Outfits Under $100: 3 Picks for Semi-Formal Season

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Students attending a semi formal event


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If you're involved in Greek life (or just the lucky guest of a sorority gal or fraternity guy), you'll know that semi-formal season is nearly upon us. Translation? A new excuse to shop for cocktail dresses and heels!

Semi-formal socials call for guests to step up their usual Saturday night attire, but the dress code is not as stuffy as formal parties. It's a fun opportunity to get dolled up and play with fashion. But is it possible to be the belle of the ball on a budget? Of course! Here are some tips for looking chic at any semi-formal, plus three chic and cheap looks under $100 each:

  • Look at discount stores. Think you need to spend lots on your dress? Think again. You go to cheap spots like Forever 21 and H&M for going-out duds on the regular, so why not look there for a snazzy cocktail dress, too? Don't write off your favorite bargain spots - they have options for dressy occasions, too. Last year, I found my semi-formal dress at Target (yes, Target!). I received just as many compliments on it as my more expensive dresses.
  • Want to splurge? Choose wisely. If extra cash is burning a hole in your pocket (not a problem most of us have these days!), carefully consider possible wardrobe investments before splurging. If you're like me, you have a rack of party dresses in your closet, most of which cost a lot and have only been worn once. Translation: Splurging on a dress is not a good closet investment. Spending more on a fabulous pair of shoes or dramatic earrings that you can wear over and over will get you more bang for your buck.
  • Be prepared to move it. The primary activity at semi-formals? Dancing! Make sure you can move-it-move-it in your dress and heels, or you'll spend the night watching everyone else bump and grind. Not so fun.
  • Go short. Semi-formals are on the cusp of winter, so it's one of the last times you can wear a short dress without frozen popsicle legs. Also, you don't want to look too formal at this event. Full-length dresses are not appropriate. If you're not a fan of your legs, wear opaque tights with a dress or pull a Victor-Victoria and wear dress or tuxedo-style pants with a dressy top.
  • Don't forget accessories! You can make a $25 dress look like a million bucks with the right accessories. Enliven a LBD with pops of color (colorful jewelry! a bold belt!) or make a simple shift look glamorous with faux gems.
  • Coordinating's cute, not cheesy. Maybe some readers will disagree with me on this one, but I think coordinating with your date to some degree is key to avoid clashing. Us sorority girls love our pictures, and if your black and pink dress is clashing with your date's blue and red suit, those snapshots aren't going to look their best. So ask your guy or gal what they're wearing, and maybe suggest a tie or sash that coordinates with your dress. You don't have to take it too far, but it looks nice and polished if you guys make some effort.

Outfit #1: Studded Sweetheart

Outfits Under $100: Studded Sweetheart dress for a Semi-Formal

Product Info:Dress, Tights, Booties, Earrings

With its pure white color, tucked waist and sweetheart neckline, this dress oozes femininity - but this good girl dress has gone bad thanks to a touch of metal. The neat geometric studding adds some unexpected edge to the frock, and when combined with opaque black tights, ankle booties and drop earrings, the look is ideal for a chic partygoer that isn't into frills.

Outfit #2: Pretty in (Hot) Pink

Outfits Under $100: Pretty Hot Pink dress for Semi-Formal

Product Info:Dress, Heels, Bag, Earrings

Look no further than hot pink to make yourself stand out and feel extra girly on semi night. Add some sparkly accessories, like these gem earrings and a sequined cross-body bag, to pump up the glam levels. This bold, ruffled dress speaks volumes, so while you can choose glitzy accessories, keep them in neutral shades; then they won't compete with the vivacious pink.

Outfit #3: Ladylike in Lace

Ladylike lace outfit for a semi formal

Product Info:Dress, Earrings, Ring, Nail Polish, Heels

Channel classic, retro beauty in a lace fit-and-flare dress like this black and beige number. Matched with vintage-style accessories, like these flower studs and glittery cocktail ring, this ensemble is elegant, chic and timeless. Sand-colored shoes pick up the beige in the dress and elongate your legs. For a pop of color, paint your nails red.

What do you think?

Are you going to any semi-formals sometime soon? What do you plan to wear? What do ladies at your college normally wear to these shindigs? Do you like these outfits? Please leave a comment!