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If your head starts spinning over what to wear every time you get invited to a party, you are not alone. Dress codes can be confusing, and times are changing the norms anyway. Regardless of the kind of event, this is an opportunity to spend a little extra time on looking good.
When you are curvy, it can be a challenge to find clothes you love, but times are changing that too. It is getting easier to find trendy plus size fashion in all styles, from super casual to super formal.
For most of us, the opportunity to go to a white tie event does not arise often. This is the most formal of events. Think Met Gala attire (minus the daring choices stars like Lady Gaga made at the 2019 red carpet event). Tuxedos with coattails and floor-length ball gowns, with expensive jewelry and elbow-length gloves are appropriate attire.
If there is any time to take your dress to the tailor, it is now. You want a dress that fits you perfectly and shows off your favorite features. A lower-cut neckline that shows off a little cleavage is probably perfectly appropriate at this kind of event, and you have some room to get creative. If you love your legs, go for a gown that shows them off a bit. Even some of the fanciest floor-length gowns have a slit up the side or an open-front poofy skirt.
A step down from white tie events, these parties are still pretty formal. Suits are almost always tuxedos, and dresses are evening gowns made from silks, satins, and velvets, often with beading or sequins.
When dressing for a black-tie event, opt for clothes that compliment your shape with higher-quality fabrics to provide support, smoothing out any lumps and bumps. Empire cuts are a popular choice for plus size dresses because of the way they gather under the bust and then flow out from there. The point to keep in mind with an empire cut, however, is that you want a fabric that will graze, not hug, the body.
Black Tie Creative or Festive
The fun siblings of the black-tie party, these parties are exactly what they say they are. Get creative with your attire, and mix things up. Colors and patterns are super fun. Wear tuxedo pants and a fancy beaded shirt, or a fabulous long skirt with plus size sweaters for layering.
Show off your cleavage with something trendy and low-cut. If your legs are your favorite feature, now is an appropriate time to show them off with a fancy cocktail dress that stops at or just above the knee—though it’s best to avoid anything shorter. You can also wear clothes that are a little more shape-hugging at parties like this, to show off your curves with confidence.
If you are in doubt, it never hurts to ask the host or other friends who are “in the know” about what kind of crowd you will be attending with, but these parties are usually a great time to use your imagination to express yourself while still getting fancy.
Cocktail or Semi-Formal
These are events where you get to dress up, but you do not need to spend a fortune on your clothes. Definitely go with a dress that cuts off at or around the knee, and is fancier than a day dress, but not quite an evening gown. Silk or velvet with embellishments is totally appropriate. You could also go with fancy separates or even a formal jumpsuit. If you intend to wear a suit, go with dark colors unless it’s a daytime party. In that case, lighter colors will be perfectly acceptable.
Business dress events generally require a more conservative dress. If you are going to wear a suit, you can change your look based on whether the event is business formal or business casual. Business formal requires a dark suit with a dress shirt. Business casual can be something lighter-colored, and it can include separates instead of a full suit.
Dresses are the same for either event. Wear something on the conservative side, with no cleavage, body-hugging cuts, or very short skirts. Think about what you would wear to a business meeting with an important client, and add a couple of accessories because it’s a party.
These occasions are typically work mixers or relaxed dinner parties with friends. You can go with dark denim or khaki bottoms, and a semi-dressy shirt or sweater. Add a simple blazer to step up your look without going overboard. Shirt dresses are an excellent way to go if you are looking to wear a dress. They complement fuller figures, plus if your dress has buttons, you can wait until you get to the party to decide how much cleavage to show.
This is the most relaxed dress code; where jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are all totally encouraged. Get comfy, just make sure you don’t get sloppy. Your clothes should be clean and fit well, and t-shirts should not be graphic. No yoga or sweatpants either.
If you want to dress up your look a little, try adding a colorful jean jacket or some of your favorite jewelry. You could also give your hair a little extra style or do your nails.
Do you know your dress codes? You’re probably familiar with the most common ones, like casual, business formal, and black tie. But what about the vague, ambiguous category of “semi-formal”? Although you usually won’t encounter it in your day-to-day, semi-formal events happen much more than you think – and you should be prepared for them.
Every Aussie should have a semi-formal ensemble in their wardrobe, just in case a fancy dinner, cocktail party, or wedding comes up. If you’ve ever had a difficult time dressing up for a dressy event, then this is the guide for you – read on for everything you need to know about semi-formal dresses.
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What Is Semi-Formal?
The semi-formal dress code confuses most people because it isn’t strictly defined. It’s definitely dressier compared to smart casual, but it’s more laid-back than formal. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
For men, semi-formal usually entails a suit (tie optional), slacks and a sport coat, or a dress shirt and slacks without a jacket. For women, it’s usually a knee-length dress, but you can also wear a jumpsuit, pantsuit, or a blouse and a skirt.
There are other factors to consider as well, such as the material of your clothes. Most of the time, long dresses fall into the “formal” category. But if it’s a light fabric or fun pattern, it might fall into semi-formal territory. In fact, many modern formal dresses can be styled either way, depending on your accessories, shoes, and hair and makeup.
If you’re still not sure what to wear to your next event, simply clarify with the host. Most event organisers would be more than glad to give you advice on what outfits are appropriate.
What Events Can You Wear A Semi-Formal Dress To?
Events that require semi-formal attire will usually specify it on the invitation, but that isn’t always the case. Here are some occasions where semi-formal dresses would be appropriate:
- Most weddings, especially day, beach, or outdoor ceremonies
- Funerals and memorials
- Dinner and cocktail parties
- Races and other similar sporting events
- School formals, dances, and proms
- Award ceremonies and theatrical shows
- Office get-togethers
- Holiday parties
The Top 11 Semi-Formal Dresses In Australia
Amara Milano Tank Dress
Shop: The Iconic
Price: $AUD 299
You can take this simple red dress from day to night by switching into a pair of killer heels. And it provides the perfect blank canvass for your accessories!
Annabelle Lace Dress
Shop: Miss Runway
Price: $AUD 119
Miss Runway has a lot of cheap yet good-quality dresses for all special occasions. This dainty white lace dress is great for day weddings, dinner parties, and a romantic dinner with your SO.
Jessica Two-Piece Dress
Shop: Noodz Boutique
Price: $AUD 139
This black peplum two-piece adds subtle dimension to your silhouette while also showing off your natural curves.
Draped Cocktail Frill Dress
Shop: David Jones
Price: $AUD 295
This trendy dusty rose dress from Shona Joy does double duty – you can wear it to both formal and semi-formal events with the right accessories.
Capri Maxi Dress
Price: $AUD 89.95
Floral patterns and polyester fabric like the one on the Capri Maxi Dress are usually too casual for formal dresses, but it’s absolutely perfect for semi-formal attire.
Sheath/Column Lace Off-The-Shoulder Dress
Shop: Formal Dress Australia
Price: $ADU 139
This off-the-shoulder dress is made-to-order, and it comes in dozens of colours. It’s also plus size-inclusive, available up to a 26W.
Shop: White Fox
Price: $AUD 99.95
We just can’t get enough of the subtle lace detail on the Khaleesi Midi Dress. We’re partial to the wine colour, but it’s also available in other shades.
Celine Lace Set
Shop: Style Struck
Price: $AUD 139
Two-piece dresses have never looked this elegant. The Celine Lace Set is available in multiple colours up to a size 12.
Cape-Style Wrap Midi Dress
Shop: Pretty Little Thing
Price: $AUD 58
Pretty Little Thing is an online treasure trove of gorgeous dresses. Just check out this long-sleeved dress that looks great for work and a night out on the town.
Midi Strappy Cami Dress
Price: $AUD 110
This ASOS dress is a classy take on the short, sequined party dress trend.
Shop: White Runway
Price: $AUD 449
Look fabulous, opulent, and fashion-forward in this asymmetrical Bonita Dress from White Runway, also available in white.
Even though semi-formal events don’t happen every day, it’s always useful to have a dressy outfit ready when you need it. These stores will help you find the perfect semi-formal dress (or two) to add to your wardrobe, so you’re always prepared for fancy occasions.