We admit it: Dress codes are confusing. For starters, there is a lot to remember. Cocktail, black tie, white tie, creative black tie, casual, business, business casual—frankly, the list goes on. What's more, you have so much to consider for each dress code that it actually feels more restricting and limiting than what these things should actually be—a guide.
And because we know just how perplexing and ambiguous these things can be, we came up with a new series that hopes to make dressing according to codes simple and uncomplicated. For this week, let's dissect one of the most common dress codes: smart casual.
While it's indeed one of the most familiar amongst the dress codes, it's also the trickiest to master. What makes an outfit smart and casual, anyway? Are we allowed to wear jeans? How about a T-shirt? Is it safe to wear to the office? What's the threshold for the "casualness" of this 'fit? Below, we answer all these questions and more! Keep scrolling to see our suggested shopping list, too.
What is Smart Casual?
The smart-casual attire is essentially a polished but relaxed outfit. Simply put, smart casual is an elevated look of your everyday wear. For a more tangible visualization, this dress code instructs you to wear something more formal than your tracksuits and a wee bit more laidback than a sharp pantsuit.
Smart Casual vs. Business Casual
Because smart-casual attire asks you to have a neat and polished look, this dress code can often be confused with business casual attire. There are a lot of 'fits that can qualify for both. But as a general rule of thumb, business casual entails you to lean towards more conservative pieces while smart casual is a little more out there, sartorially speaking. The latter allows more room for fashion-forward and trendier pieces.
When and where can you wear smart-casual attire?
If you work in a creative field, dress codes tend to blur. Nowadays, your work environment isn't solely anchored on your desk. Some meetings may take you to a coffee shop. You may even find yourself in an art gallery or a restaurant opening for what counts as an official business. Later in the day, your schedule can whisk you to an after five-o' clock affair. Needless to say, your smart-casual attire should be fluid and adaptable to wherever you may be going.
What do I wear for a smart-casual dress code?
The diversity of our work and social calendar events makes it almost imperative to have a closet armed and ready with versatile smart-casual pieces. Below, we round up garments that are hardworking enough to take you from one occasion to the next, without sacrificing style or breaking the smart-casual dress code.
You can never go wrong with a crisp button-down. It's a top that can look smart and professional without looking too uptight. This can even be worn on its own, sans a blazer.
Chiffon polka-dots blouse, P2295, MANGO, shop.mango.com
A turtleneck is a must in your arsenal for a lot of reasons. It's a seasonless layering piece you can wear multiple times. It's conservative yet shows off your womanly silhouette, and it's a timeless item that won't fade out of style.
Basic colored high neck sweater, p995, PULL & BEAR, SM Megamall
3. White tee
Contrary to popular belief, a white tee can also be worn as part of your smart-casual ensemble. Invest in a high quality piece so you still look elevated. Be sure to pair it with tailored pieces to polish off the tee.
Cotton shirt, P1690, MASSIMO DUTTI, Greenbelt 5
A blazer can instantly add a polished and tailored look to just about any outfit. That said, don't be stuck on the basic choices. Explore different colors, textures, and even prints to add personality to your OOTDs.
Structured wool blazer, P6495, MANGO, UP Town Center
Structured linen jacket, P2995, MANGO, Robinsons Magnolia
Tweed poplin jacket, ZARA, zara.com
Belted satin blazer, P3295, BERSHKA, SM Megamall
While your instinct may steer you towards reaching for classic, neutral-hued trousers, you can always explore subtle patterns and cuts that look more relaxed and can be worn outside work.
1. Cigarette pants
If skinnies are not something you like to wear to work, you can always opt for its cousin, the cigarette cut. Like the skinny silhouette, it slims down the calves, too, without the garment clinging onto your body.
Elasticated cigarette fit trousers, P1695, STRADIVARIUS, Glorietta 2
Don't get stuck in plain pants all week long. Throw in some subtlely-printed pants into your rotation, and you'll see the difference in your strut, for sure.
Slim-fit chinos, P3990, MASSIMO DUTTI, Shangri-La Plaza
3. Wide leg
Learn to play with volume and silhouettes, too. Wide-leg pants feel less restricting, allowing the wearer to move about more freely and comfortably. This cut also adds a stylish but slouchy look that doesn't appear too lazy or informal.
Wide-leg check trousers, P1995, BERSHKA, Glorietta 2
Yes, jeans are safe to be worn when governed by the smart-casual dress code. The only catch? Your denim jeans shouldn't have any distress or rips.
Flared jeans with vents, P3990, MASSIMO DUTTI, Shangri-La Plaza
For skirts, simply remember that they have to go past your knee. Its a stylish option that can go from the office to happy hour.
Pleated Ombré Skirt, P3490, PARFOIS, SM North EDSA
As we already know, shoes can make or break your outfit. For a fool-proof smart-casual attire, always have dressy flats and heeled shoes in your rotation that you can switch in between work affairs. While a jean-tee-blazer combo can still work in the office when completed with a pair of flats, this look may appear too laidback for a boardroom meeting. But switch your footwear to a kitten heel slingback and you're good to go!
Metal accent ballerina flats, P2499, CHARLES & KEITH, Greenbelt 5
Crushed gem effect buckle leather slingbacks in Pink, P4250, CHARLES & KEITH, TriNoma