What Is Dressing Business Casual to Semi-Formal?

Written by wendel clark
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What Is Dressing Business Casual to Semi-Formal?
A suit is appropriate for an informal dress code. (suit image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com)

It is important to know how to dress in the range of business casual to semi-formal because this is the typical range of dress codes in the business world. Between these two ends of the spectrum you will also find the informal dress code and smart casual. Knowing what each of these dress codes means is important for anyone in the business world.

Business Casual

Business casual is general the most casual form of dress that is acceptable in a business environment. It is also one of the more common dress codes in today's businesses. Business casual typically entails wearing a collared shirt. Generally a shirt should be a button-down shirt, but sometimes a polo shirt will suffice.For women, a blouse is a good choice, but a sweater is acceptable. In business casual, it is acceptable to wear dress trousers or khaki trousers (or a skirt for women). Wearing a blazer or sports coat is optional. Footwear can include casual shoes such as loafers or shoes with a kitten heal for women. Jeans, non-collared shirts (other than sweaters for women), and sneakers are not acceptable in business casual attire.

Smart Casual

Smart casual is a small step up from business casual. Smart casual requires a button-down collared shirt (polo shirts will not do) for men. Women can wear fashionable tops, knit tops, or jumpers. Trousers can be dress trousers but not khakis. For women, a designer skirt is acceptable. Smart casual attire requires a blazer or sports coat for men, a jacket is optional for women. Ties are optional in this dress code. Footwear can include loafers, shoes, and heels, but not sneakers. Casual suits can sometimes fit into the smart casual style of dress.


Informal is the standard attire for business, it is the traditional, conservative style of dress seen in most corporate environments. It is sometimes referred to as western business attire. Despite its name, the informal dress code is more formal than it is casual. For men it entails wearing a suit, button-down collared shirt, and tie. For women, informal is similar, usually meaning a suit with a skirt and a blouse. Shoes in this category are dress shoes for men and heels for women. In addition to business settings, this attire may be worn in other situations such as funerals, some weddings, and some social engagements.


Semi-formal is a style of dress toward the high end of formality. It is sometimes known as black tie attire. Semi-formal for men involves wearing a black, formal jacket (without tails) for daytime events. Evening events require a tuxedo without tails, and a black tie. For women, the appropriate attire is a cocktail dress.


Differences may exist in dress codes depending the region you are in. Also, be aware that people may use terms incorrectly (people commonly use the term semi-formal where informal should be used and formal where semi-formal should be used). It is always advisable to ask for specific dress code details in a new situation.

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