Women's Smart Casual Shoes & Style
Our ultimate guide to the smart casual dress code
Smart casual style is a popular dress code that can be worn and interpreted in so many different ways. As a flexible and versatile style trend, you can use it to your advantage to dress up for any occasion, like after-work drinks with your colleagues or a stylish lunch date with friends.
But this limitless choice can sometimes make the dress code hard to navigate. That’s why we’ve drawn up our ultimate guide to smart casual fashion, and how you can use it when picking out your favourite footwear and bag choices. We define smart casual style, before walking you through some smart casual outfit ideas. We also share plenty of top tips and examples of how you can pair smart casual shoes and bags with your own smart-casual style staples.
What is Smart Casual Dressing?
First things first though, what exactly is the smart casual dress code? This much-hyped and referenced style trend is all about marrying up tailored style staples with more laidback, off-duty fashion choices. ‘Smart casual’ is the ideal styling guide for when you need to look professional but without verging towards overdressed. Think dressing up for networking events, press events, engagement parties or dinners in smart and stylish settings. You might not want to rock up to such occasions in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, but you still want to echo that element of laidback simplicity with an added touch of elegance. You still mean business, but in a softer and more nuanced way. The key to embracing the trend is all about creating a perfect balance between formal and casual looks.
The Art of Smart Casual Women's Style
As always, personal style and personality should be your guiding principles when embracing the smart casual dress code for women. Pick out formal and relaxed fashion pieces that you love. Then mix and match these with ease to build up smart casual looks whenever, and wherever you need them.
If you love comfortable footwear for example, then pick up relaxed trainers for the off-duty part of your look. Or maybe you are a high heels hedonist who cannot go a day without wearing a pair of perfect pumps. If so, use glamorous heels as the playful part of your modern smart casual costume. Then build up the formal part with the rest of your outfit. The art of great smart casual attire for women lies in blending formal and casual elements in a coherent way while making your own sense of personal style shine through.
Smart Casual Style Staples
Crafting your own approach to smart casual dress is easy when you choose a few essential pieces to act as the focus for your complete look. By picking out your own smart and casual styles from the following key product groups, you can create strong building blocks for pulling off the look in your own original way:
1) Smart Casual Shoes & Bags
You may wonder what the difference is between casual and smart casual? Usually, the answer to this question lies in the footwear and bags that you choose to finish off your look. For example, pairing a jumpsuit with heeled court shoes and a neutral shoulder bag leans heavily on the ‘smart’ side. Yet pairing that very same jumpsuit with a trendy sneaker and colourful mini bag or patent tote brings the look down to a casual, yet professional, level. It’s a subtle yet simple difference, but once nailed – you’ll never turn up in the wrong dress code again. So forget the old fashion rules. Why not wear trainers with your tailored suit to a business event, or blend smart event handbags with an outfit in hypnotising colours. Also don't forget statement shoes complete with glittering embellishments.
2) Sleek Tailoring
While shoes and bags are important, smart casual style is simply not complete without the clothes. But which clothes should you choose? You’ll often find that you can rely on formal collared shirts, smart casual blazers and sleek smart casual trench coats to cover the formal part of any smart casual ensemble. If you are more of a dresses-lover, then don’t be afraid to pair sophisticated bodycon or midi dress styles with sneakers to capture the perfect balance between formal and casual style. You can also use slender tapered culottes and chic blazers for your office-ready looks while rounding off these formal styles with attention-grabbing charm-embellished heels or colour-pop pumps. Getting creative and having fun with sharp tailoring is a quick-win way to own any smart casual look.
3) Directional Denims
Jeans and denims are the workhorses of many a wardrobe. So it almost goes without saying that you can use these as another key foundation to your smart casual outfits. The great thing with jeans is that you can dress them up or down for any event. The jeans and blazer combo is a go-to smart casual look that you can style up using glamorous stilettos or gem-studded kitten heels, or dress down with the help of lace-up retro sneakers or open-toe leather sandals. You could also flip the style choice around by opting for a hip oversized or vintage denim jacket instead for the casual part of the look. Then fusing this with tailored trousers and opulent court shoes or traditionally shaped leather loafers for a touch of formal refinement.
Dressing for the Occasion
Once you have the building blocks of the smart casual look in place, all that's left to do is decide how you will blend them for different smart casual occasions. Here, we walk through some of the most common arenas where smart casual style always fits in. It's time to show off your shoes for smart casual attire in a perfectly complementary setting:
· Smart Casual Office Looks:
The office is an environment where smart attire often rules the roost. But this doesn’t mean you have to feel restricted when it comes to flair and creativity. You could liven up your smart casual boardroom look by choosing slingback heel pumps in glossy patent leathers. Or picking out a platform loafer with golden embellishments, and fusing these into your fitted blazer ensembles. Maybe you work in a buzzing shared co-working space or creative studio instead, where smart casual workwear choices are eclectic and fluid. You could play with androgynous styling by matching up an oversized crisp white shirt and tailored trousers. Then pairing this look with a glossy grab bag and relaxed flat heel for a playful feminine boost. Or perhaps you prefer a trending chunky heeled loafer instead with metallic stud details or gold bar trims, for that offbeat edge. Your smart casual work shoe choices no longer need to be all about the old-school suit and heels combo.
· Smart Casual for Job Interviews:
Wearing smart casual at that all-important job interview is often a tricky process to get just right. Sometimes job interview invites clearly specify the required smart casual dress code. In this case, you are lucky. But at other times, the dress code isn’t specified, leaving candidates to try to read the room to assess which smart casual job interview outfit would be most appropriate. In most settings, it’s best to play things safe by sticking to classic items like tailored blazers, fitted shirts and smart trousers or dresses. You can then pair these pieces with complementary interview shoes in more neutral and traditional colourways. You will usually have more room to add colour and embellishments into your shoe choices if interviewing for jobs in a creative field. But get your style cues from the brand’s website and social media pages. Then try to identify what existing staff are wearing to get a good guide on how to dress in a flattering look that matches the business’ aesthetic. This way, you should fit in with ease and feel more relaxed on the day of the interview itself.
· Weekend-Ready Smart Casual Outfits:
Let’s not forget about wearing smart casual outfits outside of the office too. This transferable dress code looks as good in a sleek city restaurant for lunch with friends as it does in a boardroom setting. Feel free to shift the balance towards the casual end of the style spectrum on weekend adventures. Smart casual trainers in retro shapes are a reliable choice for this setting, as they can go with any smart casual combo. Think muted dark jeans and an oversized patterned shirt, or a smart, tailored jumper with skinny jeans. They’re just perfect for nailing smart casual anytime. So keep a few variations of them in your closet to pair with smarter separates when you need. If you prefer your weekend jaunts wearing more polished looks, then choose sumptuous leather Chelsea boots with chunky block heel soles, or chic knee-high boots with a pointed toe. These smart and elegant pieces are ideal when paired with structured but playful feminine outfits, so think floaty skirts and floral print structured dresses. By perfectly blending smart and relaxed staples, you can create stunning smart casual looks that are ready for any occasion.