With winter comes invitation after invitation to whatever soiree happens to be on that evening. And this can only mean one thing: the season of smart casual is upon us. After all, who has the time to nip home after work to change when they’ve made plans to go out? At this time of the year, it’s all about multi-tasking outfits, and that’s where smart casual really shines. Wondering how to master this seemingly straightforward-but-actually-quite-tricky-to-do trend? Fear not; here’s everything you need to know about nailing smart casual this season, so that you can turn your daytime looks into party-ready get-ups.

What is Smart Casual?

First things first, let’s define smart casual. It’s all about effortlessness; smart casual outfits should be polished yet relaxed. The trick is not to look like you’ve tried too hard, whilst simultaneously being the most stylish one at the party! To do it well, start looking out for pieces that appear elegant, but that are also comfortable. Unlike business casual (which tends to be on the conservative side), smart casual should be fashion-forward; it’s a way of bringing the latest trends into your wardrobe without appearing too OTT.

How to do Smart Casual

If you’re wondering where to start, there are a few key pieces (and styling techniques) that’ll help you get started – think of these as the fundamentals of smart casual dressing.

It’s a Wrap (Dress)

Ever since legendary designer Diane von Fürstenberg put wrap dresses in the spotlight over 40 years ago, they’ve been a certified staple. DVF’s original design hasn’t changed since the 70s, and why would it? Flattering and versatile, there’s an elegant simplicity about wrap dresses. Plus, the fact that they usually come in slinky jersey or cotton mix fabrics makes them ideal for smart casual dressing. Simply pair yours with opaque tights and ankle boots when it’s cold out, then go bare-legged and wear with your ballerina pumps come summer.

Smarten Up Your Jeans…

Contrary to popular belief, you can wear your loyal skinny jeans when doing smart casual. In fact, they’re a great way to balance out your look if it’s straying into too smart territory. Dress up your jeans with a classic ‘going out top.’ You know, one of those floaty, embellished numbers that goes with anything. This season, it’s all about sequins, so invest in a few sparkly separates to see you through. Complete your look with a heeled boot (or sandals come summer), et voila – you’re ready to hit the town!

…Or Swap Them Out

Tailored trousers are an obvious choice when it comes to smart casual dressing; it’s definitely worth having a few different styles and colours in your wardrobe. Whether tapered, wide-legged or classically tailored, you’ll need a number of trouser types to hand to prevent your smart casual collection from becoming too uniform. In fact, the only thing you need to be aware of is bringing leggings into the mix; whilst they’re a cornerstone of athleisure, they’re just too informal to be considered smart casual.

Think About Your Footwear

One of the easiest ways to smarten up (or dress down) your look is to start with your footwear. If you’re wearing jeans and a blouse, for example, a heeled ankle boot will give you – and your look – a little lift. Conversely, dresses and jumpsuits can appear more streetwise when paired with trainers (plimsolls work especially well). You just need to think about what you’re wearing; mini or midi dresses tend to suit trainers more than maxi dresses do, for example. And if you’re wearing something that’s ultra-tailored – whether it’s a dress or a jumpsuit – then it probably won’t look right with trainers. Smart casual is all about balance; a formal piece that won’t suit something more laid back probably doesn’t fall under this umbrella term!

And Always Accessorise!

Accessories can be seriously underrated; if there’s one way to transform your basics, it’s with some striking jewellery or a bold clutch bag. Yes, even a simple white tee can take on a new level of sophistication with the right statement necklace. Simply pair with a smart pair of trousers and you’re halfway there! When choosing jewellery, avoid anything too delicate-looking or blingy; it’ll be too formal for this look.

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