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Achieving smart casual — how can it be done?

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The line can sometimes be blurred between clothing that is too formal and too casual, so what should you and your partner be wearing to a 'smart-casual' event? CT Shirts, retailers of men’s blue suits, tell us more.

When to go for the smart casual look

In many day-to-day situations, we aren’t provided with a strict dress code. Some offices and workplaces have ‘dress down Fridays’ or a casual dress code every day. However, it’s still nice to make an effort and look reasonably smart — even if this doesn’t involve a ballgown or three-piece suit and tie.

In other cases, we might be told to follow a dress code. If this is smart casual what do you wear? At a dinner party for example, a men’s shirt and tuxedo or ball gown is not expected but slack jeans and a T-shirt would be looked down upon. Or, for a first interview — it may specify casual in the email, but first impressions count and your outfit should still be carefully considered.

Choosing to dress in this style can be the safest option to go for when you’re unsure what to wear. It avoids the error of looking like you don’t take pride in your appearance and prevents you feeling out of place by dressing too formally.

Save your money

Instead of buying a brand new outfit for a smart casual event, why not simply purchase a few new garments?

A blazer is one way for men and women to carry a smart casual vibe. It depends on your fashion preferences as to what sort of blazer you opt for — just choose one that you feel confident in and it will show. For men, an unstructured blazer is perfect for those who prefer a relaxed look and want to avoid a rigid and overly tailored shape. Some believe that these are more comfortable too, as they are without inner folds and allow you to move more freely. For women, a structured blazer emphasises the shape of the body. It gives more of a snug fit to the wearer and is generally more expensive, as it takes great skill to create an impressive jacket of this style. Navy is a good choice for a blazer as it is very versatile and not as formal as the traditional black jacket.

You might not think that people notice what’s on your feet, but good footwear can make or break an outfit! Depending on your preferences, choose a pair of brogues or loafers to complete a smart casual look. Brogues are uber stylish and recognisable by their detailed leather uppers and thin laces. Loafers, on the other hand, are lower shoes so the ankle is exposed. They do not have laces and often have a low heel. They can be seen as less formal than the brogue because more of the foot is on show. In terms of colour, brown is a good colour to go for as it can be paired with denim or smart trousers, whereas black may be too dark to complement some colours.

A smart pair of trousers can really complete the look. For men, a light pair of chinos are a good option for warmer weather, as they can brighten up your outfit whilst keeping you looking smart. For women, if you feel more comfortable in jeans, try to choose a darker denim as this gives off a more formal vibe — just avoid distressed or ripped denim at all costs.

Jumpers and shirts

To meet the smart casual code as a woman, choose a sensible blouse or loose-fitted shirt. But what about men? How can they achieve the look?

The art of layering

Tell your man to get a smart jumper for the wintery seasons. A roll-neck jumper is perfect for layering and looking smart. Pair a black wool roll-neck with a grey slim fit jacket and coloured pocket square to become the master of business casual. Match socks with the pocket square for co-ordination and wear a favourite pair of swanky trousers.

Dress down the dress shirt

Wearing a loose-fit shirt, with denim, can look equally as smart as it does casual. Choose complementing colours for the shirt and blazer, such as different hues of blue or grey, to really make the outfit come together. Purchase tailored trousers or jeans and pair with brogues to complete the look.

Following the smart casual dress code doesn’t have to be difficult. Of course, keeping your outfit neat and tidy is important too, so don’t let smaller details drop you into the ‘casual’ bracket. Have a lint roller on hand before leaving the house and make sure you always look your best.