Casual chic, black-tie optional, resort dressy, dress to impress – sometimes it seems like there are more dress code types than there are letters in the alphabet. If only they had been covered in high school, along with the different types of cells and parts of speech. Alas, women are on their own to figure it out. Luckily, the pieces that are suitable for a smart casual outfit are probably already in your closet.
What Does Smart Casual Actually Mean?
Smart casual is a dress code typically associated with professional work environments. Aiming for a smart casual ensemble is appropriate for certain offices, meetings and interviews. It's basically the step between business casual and business dress.
Like most dress codes, "smart casual" is a phrase that's used differently in different places. In one office, smart casual may basically just mean no lounge, or athleisure wear. In another office, suits could be considered smart casual. When starting out in a workplace where smart casual is the standard, it's useful to ask a boss or HR staffer for specific guidance.
Creating a Smart Casual Outfit
Generally, smart casual outfits are made up of dress pants, denim (without holes) or skirts as bottoms, and blouses, cardigans, sweaters and blazers as tops. A dress, either on its own or topped with a jacket or sweater, might also fall into the smart casual category. When in doubt, pair a blazer! This should do the trick to dress up most outfits. The outfit doesn't have to be stuffy, though. Wear a tasteful midi skirt with a neutral blouse, or don a dress with an all over pattern.
Don’t just wear business clothes. Smart casual doesn’t always mean a pencil skirt and white shirt. If attending a wedding or other non-work event, opt for a polished knee-length dress or chic pair of trousers — both of which can be just as dressed up as a blazer in the right context.
Still unclear? Think about what you would wear to holiday religious services, to dinner at an upscale steakhouse or to any gathering where a cocktail dress would be overkill but trackpants would be too casual. When in doubt, wear black pants or a knee-length skirt topped with a silky blouse and a cardigan or blazer.
Polishing a Smart Casual Ensemble
An outfit that qualifies as business casual can easily be upgraded into smart casual territory. One of the key features of smart casual attire is that it's neat and "done." If the weather allows, wearing a blazer is a perfect way to elevate an outfit from business casual to smart casual.
Wear heels if possible, or stick to streamlined boots or even neat ballet flats. Shoes should be free of scuffs. Complete a smart casual outfit with understated jewellery, a neat hairstyle and just enough makeup to look like a polished version of yourself.
Clothing That Isn't Smart Casual
Simply, if you'd wear it to the beach, it's not smart casual. Avoid light-wash denim or jeans with holes or any trendy features. Skirts should be down to the knee, or just a few inches higher. Thongs, athleisure, hoodies and clothing with holes are all a big no-no for smart casual settings. Sleeveless tops may or may not be appropriate, depending on the climate and setting.
Tops that intentionally display cleavage are off-limits too, at least for daytime or professional events. The rules are a little more relaxed for weddings and other social events with a smart casual dress code.
Try to avoid prints, neutral is the best. Black, whites, creams and beiges are always a safe bet.
Need Some Inspiration?
Smart Casual Workwear
This outfit is sleek, sophisticated and chic and you will feel a new
woman in office!
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Feminine and Sleek:
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Runaway the Label Kelsy Bodysuit ($70.00)
Appropriate for Almost Any Occasion:
Smart Casual Wedding
Feel effortlessly chic with the Misha Collection Moyra Pantsuit ($260), Sacha Arthur the Label Jungle scarf, Sacha Arthur the Label Pearl knot Earring. This whole outfit will have you feeling like you are on vacation forever.
For a simple classy look we recommend:
Aje ‘Bianca Tee’ ($145.00)