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While I was in High School I noticed interesting terminology in regards to higher dressing. We had four dances a year: Homecoming, Winter Formal, Morp, and Prom. The dress code for each was: Semi-formal, semi-formal, casual, formal, respectively. However, semi-formal apparently meant dress shirt and tie, while formal meant Black Tie.

So I suppose the question is this: Would it be appropriate to wear Black Tie to Homecoming/Winter Formal since the specified dress is semi-formal, and White Tie to Prom since it is specified as Formal, or would this seem too out of place?

Also, why did the words come to mean these lower forms of dressing?
 

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That reminds me of my office, when they ask us to wear business casual it means polo shirt and khakis, it no longer means a sport coat and tie. In high school and dances at college it was always a time to go out in the best. I would say its perfectly fine and I would expect that semi formal is black tie and formal is white. I would however probably avoid tails as it would just be uncomfortable for 3 or 4 hours and while dancing. Also, remember that if you are renting a tuxedo and you decide to wear a vest, get the full back instead of the strap. You will probably want to take your coat off and nothing looks worse than the strap back vest.
I also think the lessening of these terms stems from our culture moving ever more casual. Its unfortunate, but fashion works in cycles so it will probably come back to some degree. Just remember if you have style, you won't ever have to worry about changing fashions!
 

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That reminds me of my office, when they ask us to wear business casual it means polo shirt and khakis, it no longer means a sport coat and tie. In high school and dances at college it was always a time to go out in the best. I would say its perfectly fine and I would expect that semi formal is black tie and formal is white. I would however probably avoid tails as it would just be uncomfortable for 3 or 4 hours and while dancing. Also, remember that if you are renting a tuxedo and you decide to wear a vest, get the full back instead of the strap. You will probably want to take your coat off and nothing looks worse than the strap back vest.
I also think the lessening of these terms stems from our culture moving ever more casual. Its unfortunate, but fashion works in cycles so it will probably come back to some degree. Just remember if you have style, you won't ever have to worry about changing fashions!
Better still, keep your coat on!
Also, tails are no more uncomfortable than a lounge jacket and are perfect for dancing...

W_B
 

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The answer to your questions are within yourself. Will you feel uncomfortable if you are one of the very few wearing black tie to a function where everyone else is wearing a dress shirt and tie. I would not get caught up in the strict definitions of "semi formal and formal". Look at those words as guides . It is always acceptable to follow the old saw- "When in Rome do as the Romans do."
Paul Winston
Winston Tailors
www.chipp2.com
 

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...Also, why did the words come to mean these lower forms of dressing?
New_Rome:

Answer: Ignorance!!

The terminology has not changed. It's just some people get confused or don't understand it. Here are the facts, in the article Cracking The Dress Code linked from the Home Page:
 

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That reminds me of my office, when they ask us to wear business casual it means polo shirt and khakis, it no longer means a sport coat and tie.
I wear sportcoats to my "business casual" office, but not ties. On Fridays, when most of the men are in jeans, I switch to chinos, but that's as casual as I get.

I'm wondering what the Christmas party will be like. Last year, at my old company, it was BTO and there were maybe three people, all husbands of female employees, who actually wore black tie. I wore a solid black suit, a Christmas red merino vest, and a festive bow tie with little wrapped gifts depicted on it. I was able to crash a REAL black tie party later in the evening. :)
 

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Sore thumb?

First of all, it is admirable that someone wants to buck the crowd and wear something elegant. That means a care for one's image and consideration for one's date.

That said, this is 2008 and these are high school functions. If you don't mind standing out like the proverbial "sore thumb" then more power to you. However, you might want to do a couple of things before you take the plunge:

Ask your buddies what they're planning to wear. Maybe you could go along with the white dress shirt and tie uniform, but dress it up with a very special tie. If you want to dress up, what about that nice suit you have already?

Ask your date what she would like you to wear, and perhaps more tellingly, what she plans to wear. After all, she will be an enforced participant in either your glorious sartorial statement, or the inevitable ridicule that young people are so readily prone to if you dress in a radically different way.

It seems to me that the prom leaves more room to overdress outrageously. However, tails will inevitably appear "costumey" if you are the only one wearing that. If you can talk your buddies into joining you, that would at least provide some "cover," but otherwise, stick to the norm as to type of outfit, black tie, tux, etc., and just be the one in the perfectly classy version.
 

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My Senior Prom was in May of '68. At that time every man wore black tie. Some even had a white dinner jacket. I of course having to be different wore a Nehru Jacket. But it all worked out.

If you wear your outfit correctly, and the thing fits right you may have some people adimring you, and some making remarks. So what. Just do it.
 
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