It’s that time of year, going back to school, starting a new graduate job or returning from some summer holidays. As we get back into the swing of things, events start creeping in, conferences are back on the agenda and the need to understand what on earth is ‘smart-casual’ is a question at the back of your mind. Follow my 5 simple rules to keep within the limits and avoid any embarrassing mishaps.
Choose your jeans wisely
Okay I totally admit that I’m breaking my own rules in these photos so let’s just get that out the way right now. My first rule is to stick to jeans but keep them smart i.e. no rips (yeah I know, I know).
I remember being petrified to wear ripped-knee jeans on casual Fridays at work but there’s probably good reason for that. I would, on occasion, but if meeting agencies or having any meetings with senior stakeholders it would be a strict no-rip policy and sometimes you should know when to switch back to formal wear, casual Friday or not. Simple skinny jeans are always a winner and black works best.
If it says smart-casual stick to it.
Don’t be that person. This is particularly aimed at the new graduates out there (I’ve been there myself don’t worry) – if the dress code is smart casual then stick to that, don’t turn up fully suited and booted. In today’s working environment, brands are usually keen on creating a more relaxed working impression (whether it’s true or not) so you want to make sure that you look like you’re fitting with the brand’s values but also not rubbing people up the wrong way. Before moving to Bermuda I worked for a very large Financial company and believe me, sometimes people were too casual! There is always a time and a place for a suit.
Smart on top
Jeans tick your casual box so now you need to cross off ‘smart’. This is easily done using the upper half of your body. My general rule is to wear shirts or blouses and a fitted sweater if it’s cold. Then you really can’t go wrong with a boyfriend fit blazer – if you’re sat down in a meeting you still look formal but will feel more relaxed because you’re in jeans and can mingle until your heart’s content looking super cool and chic.
This is the easiest way to look chic and nail the smart casual look. Don’t go for grubby Stan Smiths but stick to some comfortable heels that will give you confidence. Having worked in a male heavy working environment and being only 5″4, wearing heels made me feel more confident and in charge and will help ensure you don’t sink into the crowd. Please don’t make them hooker heels – be sensible, if it’s a conference or event, you’re likely to be standing a lot.
Choose your bag wisely.
This is less about your overall look but more about being prepared. Just because the dress code is smart casual, don’t switch back to small bags that you might wear on the weekend. Have a suitable size work bag that always includes a pen, notebook, phone charger/power bank and usually laptop/tablet. I love this backpack from Radley London because it fits in everything whilst being comfortable and chic and the same time. It’s the perfect smart-casual accessory.