How To Choose The Best Smart Casual Dress Outfit

How To Choose The Best Smart Casual Dress Outfit


The smart casual dress code is one of the most challenging and difficult to tackle.  Smart casual dress codes are infuriating and confusing because they can mean different things to different people.  Some people feel that it’s OK to wear jeans and sneakers when the dress code says smart casual, whilst others would prefer to wear a smart casual dress, or even a low-key suit paired with a crisp white tee.

Confused?  Don’t worry, we’re here to help!  Here’s our definitive guide to what to wear for a smart casual dress code, so that you’ll always be dressed appropriately for the occasion!

What Is Smart Casual Dress?

One of the questions we are most frequently asked is ‘what is smart casual?’ and it remains a tricky question to answer.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines smart casual as “neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style, especially as worn to conform to a particular dress code” but that doesn’t really help understand what you can and can’t wear, does it?

The smart casual dress code is very similar in style to the business casual dresscode.  For men, this means wearing a blazer or suit jacket with jeans, and either a shirt or plain tee, depending on your personal taste.  The smart casual dress code for women is a little more complicated to define.  You could wear jeans with a structured top or jacket, a loose and structureless dress (a kaftan dress would work perfectly for this), or even experiment with relaxed yet polished suiting.

It is likely that you will find the smart casual dress code for a wide range of different occasions including, but not limited to, dinner parties, work functions, drinks, dates, and even low-key weddings.

Smart Casual Dress Code, Short Kaftans, Laloom KaftansIn this photo:  (L) Maui Short Kaftan, (R) Hanalei Bay Short Kaftan

How To Wear Smart Casual Dress

Embracing the smart casual dress code doesn’t mean that you can’t be stylish and fashion-forward, and inject your own sense of style into your outfit.  If you usually wear heels then stick with heels, and if you prefer to wear flat shoes then they will work perfectly for a smart casual dress code too.  Similarly, if you always wear jeans or pants then work with it: if you love dresses then find the dress that’s right for the occasion. Anything goes!

Here Are Our Top Tips For Getting The Smart Casual Dress Code Right:

If in doubt, dress up.  It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.  So if you’re not sure how formal a ‘smart casual’ invitation really is, don’t be afraid to pop on your favourite dress or kaftan and opt for smart leather shoes rather than sneakers.  After all, it’s much easier to remove layers or accessories to make a smart outfit look more casual than it is to make a casual outfit look smart once you’ve left the house.

In this photo:  Honolua Bay Short Kaftan

Add A Blazer

Blazers are a godsend for women who are struggling with the smart casual dress code.  They go with jeans, they go with dresses, in fact you can pop them over almost anything and will instantly make any outfit look smarter.  A blazer is the perfect ingredient for putting smart into smart casual.

Be Venue Wise

The venue of your smart casual event can give you plenty of clues about what you should be wearing.  You might dress up a little more if you’re going for cocktails in the smartest hotel in town, for example, than if you’re invited to a BBQ in a neighbours garden.  If you’ve never been to a venue before then google it: its decor will reveal more than you might think.

Leave The Sequins At Home

The smart casual dress code for women can be tricky, and it can be tempting to use it as an excuse to break out your favourite statement pieces.  This would be a mistake.  Leave anything too sparkly, too attention grabbing, or too dramatic at home and focus on something a little more classy and conservative instead.

Smart Casual Dress, Hamoa Beach Mid Length KaftanIn this photo:  Hamoa Beach Mid Length Kaftan

Dress In A Dress

Finally, the dress is the staple of any woman’s smart casual wardrobe, and can make nailing a smart casual dress code so much easier.  Avoid fitted or figure hugging dresses, which can look more formal, and opt for a loose fitting dress or kaftan instead.  Avoid anything too short or too long (a happy middle ground is best here) and cover your arms unless it’s the height of the summer.  Too much flesh is rarely appropriate for any smart or semi-smart occasion.



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