The complete guide to smart casual for women

The complete guide to smart casual for women

Have you ever been invited to a dinner, wedding or work event, read the words 'smart casual attire required' and felt your heart sink? Dress codes can be vague at the best of times, but a 'smart casual dress code' or 'business casual dress code' are some of the most confusing of all.

Here at Harris Scarfe we have a great variety of clothes that you can use to nail any dress code, and smart casual for women is no exception. Read on to discover everything you need to know about the business and smart casual dress codes for women, including where to wear them and example outfits.


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What is the difference between business & smart casual for women?

The terms 'smart casual women' and 'business casual women' are often used interchangeably, and while they aren't too dissimilar there are some differences you should be aware of.


What is smart casual for women?

Smart casual fashion is relaxed and stylish clothing that fits well, with pops of colour that aren't overwhelming. You can wear smart casual fashion to after work drinks, a dinner party or even a wedding.


What is business casual for women?

Business casual fashion is more formal and strict, with classy outfits and colour combinations a must. Business casual is usually seen in offices and at formal conventions.

Overall, smart casual allows for a little more creativity than business casual, but both require a good sense of style and careful mixing of clothes.


Where will a smart casual dress code be enforced?

Smart casual dress codes are most often seen in offices and at parties.

If you are starting a new office job, the dress code should be something you are informed of before your first day. Many offices have moved away from business casual to smart casual, and working from home has only accelerated this movement.

Parties that ask for smart casual usually aren't going for a super formal vibe - but if the host has gone out of their way to ask for a smart casual dress code, make sure you stick to it! You could even get asked to wear smart casual to a wedding, in which case it is doubly important to nail your look.


Smart casual women - shoes

The complete guide to smart casual for women

One of the great things about smart casual fashion is you can wear almost any piece of clothing you like, then use other pieces of your outfit to tone it up or down until it meets the smart casual criteria. As long as your shoes are clean and scuff-free, you can probably wear them to a smart casual event - but leave your thongs at home!

Flats are a safe choice for smart casual fashion in muted colours like black or navy, as they go with most outfits and come in a heap of varieties. You can wear comfy, plain or dressy flats and each will be suitable for a smart casual dress code.

Boots are also suitable but overly-detailed knee high boots and tough walking boots are two ends of the spectrum you should avoid. Both flat and heeled boots look great in a smart casual setting and can add a little elegance to an otherwise simple outfit.

Heels can be worn in a smart casual setting but will need to be dressed down if they are particularly high or thin. A heel can work as a great pop of colour, but will need to be balanced by the rest of your outfit.


Smart casual women - skirts & pants

The complete guide to smart casual for women

Skirts can look lovely in a smart casual setting, but can easily veer into business casual depending on the pattern and style. The pencil skirt is a classic office accessory, and longer flowing skirts can also work as long as they aren't overly patterned. Certain designs, like pinstripes or checks, are quite formal and should be worn for business casual only. Unless you are working in the art or creative industries, avoid overly detailed patterns as well.

Smart casual pants include slacks and chinos, as well as plain jeans. Smart casual pants should be tailored and free from any distressing or rips. Patterns and bright colours are acceptable, but be sure to balance them with the rest of your outfit so they're not overwhelming your look.


Smart casual women - shirts & blouses

Smart casual for women usually involves a blouse or shirt. Look for a button-down or collared shirt, but avoid plain t-shirts or tops with printed graphics on them. The top you wear is a great chance to display some brighter colours or patterns as long as you pair it with plain bottoms.

Avoid singlets and halter-neck tops - if you are in a hot environment, a light shirt or blouse will help keep you cool while still adhering to the smart casual dress code.


Smart casual women - coats & jackets

Topping your outfit off with a nice jacket or coat is a great way to add some formality while keeping you warm at the same time. A blazer is your go-to option for an office setting, while long coats are a stylish way to accessorise when going out. Some blazers come with padded shoulders which help create a streamlined silhouette, but they can also look quite business-casual formal, so be aware of how wide the shoulders are when choosing one.


Smart casual women - dresses and jumpsuits

The complete guide to smart casual for women

A one-piece outfit can give you a refined but casual look without too much effort. Dresses with simple designs like a collared shirt dress or a sheathe dress are suitable for smart casual, but make sure they are at least knee length or they become too informal. Similarly, floor length dresses also veer from too informal to way too formal, so avoid them unless they suit your industry.

Jumpsuits are also suitable for the workplace, but make sure they fit in that zone between casual and formal to suit the smart casual dress code. You can add a belt or heeled boots to make one more formal, or dress down a jumpsuit with flats and a coat.


Smart casual women - accessories

How you accessorize can take your outfit from 'casual' to 'smart casual', or from 'business casual' to 'formal', so choose wisely! Jewellery should be kept to one or two adornments maximum (excluding a wedding ring if you have one). Choose simple, classy pieces and avoid gaudy jewellery. Accessories like watches are also great for a smart casual setting, while clothing like scarves and hats are fine as long as they aren't too formal.


Example smart casual women's outfits

Need some help putting together a smart casual outfit? Here are three examples of smart casual women's outfits you can build off:

  • Smart casual party - pair black ankle boots with dark blue fitted jeans and a brightly-coloured blouse. A dark grey or black coat will keep you warm if you are going out, and you can accessorise with some sparkly earrings.
  • Smart casual work day - start with a pair of stylish black flats and simple black chinos. Add some contrast with a white blouse and then a little colour with an emerald blazer and a matching set of gold earrings and a necklace.
  • After work drinks - choose a pair of comfortable heels and pair them with a flowy, A-line skirt in a warm colour. Add a blouse with mid-length sleeves and layer with a long coat in a contrasting colour.


Find the perfect smart casual outfit at Harris Scarfe!

Whether you are struggling to fit the smart casual dress code or just want to update your wardrobe, Harris Scarfe has the clothes, shoes and accessories to make it happen. Shop now online or head to your nearest Harris Scarfe store, where our friendly team members will help you put together the perfect outfit.

Need some help with your work outfits? Check out our fashion hub for heaps of on-trend advice, including help for whether you are starting an office job for the first time or heading back in after working from home.