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Semi-Formal (Black Tie/Evening Dresses) Dress Code

Evening 

(UK and Commonwealth)
     

Coat

Chesterfield Coat
The ideal accompaniment to Semi-Formal wear.

Dress Code Variants

Black Tie Optional?
If the invitation requests 'Black Tie Optional', then this means exactly that.

If you feel more comfortable in black tie or wish to convey your respect to your hosts or fellow guests, wear Black Tie. If you prefer not to dress so formally, a dark Lounge Suit will be sufficient.

Ladies also get a free choice of evening wear. Anything from Evening Gown to Cocktail dress would be more than suitable. Dressy separates could also be considered.

Obviously some guests will be wearing Black Tie, so all clothing should be of the highest quality.
Creative Black Tie?
If the invitation requests 'Creative Black Tie', or some other variation on the 'Black Tie' code, this generally means that, for him, more modern trousers and dinner jacket is acceptable. Maybe a black shirt, a long tie or some other local neckwear.

The key thing is that the suit and dinner jacket should be black and dressy.

For her, there's more creativity with her dress length, or even wear dressy evening separates.

Obviously, follow any themes requested in the dress code, but remember this is still intended to be a classy event.

Alternatives

Traditional Dress
Traditional dress is always appropriate for semi-formal events.

History

Formal and Semi-Formal
In high society, White Tie and Ball Gowns was the standard formal form of dress for social gatherings. It shows the wealth of the upper classes and their familiarity of etiquette, and is still expected at the very highest class of event.

However, such elaborate presentation is not very practical for frequent usage, and so the semi-formal dress code Black Tie, consisting of Dinner Jackets and Evening Dress or even the shorter Cocktail Dress was established, for dining in a sophisticated manner, without the impracticalities and lavishness of full formal dress. Overtime, this has become the more standard form of dress for most formal events.