Is there any phrase more chilling than smart casual?
Picture the scene: youre scanning the invite, getting excited about the event when – bam – there it is: Smart casual dress code hidden at the bottom.
What does is even mean?
Mens smart casual is, arguably, easier – its smart shoes and no tie, right?
How smart is too smart. Are trainers OK? No, but well get to that.
When it comes to womens smart casual, more questions abound.
Flats or heels? Bare shoulders or covered? Should I wear a hat?
Take a deep breath, try not to panic.
Weve come up with six, handy ideas for both men and womens outfits that will help you nail that dress code and be the belle of the casual ball.
1. If in doubt, go smarter
Dont turn up in black tie or anything – you do that, youre on your own.
But if you are unsure, its better to be a little overdressed than under.
Smart elements can be easily removed: ties can come off, up-dos can come down but not even Queen Anna Wintour herself could magic up smart shoes out of the clean blue air.
2. Dont wear anything youd wear to work
Smart casual is meant to be fun, a chance to shed the stuffy office attire your wear day in, day out.
Suits – skirt or otherwise – should be left in the wardrobe.
Men, opt for a relaxed but well-fitting shirt and, when it comes to shoes, swap trainers for something classic such as a loafer or brogue.
For women, almost anything goes as female footwear tends to multitask better.
Unless you work on a farm. Wellies are a hard no.
3. Dont wear anything youd never wear at work
Were talking T-shirts. Were talking sequins.
Were talking anything you got for free on a bar crawl.
Imagine that youve bumped into your boss and youre wearing it. Done? Now once youve stopped shaking, hang it back in the wardrobe and step away.
4. Yes, you can wear jeans
Contrary to popular belief, jeans are absolutely acceptable as smart-causal attire.
If in doubt, go for a darker wash and a tailored fit. Add a heel to dress them up and add a white shirt for a classic pairing.
It should go without saying but rips are a no-no, baggy cuts are out and if your underwear is visible, you should probably never wear them again.
If they were trendy in 2002, they are not smart casual.
5. Blaze(r) a trail
Blazers are the answer to your sartorial dilemmas and they are an easy smart-casual win for women and men alike.
They go with jeans, they go with dresses and they provide warmth. So, ladies, you can finally burn that pashmina.
A blazer puts the smart in smart casual.
However, men should be aware that blazer does not mean suit jacket and that a hodge-podge of office wear and chinos does not a smart-causal outfit make. See rule number two.
6. Dress for success
Dresses are a staple of any womens smart-casual wardrobe.
They may be a staple of a mans smart-casual wardrobe.
Regardless of how you identify, there are some dress rules that we all must follow.
Essential, the clue is in the title: wrap dress, tea dress, midi-dress. These are all acceptable prefixes for a smart-casual dress code.
Mini dress, lucky dress, bridesmaids dress and fancy dress, however…no, no, no and absolutely not.
Thin straps are fine but consider taking a cover-up just in case, such as – altogether now – a blazer.
As for hemlines: I dont want to come over all headmistress-y but you need to find a happy medium – literally.
Too short is inappropriate and floor length is overkill.
Aim for the knee, you cant go wrong.