Ask the Image Expert

Sherry Maysonave is the founder and president of Empowerment Enterprises, one of America's leading communication-image firms. Sherry conducts corporate seminars and coaches executives, professionals, and politicians in achieving excellence in communication and image. She is also the author of Casual Power: How to Power Up your Nonverbal Communication and Dress Down for Success

Semi-formal attire

Question: I am going to a semi-formal Progressive Dinner. I was wondering what would be appropriate for a 19 year old woman to wear?

Answer: Semi-formal attire is dressy, but this classification does not include truly formal attire, such as heavily sequined attire, prom-type dresses, or full-skirted ball-gowns. Otherwise, any dressy outfit that suits your style preference and is in good taste is appropriate.

Is this a work-related event? If so, think conservatively which means don't wear anything extremely low cut, ultra tight or short. It can have sex appeal but it's not the time to win the label of "Ms. Provocative" or time to copy Jennifer Lopez's bare styles. A dress is always appropriate for semi-formal occasions. Choose one that is dressier than the typical daytime dress. Avoid anything made of cotton, rayon, or denim. Look for dressy fabrics such as velvet, satin, silk, wool crepe, etc. Generally, these can be found in the evening-wear section of a store. And they are often mixed in with more formal wear, so choose carefully.

You can wear a sleeveless style dress or top if you have the proper wrap to protect you from the cold or rain. Keep in mind that with a Progressive Dinner agenda you will be changing locations, going indoors and outdoors multiple times throughout the evening.

You could also wear dressy pants or a skirt (long or short) with a sparkly or fur-trimmed sweater. Some sparkles on a garment work for semi-formal attire, but avoid being completely covered with sequins or rhinestones. On the other extreme, jeans are far too casual.

Wear your most beautiful smile and have a good time.

Best of luck to you,
Sherry Maysonave

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