WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content focus and not encouraging any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
From weddings and birthdays to holiday parties and industry conferences, there are dozens of occasions that call for formal wear. While there are numerous brands offering the cozy basics we love, dressy clothing tends to feel stiff, stuffy, and uncomfortable—leading many to loathe its existence and shove it to the back of the closet until the dreaded moment when formal attire is required again. But it doesn’t have to be this way, thanks to California’s incredible clothing companies.
For those who have a hard time spending money on constricting garments that don’t spark joy, you’re in luck: Several California brands offer formal clothes that don't sacrifice comfort or personal style. Whether you’re after semi-formal shirts crafted from preshrunk fabrics, feminine-cut gowns in flowy textiles, or timeless accessories that carry you from season to season, the formal wear crafted by these California companies blows all others out of the water.
The effortless silhouettes of Reformation’s clothing line are sure to fit in with your existing wardrobe. There’s a wide range of formal fashion to choose from—including formal dresses for women, dainty blouses, and structured trousers—and each item celebrates the womanly figure without compromising sustainability or individuality.
Unlike most fashion designers, who can take 12 to 18 months to convert an idea into a product, Reformation turns a sketch into a dress in about one month, allowing the San Francisco company to stay on-trend and provide you with the best shopping experience possible. Reformation is also committed to sourcing sustainable, raw materials—such as deadstock fabrics that would otherwise be sent to the landfill—and to ordering only what is needed to fulfill orders, so the company avoids the typical inventory waste that many fashion brands face while continuing to create the highest-quality garments from top-notch textiles.
With dramatic maxi dresses, conservative blouses, and playful pieces, Reformation can provide an outfit for everything life throws at you.
Doen stands behind the “fewer, better things” mentality when crafting and consuming garments, leading to timeless designs that can stay with you throughout the seasons, year after year. The vintage-inspired dresses designed by the Los Angeles–based company combine modern feminine touches with classic California designs for semi-formal attire with a sense of modest nostalgia and bohemian flair.
Order one of the wow-worthy dresses for an unforgettable entrance, or try combining a blouse and the Mojave pants for an upscale, versatile outfit you will be drawn to again and again. Embrace the freedom of coastal life and the spirit of days gone by while appreciating the stunning feeling of luxe fabrics and intentional designs.
Outerknown is best recognized as a sustainable swimwear brand, but the Culver City company has so much more to offer. While the environmentally friendly practices and fair labor standards might be enough to entice you to make a purchase, Outerknown’s semi-formal menswear perfectly captures the California essence, making it a go-to brand for surfers, skateboarders, and beach-dwellers alike.
Since Outerknown’s pieces are functional and durable, they’re perfect for both everyday and once-in-a-lifetime events. (Tip: Pair the slim S.E.A. pants with the blue Nomadic Oxford shirt for a classic formal look that can take you from a wedding reception to the ocean shores.) The garments are versatile enough to fill your wardrobe with new outfits for a summer wedding, a business meeting, date night, and everything in between.
Wherever life takes you, your Outerknown pieces will be waiting to accompany you to the next adventure.
Based in San Francisco, American Giant is well-known for making incredibly comfortable sweatshirts, so you know the brand’s quality button-ups are more functional than your average formal wear for men. Crafted in the United States using 100-percent cotton twill, the Ranch Shirt is comfy enough to wear to your favorite Bay Area brunch spots and snazzy enough to wear with a blazer to your business formal events.
American Giant focuses on producing durable, locally made items that keep humanity and communities in mind, so you can feel good about purchasing all the semi-formal clothes and super-casual items you need in your life.
Soko jewelry is designed in San Francisco and brings together artistic entrepreneurs from around the world to produce a new kind of luxury. Through technology and mobile tools, Soko gives artisans access to consumers across the globe. Each piece is handcrafted in Kenya using reclaimed, recycled, and locally sourced materials that are both high-quality and sustainable so artisans can continue to have a better life and provide for their families.
From cuff bracelets, to pendant necklaces, to brass stacking rings, all the pieces feature a classic elegance that complements any fashion choice, day or night. With modern takes on traditional designs, Soko succeeds in providing quality, ethically made goods at accessible prices.
As a social enterprise, The Giving Keys designs inspirational jewelry while also creating jobs for people transitioning out of homelessness. Adhering to three main principles—to dream, to inspire, and to create—the Los Angeles company sells repurposed keys that carry a message.
Words like courage and love are engraved on everything from dainty key earrings, to keychains, to key necklaces. And, by encouraging customers to pass on the message—and the jewelry—to someone who needs it more, the brand helps spread the good vibes across California and beyond.
Whether you’re looking to give your bestie a friendship key at his or her going-away party, trying to embrace love at a wedding, celebrating those who inspire you at a conference, or summoning your bravery before trying something new, The Giving Keys jewelry will complete your outfit and give you the extra boost you need to conquer every moment in life.
For a watch that truly makes a statement but is appropriate for any occasion, look no further than Original Grain. The San Diego–based company blends a passion for adventure and sustainability with the classic look of a timepiece, through watches that fuse reclaimed wood and stainless steel.
Each item is one-of-a-kind and made using tried-and-true woodworking techniques. Original Grain is also dedicated to utilizing sustainably sourced materials so owners can fully appreciate the story behind the watch.
Offering watches for both men and women, the company provides a wide range of options that can complement any ensemble and serve as a great gift for any occasion.
Join the conversation and share your go-to formal wear brands in the comments below.
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