Selecting an outfit for your first day at work, a networking event or an interview can be difficult–especially if you’re unsure about what is considered acceptable attire. While it is certainly necessary to follow any existing dress codes for professional events, you should also feel comfortable and confident in your clothes.
If you like to combine form and function in your work wear, smart casual attire can be an excellent choice as it combines comfort with a professional, trendy appearance. Here is a guide to smart casual attire that will help you learn more about this dress option for your next professional endeavor.
What is smart casual attire?
Smart casual attire is a professional dress option that incorporates trendy pieces into an outfit to achieve a clean yet comfortable, semi-formal appearance. There are a wide variety of clothing options to choose from for smart casual attire including skirts, dresses, trousers, slacks, sweaters, collared shirts or blouses, and possibly a blazer or a jacket depending on the occasion.
Informal smart casual attire and business casual attire are similar. The main difference is that smart casual attire may incorporate more trendy, fashionable pieces. They're both a style of clothing that will give you a professional appearance without wearing suits or other formal professional clothing. Informal smart casual options might include sneakers, dark-colored jeans and nice, structured t-shirts.
A smart casual wardrobe should include versatile clothes that are comfortable. Ideally, most pieces of clothing can work with one another to form a variety of outfits for your professional life. Let’s take a closer look at examples of smart casual attire for the workplace.
Smart casual attire for men
A smart casual wardrobe for men is based around a few essential items that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. The ideal smart casual outfit includes a combination of both formal and informal pieces.
When building your smart casual collection, shopping for paints is a good place to start. You will need a quality pair of non-ripped denim jeans with straight legs and a dark wash–blue and black are standards. Denim jeans provide a classic look that fits into numerous environments and can be dressed up if needed.
You can also invest in chinos or khakis of several different colors such as navy and tan. This style of pant can serve as a base for any smart casual outfit and is wearable in many different settings.
Examples of smart casual shirts include short and long-sleeve button downs, henleys and classic t-shirts. You can also incorporate sweaters which can easily be dressed up and down based on your pants and shoes. If you feel comfortable with colors and patterns you might also invest in statement pieces that can be paired with solid basics.
Jackets and blazers
Jackets are a great option to mix up your outfits, and they look great in both formal and informal settings. An unstructured, dark blazer can create a smart, professional look while also feeling casual. Look for blazers you feel comfortable wearing at work as well as outside of work.
Shoes and accessories
Make sure you have a couple of professional shoes such as oxfords or loafers for more formal occasions, and a pair of clean leather, canvas or suede sneakers for casual situations. To accessorize, opt for classics such as leather belts (match the color to your shoes) and wrist watches.
Smart casual attire for women
Women have many different options when putting together a smart casual outfit. From skirts to khakis and blouses to button-down shirts, make sure you choose versatile pieces you can pair with others in your wardrobe. If you’re unsure about more trendy styles, opt for basics that make you feel comfortable and confident.
Pants and skirts
In addition to slacks, chinos and jeans, you might also incorporate skirts into your wardrobe. Opt for long skirts or those that hit just below the knee, like pencil skirts. You might also explore interesting skirt fabrics such as denim or corduroy to pair with basic tops and jackets. Dark pants and skirts that are solid or have subtle patterns go with a variety of tops.
Nearly any top will work well in a smart casual outfit as long as it is clean and free of holes or wrinkles. Examples of smart casual tops include sweaters, henleys, button-downs, blouses and nice t-shirts.
Dresses are a good option for an easy outfit on days when you don’t have much time or simply want to feel professional and comfortable. For a more formal outfit, combine a dress with a pair of low heels and simple jewelry.
For less formal environments, you can pair your dress with more stylish jewelry, a denim jacket and casual footwear such as flats or open-toe shoes.
Gender-neutral smart casual
There are also many gender-neutral options available to any person who wants to look professional and stylish. The most important thing is that your clothes fit well and you feel comfortable wearing them.
Some of the most basic and attractive smart casual outfits can be considered gender neutral. For example, a pair of grey slacks, a white button-up shirt, and a simple black jacket with loafers will look great on anyone and can be worn in nearly any professional setting.
Here are several examples of gender-neutral smart casual clothing items:
- Button-down shirts
With the right mix of casual and formal clothing, you'll look great during your workday, in your next interview or at a networking event.