It’s the everyday dress code for so many of us, but often we make it an afterthought. In my years of working with clients, smart casual everyday outfits are the most neglected category for most women. They may have their professional wardrobes, their workout wardrobes, and even their sporting wardrobes down to a science, but what they wear for errands and appointments and casual coffee chats and all the other day-to-day stuff is something they don’t think a lot of, and end up wearing sweats or workout clothes as a default.
Today, I make the case for why your everyday casual wardrobe is worth a little more attention, and how you can easily and affordably upgrade a basic off-duty uniform into a pretty and polished one.
Here, 10 strategies to do smart casual well.
Add a Jacket
The most basic of uniforms, jeans and a tee, get an instant upgrade with the addition of a jacket. Whether it’s a blazer, a moto, a cardigan, a completer piece added to basics is a quick and timeless upgrade.
The key is to have completers that work with your body type and wardrobe. Sometimes, the perfect outfit takes more than a second before it comes together, but once you have a go-to combo, you can wear it on repeat.
Play With Color
Sometimes, the most basic outfit can get an easy upgrade just by adding color. While neutrals are polished, color looks like more work, even if it’s not, so simply injecting some fun color into your basics can make them look more intentional and more elevated.
Add Fab Accessories
I’m sure you’re picking up on a theme here, but the easiest way to go from boring basics to a cute outfit is to add something interesting, usually in the form of accessories. Here, 2 very casual pieces get an upgrade from fun mules and a hat. Whatever your style, mixing fun and personal accessories into an otherwise simple outfit is a quick way to personalize it and make it more stylish.
Choose Unexpected Fabrics
The same everyday silhouettes look much more elevated when done in fabrics like silk, leather, and or lace. It’s an instant way to make your outfits dressier. These outfits are comprised exclusively of basics, but the interesting fabrics pull the looks together and keep them from looking boring.
Add Classic Touches & Texture
The old-money aesthetic, as laughable as we may find the expression, is really just about looking elegant in a subtle way, and there’s no better way to do this than with luxurious fabrics and classic patterns such as cable knit and plaid. It’s instant fancy yet still comfy.
Consider A Dress
When it’s warm out, you’ll usually find me in a dress, the most underrated item in your wardrobe when it comes to versatility, practicality, and ease. It’s one and done, and gets me through the warmer days looking polished and pretty but still feeling casual enough to wash dishes or walk the dog.
Jeans + Blouse
The easiest way to upgrade a basic item like a pair of jeans is to pair it with a dressy top. When we take our clothes out of boxes and stop labeling them as exclusively dressy or casual, we will find that we get a lot more use out of them. Your pretty blouses and office tops and evening-out tops become much more wearable when paired with your basic denim.
Elevate Your Everyday Pants
Whether they’re joggers or leggings or something a little more transitional, like my Everlane Dream pants, pictured, adding a pretty or fun top to these casual pants can be enough to turn a very casual look into a smart casual one. The addition of a pretty pair of shoes also helps.
Add Interesting Completers
Having a selection of interesting jackets and cardigans that reflect your personal style and work with the other pieces in your wardrobe means that you always have something you can wear to upgrade your style. Try for a nice variety, from blazers to motos to casual jackets and cardigans, for maximum versatility. Vests are on trend and a great option for a lighter layer on warmer days.
Upgrade Your Shoes
The quickest path to a cute outfit is to switch the shoes. Period. It’s also the one area where I see most women trip up. Many of us have foot issues, but there are cute options for everyone, and it’s worth finding a pair that supports your arches and your style.
Do you struggle with smart casual outfits, and hitting that goal of 3 smart casual looks a week? And how can you elevate your everyday looks? Let me know in the comments!
Nada Manley says
Thank you so much Sara! This is most of my outfits too! In the winter, a monochromatic look of a cozy sweater and pants in the same color, topped by a really great coat and scarf and flat boots, would be great! Or that same sweater and jeans with the coat and boots. In warmer weather, I would go for a casual dress and flat sandals, or if that feels too dressy, a pair of jeans, a pretty blouse, earrings, and cool flats or sneakers.
Nada Manley says
Thank you Cindy! Yes that phrase is one I recall often. The legs are the last to go lol. Hanging on to that right now. LOL. So glad you enjoyed these ideas!
sara santibanez says
Thank you, Nada! This was so helpful. The majority of my life is right here in this casual outfits area. Sometimes even if these outfits are too dressy. What do you suggest for sitting on the sidelines of the soccer field in a camping chair? Or in the bleachers of the baseball field?
Cindy henry says
Love these ideas, especially the beauty of a dress. I’ve always heard legs are the last to age, so dresses play on that too.