Women’s Smart Casual

Smart casual is a wardrobe staple that lets you create outfits that bridge the gap between dressy and casual. It’s about looking put-together without putting on a suit, and it’s all about balance.

It usually involves tailored trousers (choose from tapered, straight or wide leg styles), failsafe jeans or smart chinos. Shoes should be flat, but tonal or stylish; block heels, mules and loafers all work well.


Women’s smart casual fashion allows for a polished take on more relaxed attire. Whether that’s a dress with a t-shirt under or a blouse paired back with trousers, smart casual can be the perfect choice for day events such as lunch with friends or afternoon tea.

When it comes to bottoms, chinos or dress pants are the best option for this style of dressing. Dark-wash jeans can also be worn, but smart casual they must be tailored and free of visible signs of wear. Smart casual shoes include loafers, oxfords and ballet flats. Sneakers are typically not suitable for this dress code, although you may be able to wear them if they are sleek and low-to-mid heeled.

Stylish long-sleeved or short-sleeved button-up shirts make excellent choices for tops, either in white in summer or a chic turtleneck sweater in winter. Avoid graphic prints, florals or bright colors, as they can skew too casual for this dress code.


The right shirt is the key to nailing smart casual. Rather than the T-shirt, jeans and trainers combo that you might be used to, smart casual requires something dressier – but not too formal.

Start with a fitted shirt that’s made from a finer fabric with minimal branding. Throw a knitted polo over the top for an instantly elevated look. Or, for an everyday staple that’s both stylish and comfortable, try a merino wool crew neck.

A blazer is another great smart casual staple – but not just any blazer will do. Choose one with a less formal feel, such as a brushed cotton version, or a fit that’s slimmer and with contemporary, longer lapels.


As winter approaches, a cosy knit is a cornerstone of smart casual, whether in the form of a sweater or a cardigan. Shirts look sharp when worn over them, too – so long as they’re not poking out from under your blazer like this (sorry, Gosling).

A neatly-cut overcoat is another wardrobe staple that elevates smart casual looks. It can also replace your blazer for informal events where you might take it off anyway. It’s a great choice for layering over tailored trousers, too. Just avoid anything too patterned or with slogans, logos or — shudder — a ‘poker in back, liquor in front’ joke. Instead, opt for a neutral shade, such as navy or grey. The woven texture gives it an upscale feel, too.


While it’s not an easy dress code to navigate, smart casual is a great way to showcase your personal style. Matching separates — such as a navy blazer and charcoal trousers — can signal a more laid-back approach to dressing, while adding the finishing touch of a pair of Chelsea boots or double monk strap shoes keeps things classy.

The key to getting the balance right is in the details. Take a tip from the master of smart casual fashion, Ryan Gosling, who knows how to straddle the line between smart and casual with his use of workwear favourites. Try adding a fine-gauge knit between an Oxford shirt and blazer, or layering a collarless gilet over a rollneck for a Fifties-inspired look. The result? The perfect blend of formal and informal.


A suit can be a smart casual outfit option depending on the style. For example, a fitted black jumpsuit looks polished and isn’t too formal. Avoid anything too short, body con or revealing and stick to neutral colors. Derbies or loafers are better shoe choices for this dress code than sneakers, which can look too casual.

Unlike the stricter business casual, a more relaxed approach to fashion is welcomed in this dress code. However, it’s important to be mindful of how your workplace interprets this dress code. For example, a fintech company or food delivery biz might be more flexible than a legacy banking firm.


A polished pair of jeans or trousers can help nail smart casual, particularly if they skew slightly formal with a tailored fit. A dark wash will keep them business appropriate, and avoid frayed areas or other embellishments like patches that won’t look clean.

If you’re unsure about what to wear, consider classic neutral colours such as black, navy or creams. Darker styles skew slightly more formal, which is why they’re often preferred over lighter denim.

For example, try pairing straight-leg black pants with a tonal cardigan and a button-down shirt featuring a bold pattern. The pants and cardigan bring the smarts, while the shirt adds your personal style. If you’re opting for shoes, minimal sneakers are a great choice as they pair well with both jeans and tailoring.


A good smart casual wardrobe includes some light jacket options that can be paired with your bottoms. This is ideal if you have to work custom clothing manufacturers in a chillier environment or if the office temperature gets cooler than expected throughout the day.

Acceptable shorts for smart casual wear include tailored khaki or dark wash pants or chinos that aren’t too skinny. They should be close to the knee or at least below the ankle. Avoid wearing shorts with loud patterns or any footwear that shows too much of your skin.

A pair of fitted sweaters is another good addition to your smart casual wardrobe if you have them in a variety of neutral colors. They can be layered over a dress shirt or polo in a fun patterned print to really bring the look together.

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