Smart Casual Dress Code for Women and Men [2023]

Smart casual dress code

With different dress codes available for work, personal life, and special occasions, it’s vital that you know how they differ. In this blog post, we’re going to talk about what smart casual dress is, how to dress smartly for a job interview, your workday, and a special occasion. 

What’s more, we’ll even take a look at some examples of smart outfits for both men and women so you can quickly choose your outfit or purchase new smart casual dress items. Some people find this type of dress code confusing in comparison to things like business casual and business formal. The information we’re about to provide you with will hopefully clear up any confusion.

Sounds interesting?

Let’s get started!

Smart casual dress code

There are many different styles and dress codes that you can utilize for the office. You’ve probably heard of business casual attire and business professional, but there is also the option for smart casual. It’s best that you don’t assume that you know what this dress code looks like. Some people automatically focus on the casual portion of the term, when really, it’s a bit dressier than people assume.

In the upcoming chapters you’re about to read, we’re going to talk more about what the style of smart casual actually looks like for both men and women. It’s ideal to know how to dress for success, just as it’s important to show up for work on time and to have a good work ethic.

What is Smart Casual?

Smart casual includes clothing that fits well, is neat, maintained properly, and very appropriate for a business situation. It’s a less formal option than wearing a business casual outfit, but you’re not going to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. The look is very put together and well planned.

Three people talking coffee

The smart casual dress code has been around for decades. The goal is to take your normal casual look and make it more elevated in style. You’ll select high-quality clothing that is comfortable and casual while making sure that you don’t look sloppy. Everything should fit perfectly, be in style, and be made of high-quality materials. You want your smart casual look to be simple and fashionable without being too unique or flashy. The goal of smart casual is to have you feel comfortable when you walk out the door while still presenting yourself professionally to your peers and management.

If you’re on your way to an interview to meet with someone for the first time, you might not know what the dress code is at that location. When you set up the interview, you can ask human resources, but you can also default to business casual. More and more offices are choosing this dress code. It’s professional while providing a very comfortable atmosphere for people to work in. Not many people like to go to work in a shirt/tie or skirt/suit coat combo. Just make sure that you’re not focusing on the casual aspect of the term too much.

Business casual vs. Smart casual

Most of us have a closet full of clothes, but we don’t know what to pick out for a day at work. If you know the dress style that you’re supposed to adhere to, you can make a stylish and comfortable choice that you feel confident with. Business casual and smart casual are two commonly chosen dress codes, and it’s likely that your professional attire should incorporate some pieces for both. But what exactly is the difference between business casual and smart casual? Let’s take a closer look.

Business Casual dress code

Business casual attire is much less formal than your typical business wardrobe, but you’re still using this style to appear professional and businesslike. Picture a full business outfit. Business casual would be one step below this. You don’t have to be as conservative with the colors and styles that you choose. More of your personality can show through. Expect to wear business casual attire for things like day-to-day work, lunch meetings, etc. It’s common for people who aren’t typically customer-facing.

Business Casual for Men

A man dressing in business casual will have the option for a tie, but it’s not required. A blazer can be worn, but a man would usually opt for a cardigan or sweater instead. Common colors for business casual include brown, shades of blue, and greens. Take a look at our Business Casual for Men guide to learn more.

Business Casual for Women

Business casual can provide extensive options for women. Tailored pants can be paired with a blouse and ballet flats. A colorful blazer or cardigan can complete the look. Check out our Business Casual for Women article to know more about this dress code.

Smart Casual dress code

Smart casual is a very professional and neat look that is a bit more informal than business attire. Think of it as being very polished and stylish, providing lots of work-appropriate options. Smart casual should be kept appropriate, so skip things like sandals, miniskirts, and worn-out t-shirts. This is a versatile option that works for interviews and daily desk work.

Smart Casual for Men
Businessman discussing staff document

Men dressing in smart casual attire should avoid wearing shorts or anything that looks too informal. Companies can have different levels of smart casual clothing in their dress code, so it’s a good idea to get a feel for what’s acceptable before getting too comfortable. In some places, smart casual can incorporate some types of sneakers and maybe even jeans.

Smart Casual for Women

Women can take smart casual attire in all kinds of directions. Flats and stylish sneakers may be allowed, though you should avoid open-toe sandals and short skirts. Crop pants, dressy t-shirts, and cardigans are all great options.

Understanding Business Casual

Business casual tends to be a very open-ended term that not everybody understands unless you’ve had to dress this way before. Business casual is defined as being clothing that is much less formal than traditional business attire, but it still gives a professional impression. While this definition gives a good explanation of the concept of business casual, there’s still some clarification that should be made. After all, focusing more on the business instead of the casual can mean you’re wearing something too formal. If you focus on the casual too much, you’re probably not dressed professionally enough.

As an employee, you’re expected to comply with the dress code that’s enforced. Dressing inappropriately can be interpreted as being unprofessional. In addition to understanding business casual, you need to take other things into account like the weather, climate, culture, age, etc. The end goal is to dress professionally while projecting a positive business image.

Some examples of business casual clothing include khakis, slacks, blouses, dress shirts without a tie / slightly unbuttoned at the top, polo shirts, sport coats, cardigan sweaters, knee-length skirts, sweaters, loafers, and ballet flats.

Smart Casual versus Business Casual

Let’s summarize their main differences:

Smart Casual
  • Smart casual combines business attire with business casual.
  • Your goal is to take your casual dress to the next level.
  • Opt for nice slacks or a professional skirt. You don’t have to wear a complete suit, but choose dressy tops that complete the look.
  • Denim may not be acceptable, but you can check with management to clarify. If it is accepted, make sure you’re wearing a tailored pair of jeans that’s clean and free of distress.
Business Casual
  • Acceptable shoes include loafers, ballet flats, and other professional footwear. You should avoid sandals or anything that shoes off your toes.
  • Khakis, polo shirts, and sweaters are all acceptable.
Top view business people office
  • T-shirts may be acceptable if they can be dressed up a bit. However, make sure you avoid graphics or controversial images.
  • Jeans may be acceptable, but they should be clean, tailored, not frayed, and not have any holes in them.
  • Always make sure your outfit is balanced. If you’re wearing jeans, choose a shirt that’s a bit dressier.

Hopefully, you now understand more about what smart casual is in comparison to business casual. This will allow you to make smart purchases that will result in a professional business wardrobe that is acceptable for many different scenarios. In the next chapter, we’re going to be discussing some tips on how to dress smart casual.

How to Dress: The Smart Casual Attire

Fashion is constantly evolving, and the dress code that you may have to follow at work may also change over time. Business casual is a dress code that many people have utilized for many years now. Smart casual is a bit more modern, and many companies are making the switch.

Not sure how to dress smart casual? We’re going to break it down so that you can make appropriate and comfortable outfit choices moving forward. In the following chapter, we’re going to discuss smart casual attire tips, do’s and don’ts of wearing smart casual clothing, and much more.

Smart Casual Attire Tips

Smart casual attire refers to clothing that fits well and looks polished but has a more casual aspect to it. You’ll most commonly find articles of clothing like blouses, fitted sweaters, polo shirts, button-down shirts, dress pants, chinos, and professional/comfortable footwear as part of a smart casual wardrobe. Even if you understand what rules you’re supposed to adhere to with smart casual clothing, we have some tips to help you purchase new items and pick out your outfits daily.

Keep Your Clothing Polished

You can pick out some really great smart casual items when you go shopping, but maintaining that clothing is an important part of looking well put together. If you have clothing that looks worn out, it’s going to make your smart casual look more casual than anything else. Keep your shoes clean and polished; your pants should be pressed/creased, and make sure you don’t have any stains visible.

Female working office headset

If you keep maintained clothing in your smart casual wardrobe, you can often get away with a few clothing items that are more casual. If you have an expensive pair of designer jeans that fit you nicely and aren’t cuffed or distressed, you can sometimes pair that with a fancier shirt to make it a smart casual outfit.

Dress Up Your Casual Items

Smart casual attire can include casual items, but you should swap out a couple of pieces for something more professional to make a well-rounded outfit. If you’ve opted for casual pants, make sure you’re wearing a button-down shirt, a blouse, and fancier shoes. If you work in too many smart pieces, you’ll look more business casual.

Pay Attention to Color

You know that you’ve chosen smart casual items, but the color of those items may affect how the whole ensemble looks. Very dark colors tend to look a lot more formal. If you can opt for pastels or brighter shades, this will bring you back up to smart casual territory. Don’t get too colorful. If you’re wearing something very bright, maybe pair it with a conservative navy sweater or blazer.

Texture Matters

The texture of your clothing matters more than you realize. Very formal business clothing will usually be made out of wool, polyester, or silk. Softer materials work well in a smart casual situation. Flannel, tweed, and corduroy are all great swaps that keep you comfortable while still looking professional. Even the material of your shoes matters. If you have very shiny patent leather dress shoes on, this looks more business formal than soft leather.

Invest in a Classic Blazer

A blazer is a great item to have for smart casual instances. You can even invest in a few of them if you like dressing up an outfit this way. Navy is the best color to choose for your first blazer. It goes well with khakis, jeans, and other colors. It pairs well with all different shades of tops. Black is practical, but you have to be a little more careful with what you’re mixing it with. It can end up looking formal if you’re matching too much or have too dark of colors on. Make sure your blazer fits professionally.

Include Shirts with Buttons

There are plenty of dressy t-shirts that you can turn into smart casual attire, but shirts with buttons are the way to go. You can invest in things like polos, casual button-down shirts, blouses, etc. Buttons just add a little piece of fancy detail that works well with smart casual dress codes.

Choosing the Right Sweaters

Sweaters are nice for layering and wearing alone, but your smart casual sweaters should be a bit different than those oversized sweaters that you wear on the weekend with jeans or leggings. Men’s smart casual sweater should be fitted and made of nice materials like cashmere or wool. Women can make some nice smart casual outfits with cardigans and V-neck sweaters that have collared shirts underneath. Sweaters with buttons, ruffles, and modest prints are acceptable as well.

A Versatile Shoe Collection

Woman walking up stairs

Shoes can really make or break a smart casual outfit. You might be tempted to select a pair of clean and new sneakers, but this can be tricky. If you’re not sure if your sneakers work, you may want to stick to a dressier shoe. But, if you work it right, you’d be surprised with what shoe you can get away with. A brand-new pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars is acceptable if the rest of your outfit is smart casual. Loafers are an excellent option for men. Some companies may allow boat shoes as part of their smart casual attire. Women can choose ballet flats, shoes with low heels, etc. Smart casual usually stays away from anything that reveals the toes. You’ll have to leave the flip-flops at home for a beach day.

Weighing the Option of a Dress

If you’re a woman that likes to wear dresses, you might be wondering if smart casual incorporates them. It really depends on what kind of dress you’re thinking of wearing. There are types of dresses that are very formal for work that would be paired with a suit coat. You can follow smart casual guidelines by wearing a cotton casual dress with a sweater or denim jacket over it. There are some really cute high waist dresses that come out in the spring and summer. If you choose a sleeveless or cap sleeve dress, you can comfortably wear something over it that makes it look more casual. The shoes you pair it with will also matter. Ballet flats or neutral sneakers are a great option.

Keep it Basic with Skirts

There are many types of skirts and they follow similar rules as dresses do, but you have to be a bit more careful with what you’re pairing them with. In general, you’ll want to stay away from ultra-short miniskirts. A knee-length skirt is a great choice. You can pair it with a nice t-shirt, blazer or denim jacket. This is when material matters as well. Skirts that are made of cotton or a polyester blend create a much more flowy and comfortable smart casual look. Full-length skirts have a more formal appeal to them, so you may want to leave those at home for another day.

Smart Casual Do’s & Don’ts

It’s easy to confuse smart casual with other styles. Business casual and smart casual are very much related, but you should be mindful that you’re making more smart casual choices if that’s what you are supposed to be wearing. We have some smart casual do’s and don’ts to share with you that will make it easier for you to select better outfits from your closet the next time you need to dress for success.

Smart casual Do’s

Pay Attention to Your Blazer Choices

Do choose a tailored blazer that fits your body well. It should be made of a lighter weight material in comparison to a more formal suit coat that you might wear for a special occasion or business formal. Cotton, linen, and wool are preferred materials.

Pick a Dressy Top to Pair with a Casual Bottom

Dress shirts, fitted sweaters, and tailored jackets are all great pieces up top that can be paired with more casual pants on the bottom. The perfect smart-casual outfit focuses on casual items that are subtle, and then you dress them up with fancier items that match well together.

T-Shirts are Acceptable

You can use t-shirts as part of your smart casual attire, but you need to make sure that they are appropriate. They should be worn for work only; they need to fit you properly, and they should be neutral in color. Stay away from t-shirts that are made of very thin and tissue-like material. You don’t want anyone to be able to see through your clothing to what you’re wearing underneath. A lot of designers make t-shirts along with the rest of their line of clothing. They pair well under all kinds of clothing, even if you aren’t going to see much of the t-shirt underneath.

Keep Your Pant Choices Comfortable and Basic

Great pant choices include basics like chinos, khakis, crop dress pants, and high-quality denim. Pants can be a bit more expensive to invest in, so it’s nice to choose pants that are basic enough that you can wear them with all kinds of tops. If you choose a very bright and unique pair of pants, they’re only going to match with so many other items. Not to mention, people are going to notice if you’re wearing them quite often.

Comfortable Shoes and Slip-On Sneakers

Do wear comfortable shoes, but make sure that they aren’t running sneakers, workout shoes, or shoes that show your toes. Some slip-on sneakers may be ok if they look professional enough. They should be relatively neutral in color and free of loud patterns. You should never wear a sandal, flip flop, or open-toed shoes.

Selecting Basic Items for Versatility
Woman workplace table laptop office

Invest in multiple basic items that can be mixed together in order to create a more versatile smart casual wardrobe. This can also save you money on the clothing that you buy. A simple pair of navy-blue tailored crop pants can be effectively mixed together with a whole host of blouses, cardigans, blazers, etc.

Smart casual Don’ts

Stay Away from Athletic Clothing

Don’t wear any kind of athletic wear. This could be a windbreaker, athletic coat, or sports team apparel. This also includes sweatshirts, hoodies, etc.

Keep Your Colors Minimal and Non-Distracting

Don’t wear loud or distracting colors. You also should stay away from graphics or anything that draws attention away from your professionalism.

Leisurewear is Not Acceptable
Woman meditating table work

A big no-no for smart casual wear is sweatpants, yoga pants, and loungewear. These are casual items of clothing that would be worn on the weekend at home, but there’s no real successful way to dress them up for the office. Save those items for when you want to get more comfortable at the end of the workday.

Shorts Can Be Tricky to Use for Smart Casual Attire

It’s best to stay away from shorts. Crop pants are usually fine in the warmer weather, but you want to keep things below the knee or at knee-length. Some businesses will allow shorts, but you should clarify what is acceptable. They should be closer to knee-length and definitely stay away from super short shorts that show too much leg. No matter what you have on top of your body, shorts that have a very short inseam aren’t going to look professional enough, even for smart casual.

Be Careful Mixing Your Patterns and Styles

Don’t mix and match too many patterns or styles. Keep things basic, and you can mix together some nice smart casual outfits using different items in your closet. A pop of color or pattern here and there is ok, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Keep Your Business Formal Items at Bay

Don’t mix together too many items that are business formal. Stay away from matching dress pants with a suit coat. Your goal is to look more casual with a few smart pieces mixed in. When you’re matching too much, this can make you look like you’re wearing a full suit that was purchased together.

Tank Tops Aren’t Acceptable

Don’t wear casual tank tops. There are some nice sleeveless blouses that women can wear for smart casual attire, but they tend to cover the shoulder a bit more. You want to maintain some level of modesty for work regardless of what type of dress code you’re working with. Spaghetti straps are something that you should eliminate from your smart casual options for work.

Using the tips provided in this chapter, we hope that you can make some stylish choices regarding a smart casual dress code. Once you get the hang of choosing your outfits, it will become easier to understand what goes well with what moving forward. 

In the next chapter, we will be talking about smart casual wardrobes for women. Since women and men have very different clothing options to take into account, we’ll visit each of them in more detail.

Smart Casual for Women

Following a dress code can be a tricky process, especially if you’ve never worn that type of clothing before. Whether you have to buy some new items for a new job or your current company is looking to make a switch to smart casual business wear, we have some guidelines that can help you look your best each day when you walk into work.

Women have some great options when it comes to building a smart casual wardrobe, so let’s talk more about what smart casual is for women and what types of items you can work into your everyday clothing options.

Smart casual dress code for women

Smart casual is a great dress code to follow if you want to give off a professional impression. You’re required to maintain a very polished look that looks professional, but you get to work some comfortable items into your attire that makes everything look a bit more laid back. The tricky part of smart casual is that you have to master balancing casual clothing with more elegant pieces that dress up an entire outfit. Jeans are often acceptable for smart casual, but you have to dress them up with a nicer blouse or sweater to bring the whole outfit together. Pairing jeans with sneakers and too casual of a shirt isn’t going to pass for smart casual.

Business woman street smiling calling smartphone

Smart casual is similar to what most people know to be business casual, but there are some differences between these two styles. There are outfits that definitely apply to both options, but you’ll find that smart casual tends to be a lot less conservative than business casual. You can try more fashionable clothing items when you’re opting for a smart look. Bolder colors, prints, and more comfortable fabrics are generally acceptable. Instead of matching your outfit perfectly, you’re mixing together a variety of items to complete a look. This is nice because you can invest in some practical items that can all work together to form some unique outfits for the week.

You’ll likely be asked to wear a smart casual outfit if you’re at work, and that is their dress code. It’s also a common requirement for special events; weddings, company dinners, etc. If you know you have to choose a smart outfit, think about where you’re going, what the function is, and who the other guests will be.

The fit of your smart casual clothing is important. People that are dressing casually tend to dress for comfort. Their clothes are often looser or baggy. Smart casual is the opposite of this. You can wear denim, khaki pants, or crop pants, but make sure they are tailored and fit you nicely. You should always wear pressed clothing that looks neat and clean.

Smart Casual Attire for Women: What to wear?

When it comes time to choose your smart casual outfit, take a look at one piece of clothing at a time. Some people find it works best to choose your more casual article of clothing first. From there, choose the dressier items one at a time until you’re confident with the ensemble you’ve selected. There are clothing items that are commonly accepted for smart casual attire, so let’s take a look at some items and examples that will help you to understand what you should be wearing.

Smart Casual Pants

When you’re just starting to build a smart casual wardrobe, it’s a good idea to invest in some classic pairs of pants that will go with all different kinds of clothing. There’s nothing more versatile than a few pairs of black pants. For smart casual, you can choose a nice, tapered pair of black pants and maybe a black pair of crop pants for warmer weather. After that, start branching out to include other shades like navy and gray.

There’s nothing wrong with pants that have bolder colors, but you have to be careful about what they match with. If you’re not yet used to this style of dress, stick with more basic hues for the time being. It’s also important to note that people will notice if you’re wearing the same pair of red pants a few days per week. A pair of black pants can be worn in so many ways, and they will look different each time.

Smart Casual Jeans

We’ve talked a bit about pants that are smart casual acceptable, but jeans deserve their own conversation. Jeans don’t have to be excluded from the smart casual dress code, but you should take into consideration where you’re going to be wearing them. Professional events where a lot of management and upper-level employees will be would benefit from something nicer. However, you can wear a nice pair of jeans to work if you’re dressing it up with a nice top and shoes. Jeans shouldn’t be low rise or too tight. They should fit your body type and be appropriate. Don’t choose distressed denim or anything that is elaborate.

YouTube video
Outfit Ideas For A Smart Casual Dress Code
by Lizzy Hadfield

Smart Casual Shoes

Smart casual shoes can be a lot more comfortable than what you would wear for business attire. The materials can be softer, and the soles can be more durable. Smart casual footwear for women includes ballet flats, casual sneakers (just make sure they are neutral and clean), slip on’s, and boots. Not all types of shoes are appropriate, though; stay away from things like athletic sneakers, flip flops, sandals, and open-toe shoes.

Smart Casual Dresses

Dresses work within a smart casual wardrobe. Just be careful that you’re not selecting something that is too fancy. A basic black dress can be smartened up with a denim jacket and comfortable shoes. You can also opt for a more casual floral print dress that you wear with a basic cardigan.

Smart Casual Skirts

Skirts that are smart casual should be around knee length. You don’t want to go any shorter than that, or you’ll be in a more comfortable and casual territory. Long skirts can also work, but make sure they don’t look too fancy or professional. This is another time when basic colors like black, navy, and tan work well for versatile items of clothing.

Smart Casual Jackets

In chillier weather, it’s nice to have jacket options when you are heading outside, or the temperature inside of your office is lower than what you find comfortable. It’s tempting to just grab any old jacket that you have in your closet, but you should have smart casual jackets that can be paired with what you’re wearing that day. Lighter options include a blazer, sweater jacket, or denim jacket if you’re wearing something smart underneath. Stay away from hoodies, athletic jackets, and parkas.

Smart Casual Sweaters

Sweaters come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, not all of them are smart casual appropriate. Layering is a great option for smart casual so that you can purchase basic cardigans in a few different shades like black, navy, and gray. Underneath, you can switch out different t-shirts or tops. Over the head sweaters that work with smart casual dress codes can include off-the-shoulder varieties, fitted sweaters, and basic sweaters with things like buttons, ruffles, and modest prints. Stay away from baggy boyfriend-style sweaters. Those are for weekend wear.

Smart Casual Tops

There are many different styles of women’s tops that are perfectly acceptable for smart casual dress codes. Investing in different tops makes for a very vast smart casual wardrobe. You can mix your different shirts with the basic bottoms that you’ve selected. What you wear on top will really depend on what the rest of your outfit looks like. If you are wearing basic pants, opt for a more colorful shirt or something with buttons, lace, or other accents. T-shirts are ok, but make sure they are dedicated t-shirts that you’re only wearing as part of your smart casual wardrobe. They should be made of a high-quality material; keep them pressed and swap them out for new ones when they start to look worn.

Smiling woman look left

You should avoid wearing anything that’s too revealing up top. Regardless of how warm it might be outside, stay away from tank tops or spaghetti-strap shirts/dresses. You should keep your shoulders covered. Sleeveless shirts are acceptable, but they should be conservative to some degree. It’s a good idea to bring a light sweater along with you in case you feel like you need to cover up during a meeting or inside your air-conditioned office.

Now that you’re well informed on smart casual attire for women, you can start building up your collection of smart clothing items. Once you get the hang of choosing your clothing, you’ll be coming up with really stylish looks that you can mix and match, depending on the season.

In the next chapter, we will be talking about smart casual clothing for men. Keep on reading to find out more!

Smart Casual for Men

Wondering what smart casual means if you’re a man? This code for dress refers to looking professional, polished, and comfortable. Your clothing should fit well while still being a bit less formal than business-style clothing. If you’re just starting out with a smart casual wardrobe and need to invest in some new items, we encourage you to read on. 

This chapter is dedicated to helping men choose appropriate smart casual clothing that gives off the right professional impression. Even if you have some smart casual clothing items in your closet right now, we’ll help you figure out how to mix and match them to create new outfits.

Smart casual dress code for men

Men’s smart casual dress is becoming more and more popular for things like work and special events. This is a dress code that can be used to show off your personal style. However, it’s still really important that you’re dressing appropriately. Smart casual requires some really nice, polished clothing items that aren’t too casual or messy. Some people focus far too much on the casual aspect of the term. In reality, you should be wearing one or two casual items. The rest should be dressier items that bring the entire look to a new level.

Smiling guy office hands pockets
Source: Dan Cornilov on Unsplash

Smart casual is about piecing together different clothing items to perfect a look that isn’t too overdressed. Because there are so many options available through smart casual attire, many men become confused with what they can and should wear. It’s also about personal preference and what a man feels comfortable wearing. Basic items can include things like khakis, chinos, quality sweaters, comfortable shoes, and blazers. Your look should never appear forced or overly formal.

In regard to color, smart casual dress for men can be a little more outgoing than business formal. It’s smart to invest in basic items such as navy or black pants, a few neutral shade pullover sweaters, some basic blazers, etc. Your more casual items can include things like comfortable shoes, colorful polos, or dressy t-shirts. Don’t be afraid to experiment with color but ensure that you’re still keeping a professional look going. The goal is to look like you casually put your outfit together that morning.

Smart Casual Attire for Men: What to wear?

Being able to put together smart casual outfits can be a challenge in some situations. If you’re not used to this dress code, or you have some new wardrobe items that you’re not sure how to make use of, you’re probably wondering what you should be wearing when a dress code says to stick to smart casual. Let’s take a look at some individual clothing items one by one, so you know what matches well with other articles of clothing when dressing smartly.

Smart Casual Trousers

Basic trousers can be paired with many other items in order to create a very polished, smart look. Your typical professional man should have trousers that are black, blue, navy, brown and gray. These pants can be worn in many different ways, with casual shoes or sneakers, bold sweaters, and sharp blazers with a colorful shirt underneath. You can start to invest in more elaborate trousers once you’ve built up a good basic smart wardrobe.

Smart Casual Denim

Denim pants are perfectly acceptable in many smart casual situations, but the quality of denim that you wear is important. You don’t want to wear a pair of weekend jeans that you used to do housework in. Have separate denim for your smart casual wardrobe. These pants should be well-fitting, clean, pressed, and free of things like holes or distress. While that may be the style for many pairs of jeans right now, smart casual doesn’t benefit from something that looks old and worn out.

Smart Casual Shirts

There are many different styles of shirts that you can wear for smart casual dress codes. Polos are a very common option, and you can purchase them in many different shades and prints. A nice quality t-shirt covered with a blazer is a comfortable option. A button-down shirt with the top couple of buttons undone is also a smart-looking option.

Group people posing looking camera

Shirts to avoid include sleeveless tops and tank tops. Athletic wear of any kind isn’t acceptable. Pack those away in your gym back for your workout during lunch. Always make sure that the shirt you choose is professional enough. Even a t-shirt should be wrinkle-free, high-end, and smart enough for your outfit.

Investing in different smart casual shirts is a wise option. You can really create versatile smart looks when you have different shirts available throughout the seasons. Your basic neutral-colored items will be the base of the outfit. You can then choose louder items for the rest of what you’re wearing on any given day.

Smart Casual Shoes

Acceptable shoes for men regarding smart casual attire can include loafers, short boots, neutral sneakers, etc. You should avoid sandals and make sure that you’re not wearing anything that reveals your toes. Athletic shoes are starting to become more popularly accepted in smart casual situations, but this is another time when you’ll want to make sure that you have separate shoes for smart casual dress days and other pairs for when you’re out on the town or working out. Avoid running shoes or anything that’s seen some mileage.

Smart Casual Shorts

Shorts aren’t necessarily something you’re going to wear to work as smart casual attire, but you may be invited to a work gathering outdoors where smart casual dress is welcomed. The shorts that you wear should be situated close to the knee. Make sure they are made of a nice material; they are not transparent and avoid really loud prints that are hard to match dressy items with. Shoes that go well with shorts for smart casual include loafers, boat shoes, and neutral sneakers.

Are Sweatshirts Ok?

Sweatshirts and hoodies are something you’ll want to stay away from in regard to the smart casual dress code. It’s wise to keep them in a separate area of your closet for dress-down days or when you get home after work. You can dress up a crew neck sweatshirt sometimes, but you can’t really hide that it’s a casual sweatshirt.

Smart Casual Sweaters

Sweaters are a nice smart casual item to have in your closet if you live somewhere that experiences chilly temperatures at different points in the year. For men, smart casual sweaters can include things like cardigans, V-neck sweaters, and overhead sweaters. If you’re wearing denim on the bottom of your outfit, you can complete the look by wearing a V-neck sweater with a nice shirt underneath and loafers or dressy boots on your feet.

YouTube video
Smart Casual Dress Code Explained
by Gentleman’s Gazette

Smart Casual Suits

You can still wear a suit without looking too formal if you’re following a smart dress code. Think about a more fitted suit that has a bold print. The pant legs may be a little shorter than a formal option, and you can wear a casual shoe to make the outfit really pop. Instead of wearing a dress shirt and tie underneath, a t-shirt or casual shirt will suffice.

Smart Casual Blazers

Invest in a few different blazers that can be paired with the various pants and shirts that you own. The best colors to start with include black and navy. The blazers should be fitted and keep them looking pressed and neat.

Smart Casual Accessories

Men aren’t normally known for wearing all kinds of accessories. Women pay close attention to the purse they carry, their earrings, necklace, bracelets, watch, etc. As a man, accessories can also dress up a smart casual outfit, even if you have fewer options available to you. Think about investing in a really nice watch that will dress up an outfit of a t-shirt and khakis. You could also think about the belts that you own, a ring that you wear, or even sunglasses. Those extra items can really make or break an outfit if you’re not careful.

Not surprisingly, accessories can make or break an outfit. When it comes to types of jewelry, we strongly advise you to wear classic pieces. Leave trendy ones for the weekend, parties, and date nights. The smart casual dress code requires a bit of formality and that you look professional. What types of jewelry can you wear then? Well, a classic watch is always welcome for both women and men. Your wedding ring is appropriate too. As to earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, make sure they are simple and classic so as to look more sophisticated.

Now that we know more about dressing smart casual as a man, we’re going to go on to discuss what men and women should wear for a job interview if they know that an office follows a smart casual dress code. You don’t want to show up for an interview overdressed. But it’s also really important that you’re not entering the office in an outfit that’s far too casual to look professional.

If you’re still questioning what kind of clothing items you should be wearing as a man who has to follow a smart casual dress code for work, it doesn’t hurt to do a little more research. You can also ask the opinion of an experienced professional at the stores and boutiques that you shop at. They can help you piece together some very versatile outfits.

Dressing Smart Casual for a Job Interview

Smart casual is a more comfortable and practical approach to business casual. Many people can create smart casual outfits using what they already have in their wardrobe. If you have a job interview coming up, you may have been told that the office’s dress code is smart casual. Before you panic and cancel the interview, we want to share some information that can help you put your best foot forward.

The dress code varies from company to company, but an interview is a time when you should look very polished. You want to look like you fit in at a company while making a good impression. Your outfit can make a big difference in whether or not somebody wants to hire you.

Smart casual dress code for a job interview

Smart casual is a great default dress code to use if you have a job interview coming up. Making that first impression is so important and dressing to impress makes all the difference. However, don’t feel like you have to come to an interview overdressed in order to make a good first impression. Your smart casual outfit can be just as impressive as a brand-new suit.

Man glasses gray suit elegant

If you’re challenged with picking out the right outfit for a job interview, there are some smart casual tips and tricks that help you get ready in no time at all. If you have to use this dress code moving forward once you’ve been hired, it will become like second nature to you to choose a smart casual outfit each morning. With smart casual becoming very popular in workplaces across the world, this is an article worth reading.

A smart casual dress code means that you’re comfortable, stylish, and professional. It’s a less dressy option than you may be used to, but most people find it to be a very practical option. Your articles of clothing in your smart casual wardrobe should include items that fit your body, are made well, are made of nice materials, look clean and pressed, and look appropriate is also very important.

Smart casual is common when an office space is relaxed, and the industry can vary. A dress code can vary from location to location, so you may want to talk to your boss or human resource department if you’re unsure what smart casual means for your job or potential job. If you’re headed to an interview, smart casual attire provides you with many different options.

If you show up to your interview dressed impeccably in smart casual dress, your boosted confidence will show the person you’re speaking with that you take your career seriously. You don’t want to look like you rolled out of bed, threw on the first clothing that you saw in your closet, and showed up for the interview.

Smart casual for men can vary from a woman’s choice, but the concept is very much the same. You want to choose a couple of basic professional items that are a bit more conservative. From there, choose a couple of causal items that make the outfit look less dressy. Basic items for a man’s smart casual outfit might include basic chinos or khakis, a sweater, a button-down shirt or polo, and some comfortable shoes. Women look nice in smart casual slacks with a blazer and flats.

Other options on what to wear to an interview

In addition to smart casual as an optional dress code for an interview, you may be asked to dress in something more formal, like business formal or business casual. It really depends on who you’re going to be meeting with. Sometimes you may be asked back for another interview, and you’ll need to dress more formally as you meet with people at the company that are in higher positions. Let’s take a look at some of the other options that you have in regard to interview attire.

Business Formal

Manager talking team sitting table

A business formal dress code (also referred to as business professional) will include very dressy items that are clean, pressed, neat, and free of wrinkles. This is the attire for a job interview, formal event, or office environment with a strict dress code. If you’re interviewing for a number of different jobs or you feel like your professional requires very professional attire, you’ll want to invest in a few different suits that you can rotate with other dress shirts, ties, etc.

Business Casual

There’s a fine line that exists between business formal and business casual. Business casual will have some similar items that you’ll see with business formal, but a little more casual and comfortable options are available. A few more smart items can be worked into your outfit with this style. You don’t necessarily have to wear a matching suit top to bottom, but you’ll need to choose professional items like skirts, dress shirts, heels, ties, collared shirts, etc.

Now that you know more about smart casual and the other dress code options that you can choose from for your interview, you can pick out an outfit that makes you feel comfortable and confident. In the next chapter, we’re going to be talking about some more specific smart casual outfit ideas. If you’re still stumped regarding what you should wear, be ready to find out more.

Smart Casual Outfit Ideas

Now that you know more about smart casual dress and the items you can work into your outfits, we want to provide you with some smart casual outfit ideas. These ideas are something you can refer back to if you’re out shopping for new wardrobe items, or they can be your go-to reference if you’re having trouble coming up with an outfit to wear to work, a job interview, or a special event.

It’s nice to have a quick reference available for those days when you just don’t feel like you can match your clothing items properly.

Smart casual outfit ideas for women

It can be confusing deciding what you are going to wear to work or wherever you need to go that requires smart casual dress. It’s nice to look well put together and fashionable, regardless of where you have to be. The great thing about the smart casual dress is that it works for so many different scenarios. 

Want to purchase some new smart casual clothing or are not sure what you can pair together? Let’s take a look at some smart casual outfit ideas for women that you can make up using some very versatile smart pieces of clothing.

Classic Blazer, Bold T-Shirt, and Neutral Pants

In previous chapters, we’ve talked a bit about the importance of classic items like blazers and pants. In this outfit, you’re going to wear a neutral or khaki-colored pair of pants along with a darker blazer (preferably navy). You can wear a nice t-shirt underneath the blazer to make the entire outfit look a bit more casual. Because the rest of your outfit is pretty basic, choose a shirt that has a pop of color, stripes, or a bold pattern. You can accessorize with a matching belt and casual pair of shoes.

Black and White

Business woman standing outdoors

Black and white is commonly used for more formal outfits, but this outfit pairs these classic shades for a smart casual outfit. Your black pants should be fitted but appropriate. Choose a more casual white shirt. It can be a ruffled or buttoned blouse, button-down shirt, or t-shirt. To really complete the outfit, make the focus on your shoes and handbag. Choose a casual sneaker, ballet flat, or strappy heel. You can choose almost any type of handbag and it can have some gold or silver accents that make the whole outfit pop.

Skinny Pants, Ballet Flats, and a Sweater

In the chillier weather, grab a well-fitting pair of skinny pants and pair them with a comfortable chunky sweater and ballet flats. If your pants and sweater are neutral, try wearing a patterned ballet flat that stands out. You can try an animal print or plaid variety that will match with many of your neutral outfits, including those that feature skinny jeans.

Be careful with the sweater that you choose on top. A chunky sweater is acceptable, but make sure you’re not treading into the territory of boyfriend sweaters or tops that look too baggy. You still want your entire outfit to fit well and look like it was made for your body.

Crop Pants, T-Shirt, and a Denim Jacket

If you’re opting for a more laid back smart casual outfit, you can grab your favorite pair of black crop pants. Pair them with a classic t-shirt and a denim jacket. This is a basic outfit that goes great with a new pair of casual sneakers or flats. If your dress code allows, you can swap out your crop dress pants for a pair of black denim pants.

Black pants are a great staple item to have in your smart casual wardrobe. You can have black pants for all the seasons. Crop pants work well in the spring and summer; skinny trousers are winter staples that can also be used year-round. Black denim is casual but versatile for many different outfits.

Wide Leg Pants, Blouse, and Sandals

Gauchos and other wide-leg pants have been making a comeback recently, and they are perfect for a smart casual outfit. Choose a wide-leg pair of pants that are navy blue to pair with a classic white blouse that has accents in the way of buttons, ruffles, pleats, etc. Sandals can be worn on your feet, but make sure you check to see what your footwear dress code is like at work. Some companies don’t want their employees to wear anything that shows their toes.

Smart casual outfit ideas for men

Getting the right opportunities in your professional and personal life often means that you need to be wearing the right clothing. If you miss the mark and look too formal or too casual, you can make the wrong impression. If you need a smart casual outfit that makes you look great, we have some smart casual outfit ideas for men that can get you dressed and ready in no time at all.

Denim Pants, a Printed T-Shirt, and a Jacket or Cardigan

For this outfit, you’ll want a dark pair of denim pants that are pressed and well fitted. On top, wear a printed t-shirt of some sort. Nothing with a graphic or wording, but you can get expressive with what you choose, depending on your personality. Don’t be afraid to try something with a floral pattern or a bold color. On top, wear a bomber jacket or even a cardigan sweater for cooler weather.

Khakis, Blazer, and a Button-Down Shirt

Group asian people looking tablet

A pair of classic khaki pants or chinos pair perfectly with a neutral button-down shirt and a sharp blazer. You can swap the khakis out for a pair of corduroy pants in the fall or winter. The button-down shirt can be topped with a V-neck sweater, including or excluding the blazer.

Tailored Trousers, Polo Shirt, and Casual Shoes

For warmer months, have smart casual pants that are tailored to fit your body perfectly and that go with all kinds of shirts. On top, wear a polo shirt with a pop of color or modest pattern. Don’t wear anything too bold, but you also don’t want to look too basic. Your shoes can stand out a bit. You may opt for a pair of dressy sneakers or a classic brown shoe. If you’re comfortable with it, a pair of loafers with no socks will look quite smart. Brown shoes and black pants? Go ahead and try it!

Dressing Up Your Denim

With a classic pair of navy-blue trousers, pop on a plaid dress shirt, smart casual shoes, and top the whole outfit off with a classic denim jacket. The denim should be well-fitting and free of distress or wear. If you want to bring the whole outfit to a more formal level, you can wear a tie that matches your dress shirt.

Trousers, Turtleneck, and a Jacket

Man sitting sofa glasses

A man’s smart casual outfit can be a bit more matching than what a woman would wear in many instances. In this outfit, you’ll want to choose a pair of trousers that match a turtleneck sweater that you have in your wardrobe. The item that stands out will be your jacket. You can top everything with a blazer, but make sure the color contrasts with whatever you’ve chosen underneath. You can also choose a denim jacket for this ensemble.


We’ve established what smart casual is, the basics of smart casual dress for women and men for a variety of situations, and some different clothing items that you should avoid. Hopefully, you now know a bit about how this dress code varies from other options. Dressing smart casual is a comfortable and fashionable way to make a good impression without having to adhere to a strict formal dress code.

Let us know if you have any questions regarding smart casual dress and what may or may not be acceptable. Leave us a comment and let us know what your favorite smart casual outfit looks like, and don’t forget to share this post with your coworkers and friends. Read some of our other posts to learn more about how you can look and feel your best each day.

Lee este artículo en español: Código Smart Casual o “semiformal” para mujeres y hombres

4 thoughts on “Smart Casual Dress Code for Women and Men [2023]”

  1. Overall, everyday dresses should be comfortable, versatile, and reflect your personal style. With so many options available, it’s easy to find the perfect dress to fit any occasion.

  2. Thanks for sharing this one! 🙂 very much appreciated. Smart casual dress code is a versatile dress code that can be worn on a variety of occasions. It allows you to express your personal style while still maintaining a professional appearance.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top