Many of my clients ask me to help create a more smart-casual look for work, particularly now they are heading back to the office after a long time in more comfortable, casual looks. The usual office look of years past may have been a more formal outfit, but it appears that comfort has been a part of the new office wear. Companies are more open to a smart casual office look, which can encourage more comfort while at their desk, particularly in comparison to the usual formal professions such as lawyers, finance, and banking.
But what does “smart casual” actually mean? Whether it’s attending a meeting, an event, or going out to a special venue that has a dress code, it can be daunting to know what they really mean by this dress code. Then comes the styling of an outfit – are you going to feel too dressed up, or too casual?
In this article, I’ll share a few tips to help you create the perfect smart casual outfit to feel your best!
Fabric makes a difference!
You’ll often find that certain fabrics can feel more or less formal, so finding the perfect smart casual look can be made to work when you find the right fabric for your needs. Think about the beauty of silk – it can feel a little sexy when in a full dress, but when you find a perfect silk blouse, this can upgrade your casual jeans to a smart casual outfit. The same goes for your jeans – investing in a fabulous fitting denim jean will make a huge difference to your smart casual look. I highly recommend looking for jeans that are environmentally friendly, such as the Levis waterless high rise jeans in a deep colour.
It’s all about the pairings
Some of my favourite looks when in the office for smart casual attire are mixing smart trousers with a casual top and blazer – particularly in the creative world. You can dress up the look with a more structured blazer, or bring a bit of colour into the outfit with a colourful jacket. This can ensure you feel more dressed up, while keeping the outfit comfortable through your t-shirt. I recommend finding a good fitting t-shirt so as not to look too informal, and mixing with tailored wide leg smart trousers, and heels or well-looked after platform trainers. If you prefer skirts, you can swap the trousers for a pleated midi-skirt in a mid-rise, or even a more flowy dress over the more formal go-to pencil dress, and pair it either with a denim or leather jacket, or even a cardigan, to style it down a little, and pair it with trainers instead of heels for an even more casual and comfy look.
Colour combinations for smart casual looks
When curating a smart casual look is considering the colour combinations that work well. Of course, the perfect work look is often black, white, or nude, but when you bring a pop of colour it can feel more approachable and less formal. Pops of yellow, pink, green, or red can be good go-to combinations that work well for work attire.
I recommend adding these colours through the use of accessories so they don’t feel overwhelming in your outfit. Shoes are a perfect way to add colour, but you can invest in a beautiful colourful necklace, fun colourful earrings, handbag, a belt, or if you’re feeling confident, with your blazer! The rest of your look can be monochromatic which will help to keep the look feeling more smart.
You can also be more muted with the tones, such as muted yellows that can be more accessible in the workplace over more neon or bright tones – so play with your outfits and see which ones you feel more confident in.
Your make-up can make a difference
Make-up can completely transform an outfit – think of the beautiful red lip that is a classic for date nights, while more muted tones are more work-appropriate. If you’re reaching for the lipstick, find a less bright tone of red if you love your red lip, to help create a smart casual look that is both work and event appropriate. If you feel a red lip is too much for the location, then a nude lip looks great with a minimal look. The natural look is one that I highly recommend for smart casual outfits as it works across requirements, and can feel well put together without overdone.
Your journey back into the office, to events, or out at special locations shouldn’t be stressful, so when you are building your look consider the well known quote – you can never be too overdressed! It is often better to be more on the smart side over the casual side, so if you feel a little too casual, try to add one of these tips to the look, and it can help you feel more confident.