Whether it’s for the ill-fated office party or the obligatory dinner arrangements, a smart-casual dress code can pose somewhat of a conundrum. The term itself is an oxymoron – albeit one of acceptability – with its ambiguity leaving a lot of room for faux-pas as it straddles the most awkward of fashion divides.
Negotiating this minefield however is no life or death situation and nailing a killer smart-casual look is much easier than it appears at first-glance, let alone once the free bar closes.
As the lookbook above shows, the smart-casual spectrum is incredibly broad – from a tuxedo-denim pairing to polo necks and bow ties. Selecting an appropriate smart-causal outfit comes down to situation (as mentioned above) and personal style, with that in mind I’m going to put together a selection of looks on both ends of the smart-casual scale.
This first look has a timeless appeal while still remaining youthful and contemporary – blending both smart and casual elements with consummate ease. The colour combination of the burgundy and navy is complimentary and right on trend for the current autumn/winter season. The textured three button blazer offers something slightly out of the norm and contrasts the slicker fabric in the trousers, whilst the wider neck scoop t-shirt provides the youthful undertones and casual overtones.
This look is perfect for a dinner party or night out with colleagues. The outfit also has the potential to be dressed up by replacing the t-shirt with a simple white shirt and detail tie combination.
A polo-neck is a great piece to build a party outfit around and a fantastic alternative to the common shirt. Try utilising double knitwear [as in our lookbook] by layering a thicker textured cardigan over the polo-neck for some smart-casual sophistication. Make sure you have a play with some colour to ensure the look remains on the right side of the divide.
Some neutral light grey trousers play anchor for the brighter top half and some brown monk straps add that sprinkle of alternative excellence. Again, if you’re looking to smarten up, lose the cardigan and replace it with the other half of the suit; be that either the blazer or waistcoat but not both.
The tuxedo may be associated with a strictly black tie dress code but it can be worked into a variety of looks that veer on the casual side of smart. Try utilising a tuxedo jacket with denim, but dark shades only please unless you are aiming for a washed-up rock star vibe.
The jacket will provide enough of a focal point so keep everything else toned down; a white shirt is perfect for this. Forget the tie and be wary of being too flashy with accessories. If you must wear a pocket square, try to stay away from designs and opt for a muted block colour – if you dress the look up too much you’re going to be straying into wannabe rock star territory again.
A safety pin across a fully-buttoned collar would however be an acceptable and unique accessory to bring to the table; a gold version working particularly well with the black in the blazer. Be brave with your footwear and opt for some burgundy/oxblood brogues – loafers are also worth consideration but for this outfit think twice before favouring tassels.
Take your nod from this season’s big trend, heritage, and stay on the side of the tactile. A tweed blazer is an essential and will serve you well when decoding this dress code. Pair one with some slim cords and layer a cable knit jumper over a shirt to really own the tactile and heritage influences.
Finish off by incorporating some softer silk into the look, in the form of a pocket square. While this look is great for dinner or drinks out, it’s not at all homely so avoid using the whole ensemble for a dinner party. You can however use parts of it – for example you could lose the jumper in favour of a standard V-neck or cardigan. I would personally also consider switching the cords for chinos or possibly jeans if the invite is a more personal one.
Well that just about wraps up our decoding of the dreaded ‘smart-casual’ invite this party season, look out for part two which will tackle the more formal occasions.
Just remember that with this particular dress code being particularly ambiguous, it can occasionally be difficult to judge how to dress for the setting. If you do get it wrong (we all do occasionally), then forget about it, be confident, style it out and use it to your advantage – what better conversation starter?
Hopefully between our lookbook and suggested outfits you’ll be getting it right much more than wrong and while we here at FashionBeans can claim to have had a hand in your appearance at the start of the night, we can hold no responsibility for the morning after.
Finally, make sure you let us know in the comments below your favourite ‘go-to’ outfit combinations for smart-casual occasions.
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