Fashion Magazine

What is Smart Casual and How to Get the Balance Right

By Imogenl @ImogenLamport

So What is Smart Casual Anyway?

Smart casual treads the line between more businesslike or formal wear and relaxed casual everyday attire. It's ideal for many relaxed business settings and social occasions with polished, yet relaxed attire. As such, nailing the perfect smart casual look requires balance.

A common way to achieve a smart casual look is to pair pieces of slightly different formality levels - taking basics like tailored dresses or pants and pairing them with nice but more casual pieces.

This relates to one of my Principles of Co-ordination - Level of Refinement.

Dressing up a casual outfit

Dressing up a simple outfit such as jeans and a t-shirt can be done by switching out lighter coloured jeans with obvious distressing with a pair of well-fitted jeans that are uniform in colour such as white or dark wash jeans. The more distressed a pair of jeans is the more casual it becomes.

Structure in your outfit always makes you look more professional. The structure of a collar tells the world you mean business so wearing a collared or a smart blouse with your jeans rather than a t-shirt with your jeans is going to make it smarter. Adding blazer or a moto jacket with edgy details will add interest and an element of structure to a casual outfit.

What is Smart Casual and How to Get the Balance Right

Adding some sheen to an outfit will also elevate it. Switching out a wool scarf for one with sheen such as silk or switching out sneakers for a pair of patent heels. Use a statement accessory or two to make a bold statement - think big hoop earrings or a delicate headband to add a little something extra and polish things up a bit.

The result of adding details beyond the t-shirt and jeans is visual complexity. There's more to take in, so people's eyes linger longer

Dressing down a formal outfit

Adding a denim jacket is a great way to relax a formal outfit. The contrast between something dressy and cool denim remains a classic styling trick favored by the best dressed everywhere.

What is Smart Casual and How to Get the Balance Right

For texture and warmth, a cardigan or chunky cable knit jumper will also dress down formal outfit.

Dressy pants can be dressed down by combining them with casual shoes to create a more relaxed vibe - ballet flats, ankle boots, knee-high boots or even fashion sneakers would work well.

Further Reading

What are the Principles of Coordination - Levels of Refinement
How to Add a Touch of Glamour to Your Everyday Casual Outfits
Understanding the Style Puzzle - 9 Keys to Unlocking Your Style
What is Smart Casual and How to Get the Balance Right

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