And all the men were in khakis and navy blazers.  

Sigh.  At least there were cocktails.  Did I mention the wedding party drank the Empress Hotel entirely out of vodka that night?  At least I killed it for the outdoor brunch the next day in an indigo silk tank top, black palazzo pants, and very, VERY large sunglasses...

tl;dr:  Be nice to your guests and give them a clue what to wear; when in doubt, apparently wear Laura Ashley florals.
 
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I say, don’t overthink it.  I’d have no idea what to wear to church.  Or the office.

I’d say something that fits you well, it’s clean - no dirt stains or oil (ha ha), you feel good, slightly sexy.
Shoes are the hardest part.  I know I should have some nice shoes for occasions, but mine are always a mess and I don’t want to buy shoes just for an occasion.


 
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