What Is 'Smart Casual' Exactly?

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What Is 'Smart Casual' Exactly?

Is it just me, or does the phrase ‘smart casual’ strike fear into your heart too? Honestly, it’s been a term that I’ve struggled with for years, and have only come to terms with recently. I mean, what does that even mean? Is it smart, or is it casual? How can it be in-between?! WHY MUST YOU TAUNT US WITH CONFUSING DRESS CODES?!
Alright, calm down Jess. To put it short and sweet, everybody’s idea of ‘smart casual’ is different. It’s the kind of dress code that leaves things to the guests’ interpretation, which is so, freaking, terrifying, purely because you have no idea what anybody else is going to be wearing.
While I was doing a bit of research — i.e. catching up with my blogs — I stumbled across a formula for the perfect smart casual outfit; two parts ‘smart’, one part ‘casual’. The ingenious recipe was created by Carmen Hamilton of Chronicles Of Her. Because of the ratio, it essentially ensures that you’re never over dressed or under dressed. There are endless combinations, but I went with two.
Firstly, I went with a similar outfit to Carmen in her post — a skirt and a pair of heeled sandals with a casual oversized shirt — however I changed up the shapes a little. This outfit does sway slightly further toward the casual side of things, however if you then added an additional black blazer, or played with different shapes and colours, you can bring back the ‘smart’ element of the ensemble.
For outfit numero duo, I went with my own styling options. Firstly, I went with a white pair of jeans, a pair of black and white heeled sandals and a camel turtleneck. Our casual vs. smart ratio is a bit more blended in this outfit, due to the choices in garments and the fabrics that they’re made out of. The shape of the turtleneck gives it its ‘smart’ vibes, however it’s slightly oversized and slouchy – making it a little more casual than smart. Whilst white jeans are still jeans – and jeans will never be formal – the crisp whiteness pulls them closer to the dressier side by making them look less like jeans and more like pants.
The real deciding factor between whether or not this outfit is casual or ‘smart casual’ lies in the choice of shoes. If I wore this outfit with a pair of street shoes, nobody would bat an eye. However, pairing them with a heel instantly transforms the outfit into a ‘smart casual’ appropriate get-up. Remember, it’s all about ratios. Try and keep it so that for every one element of casual clothing you have, add two elements of smart attire. And don’t forget, these items can all come in the form of accessories too!
It feels so great to have mastered the old “what to wear when the invitation says ‘smart casual’” dilemma, and no longer have to worry about the fear of what everybody else is going to be wearing! Now we just have to figure out what every single other dress code entails and we’ll be set.
Written by Jessica Alves / @jessicazalves