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The term semi-formal is also used in formal methods (computer science) to mean not fully semantically formalized.


Couples in evening gowns, tuxedos and suits
In Western clothing, Semi-formal is a grouping of dress code, indicating the sort of clothes worn to events with a level of formality between informal (i.e. lounge suit) and formal. Historically there were both day and evening semi-formal dress codes, but this category is now seen almost exclusively in the context of evening wear.

Background

The origins of semi-formal attire date back to the 1800's when (the then Prince of Wales) Edward VII wanted a more comfortable dinner attire than the swallowtail coat.

In the spring of 1886, the Prince invited James Potter, a rich New Yorker and his wife, Cora Potter, to Sandringham Housemarker, his Norfolk hunting estate. When Potter asked the Prince's dinner dress recommendation, he sent Potter to his tailor Henry Poole & Co., in London where he was given a suit made to the Prince's specifications with the dinner jacket.

On returning to Tuxedo Park, New Yorkmarker in 1886, Potter's dinner suit proved popular at the Tuxedo Park Clubmarker. Later a group of men from the club attended a dinner at Delmonico's Restaurantmarker in New York Citymarker and wore that style of suit, the other diners were astonished. They were informed that such attire was popular at Tuxedo Park, and the suit was then known as the "Tuxedo".

From its creation until the 1920s, this dinner jacket was considered appropriate dress for dining in one's home or club, while the tailcoat remained in place as appropriate for public appearance.

Modern usage

In the day time (before six o'clock) the semi-formal code requires for men a black tail-less coat with formal (striped or checked) trousers (this combination is called stroller in America). For evening wear, the corresponding code is black tie (tuxedo in American English), however the traditional interpretation of dress codes in different social settings and continents now varies, so events that would previously have required strict black tie may now not expect this.

Terms like 'informal' or 'semi-formal' are used to describe a classification of dress, so would not be directly given on an invitation; instead, the direction for the guest will normally be 'lounge suit' for informal events or 'black tie' (tuxedo) for semi-formal, which removes some of the ambiguity.

Women usually wear a cocktail dress to semi-formal events, as a long evening gown is considered formal attire.

Summary

Eveningwear: Black tie (Tuxedo)
Morningwear: Stroller


References

  1. Black Tie Guide | Dress Codes; the site uses many more reliable primary sources.



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