These days there are few occasions when we need to really dress up and lots where smart casual is the order of the day – whether it’s lunch or dinner with friends, parents’ evening at the school or a date night. As the term implies, smart casual is a step up from casual but still quite a relaxed form of dress. Unfortunately, unlike our continental cousins, it’s the look we Brits seem to find hardest to pull off!
So how do you put together a look that is both stylish and reasonably casual?
Smart casual calls for something a little more interesting than just a tee shirt or a plain sweater.
Women may want to wear a top with some detailing or pattern or an interesting neckline and men way want to wear a polo shirt or casual shirt.
Logos on tops are definitely more casual than smart.
A jacket isn’t necessary for most smart casual occasions but it’s a good option to have one handy. Rather than the structured style you would wear in an office environment, you could go for something in a more relaxed linen or soft knit. A jacket over a simple tee shirt and dark wash jeans will take you most places.
Jeans can fit the bill so long as they are not “distressed”. The darker the denim the smarter the look and, incidentally, the more slimming. If you have good legs, you may want to draw attention to them with coloured or patterned jeans or trousers.
Skirts are also good option. Rather than the dark tailored pencil skirt you might wear to the office though, think about something a bit more relaxed, maybe with some pattern or in denim. Similarly, a wrap dress, tee shirt style dress or sweater dress will look more informal.
For men, neutral (stone, navy,grey, black) coloured chinos are always a safe bet for smart casual occasions but there’s no reason you can’t introduce a bit more colour, if you wish. Again, dark wash denim is generally also a safe bet.
When wearing jeans for smart casual occasions you need to pay particular attention to your footwear. Trainers/flipflops/Birkenstocks will transport the look back to casual, whereas heels smarten the look up. Boots worn with skirts and dresses can create a strike a nice balance between casual and smart .
For men loafers, deck shoes or Chelsea boots work well.
For women in particular, accessories are the key to a polished look. They can easily elevate casual to smart casual. Scarves are a particularly good way of adding the finishing touch to an outfit . Picking one or two colours out of a patterned scarf for your top/bag/belt/shoes (though not all of them – that’s just too matchy-matchy!) will pull an outfit together without looking like you’ve tried too hard. A statement piece of jewellery will also add a stylish touch.
Men have fewer options when it comes to accessorising but wearing a belt and swapping a rugged watch for a more refined one makes a casual look that bit smarter. You can also swap your black and grey workwear socks for something more colourful but should avoid anything “novelty”.
A smart casual look calls for a little more grooming too. For women, a blow-dry and light make-up – if only a slick of lipstick and mascara – will instantly make for a more polished look.
For men, stubble can be fine so long as your hair and nails are clean and groomed. Stubble plus untidy/unclean hair and nails just looks unkempt!