Dress Code, Decoded: What Is Smart Casual For Women?

By Charlie Colville

2 weeks ago

You guide to semi-formal events dressing

While intended to make deciding what to wear an easier job, dress codes (ironically) aren’t always the easiest to decipher – especially when it comes down to anything smart casual. So, where do we start? Read on for our guide to smart casual dressing for women.

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Smart Casual Dressing For Women, Explained

What Is A Smart Casual Dress Code?

As its name suggests, a smart casual dress code is a blend of toned down formal attire and dressed-up casualwear. The idea is to not come across as ‘too casual’ and ‘too formal’, using a combination of polished and relaxed clothing. In everyday life, you’ll find this dress code used for semi-formal occasions such as networking events, after-work gatherings, restaurants and, in some cases, weddings.

What Does ‘Smart Casual’ Mean For Women?

For women, smart casual dress can include the following:


Whatever you do, avoid t-shirts and slouchy tops. When it comes to smart casual dress, its best for women to stick to blouses and shirts – you can pick the colour and print, as long as it isn’t novelty or garish – in materials like crepe knit or silk. If the weather is slightly chilly, you can layer a blazer on top.

Blue shirt | smart casual women


Chanel Blue Silk Blouse (Size FR 42), £492.61

Stripe shirt | smart casual women

Rag & Bone

Martha Striped Boxy-Fit Shirt, £165



As for the bottom half of your attire, you can choose from tailored trousers (tapered, straight and wide leg are all acceptable), chinos and skirts (as long as they fall to the knee or lower). In some instances, you can get away with wearing dark-wash jeans, but it’s always best to check beforehand.

Brown trousers | smart casual women

Giuliva Heritage

Dark Tan Cotton Sailor Trousers (Size EU 38), £101.52

Cream trousers


Straight-leg Corduroy Trousers, £480



Of course, you can remove the hassle of finding separates altogether by opting for a dress. Smart casual dresses typically fall to the knee or below, and span midi dresses, wrap dresses, pencil dress and smart belted shirt dresses – although avoid wearing anything to office-y if you’re not actually at work.

Black dress with cherry print

Realisation Par

The Teale Dress (Size UK 10), rent from £40.44

Blue dress


Bloom Shirt Dress, £265



Women’s smart casual encompasses both heels and flats. When it comes to heels, stick to sling-backs, kitten heels, pumps, block heels, smart wedges and ankle boots, and with flats, consider wearing ballet or pointed pumps, loafers or brogues.

Black slingbacks | smart casual women


Leather Slingbacks (Size 6), rent from £23

Cream heel


Yellow Cubisto 40 Leather Pumps, £615


Can You Wear It To Work?

Whether you can get away with smart casual dress in the office depends on your place of work. Some office environments might be more relaxed, while other require something closer to business attire. We’d recommend making a call based on what other people are wearing in the office, or, if it’s your first time there, asking your manager what the dress code is.

Mistakes To Avoid

To help you narrow down your wardrobe, we’ve rounded up some general tips of what you should be avoiding when it comes to a smart casual dress code.

1. Ultra-Casual Clothes

We stick to the mantra that it’s always better to show up to an event overdressed rather than underdressed (within reason). If what you’ve picked out is something you’d wear at the weekend to hang out with friends, it probably isn’t a good fit. Some ultra-casual items to avoid include:

  • Leggings and gym clothes
  • Spaghetti straps and strapless tops
  • Low cut tops that visibly show cleavage
  • Sheer or see-through materials
  • Flip flops (unless there’s a beach involved)

2. Not Grooming Yourself Properly

Paying attention to the smaller details really helps when it comes to refining smart casual dress. This means making sure there are no stains and loose threads on your clothes, your shoes are clean and polished, and your hair and makeup are clean and tidy.

3. Poorly Fitting Clothes

If your clothes look like they don’t fit, your outfit can quickly become sloppy. Checking that your clothes fit you properly beforehand will help ensure you look put-together before an event.

Featured image: Laura Chouette, Unsplash