A Guide to 'Smart Casual'

January 28, 2018

Whenever it comes to dress codes, one of my most dreaded is the 'smart casual'. It's so vague that it doesn't actually give us any proper idea as to what you should ACTUALLY wear. The worst situation for this code by far, is a work situation. Does smart casual count as jeans and a blouse or are jeans completely out of the equation? Most of the answer to that really depends on what your workplace is like- some places will separate out 'business' casual and 'smart' casual but to be honest it still doesn't give much clarity on what to wear, and we're all back to square one. 


In order to give some much needed light to this topic, I'm giving you my two pence about what actually counts as smart casual and I've put together three outfits to take inspiration from- if you want to! I think a lot of 'smart casual' revolves around silhouettes and patterns, so I focused on plaid, pinstripes and oversized shirts. 



Forever associated with city workers, a plaid piece is perfect for pairing with more casual jumpers and blouses to balance out smart and casual. 


The obvious and most likely item you'll already have in your wardrobe is a pair of plaid trousers or a plaid blazer: both are perfect for styling with a simple, non-fussy blouse or a thin jumper for an easy outfit. Bonus points if you have a plaid suit, as a plaid suit paired with a t-shirt and loafers ticks all the right boxes: comfy, smart and chic. 


For my outfit, I used a plaid trench coat! As plaid was really in last season (a trend which isn't really going anywhere) there are actually plenty of plaid outerwear options around: keep your plaid option smart by going for a classic silhouette like a trench or cape style coat!



As the coat was smart, I could get away with a relatively casual under-coat outfit, so I paired it with a blush blouse and some crepe drawstring joggers. I added a pair of patent heeled boots to finish as it was way too rainy for heels, and I was set for the day!



Plaid is one of the easiest patterns to style as there are so many options! To keep yours on the smarter side, avoid anything too colourful: stick to greys and browns as bases and work from there to be able to use your plaid piece for both smart and smart casual occasions. 


Coat: M&S (Similar 1, Similar 2)

Blouse: H&M (Similar)

Trousers: ZARA (Similar

Boots: ZARA




Again, pinstripes are usually associated with the finance industry so they usually give an outfit a slightly smarter edge. I kept mine classic by going for a navy pinstripe and then kept colours neutral which is easy to do with navy, as to go colours to match it with it would be browns, creams and whites.



Jumpers are usually a good option for colder days when paired with smarter trousers. For a smarter look, go for a turtleneck or a less baggy, round neck jumper. I instead went for a super oversized, teddy style jumper with balloon sleeves and dropped shoulders! This jumper is definitely my new favourite jumper as I LOVE how oversized it is, and I love the chunky neck detailing. When it comes to getting oversized jumpers, I usually just size up jumpers I like: I've found that chunkier knits often work best as oversized jumpers, so look for mohair style knits. 



By tucking in the jumper enough so that the front of the trouser was showing, the look stayed smarter. If the jumper wasn't tucked in enough/wasn't tucked in at all, not only would it drown me, but it would also be too messy and undone for a smart-casual look. 



I lastly just added a pair of white heels to keep the look work appropriate. Not only do heels elongate my legs, but the also help to balance out the proportions of the oversized jumper versus my shorter frame. Ideally I would've gone for some tan suede or nude pumps, but the white worked well enough due to the white in the pinstripe trousers!



Jumper: ZARA (Similar)

Trousers: New Look (Similar)

Shoes: Matalan (!) (Similar)




My last pick for a foundation to a smart-casual outfit would be the plain white oversized shirt. There are always plenty of interesting shapes and styles of these flying around the high street so it'll be relatively easy to find one around if you haven't already got one in your wardrobe! The key to oversized white shirts is to make sure that it's oversized whilst still appearing somewhat tailored. 



I actually wore an oversized white shirt twice so I'll talk about both of the ways I styled it. The way I've styled it in the pictures is by layering it on top of a cotton polo-neck top. This is perfect for cooler weather as a white shirt can be quite airy otherwise, so layering means you can stay warm and smart! I've found that this works best with a black top as it keeps the colours more simple and neutral: i.e: work friendly. With this said, feel free to dabble with colour if you so wish!



For trousers, I wore ripped jeans. However, if you wanted something smarter, I would go for culottes or black straight legged trousers. I've been preferring a straight leg jean to a skinny recently, and I feel they keep the look more androgynous which works well with the shirt. I also prefer the look of straight leg jeans with heels for less dressy occasions- again, this is just a personal preference, so it's really about what works for you!



I then threw on my favourite coat of the moment to give the outfit some colour. The wide lapels work well with the double layering, and it's structure helps to make the outfit more put together! I lastly paired it up with a pair of leopard print courts! Although they're not for everyone, I like that they give the outfit a point of interested, and add something unexpected through the pattern to an otherwise simple look. The colour brings out the coat well, and both compliment each other well to make the outfit complete! As leopard can be a somewhat tricky pattern to get right, go for shoes that have a matte finish and classic shape: if you're not sure about having a whole shoes in leopard print, but want to try it out, go for a flat shoe with some leopard print detailing on the tongue, like these



For my second oversized white shirt outfit- something I don't have pictures of unfortunately, I paired my shirt with some charcoal grey, linen style peg leg trousers. I paired this with a pair of loafers and a messy bun for a more casual, on-the-go style outfit. To add detail, I layered up some simple gold delicate necklaces, and went for a chunky oversized plaid scarf to accessorise further. 


Shirt: Burberry (Similar)

Top: Uniqlo

Jeans: ZARA (Similar)

Coat: ZARA (Similar)

Shoes: Topshop (Similar)



So that's a few tips from me for a smart casual look! Hope that's helped clear up some of the mystery surrounding the 'smart casual' dress code!


Until next time x

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