If you’ve stood in front of your overloaded wardrobe every morning and asked yourself, “Kya pehenu”, we get you. The struggle to find the right outfit for work is as real as it gets. To complicate the matter, our offices throw dress codes at us. What the hell is business casual? And what is business formal? And how do I differentiate between smart casuals and casual office wear?
A lot of corporate setups and start ups are urging their employees to turn up to the office in smart casuals. If you’re confused about what ‘smart casual’ means, here’s everything you need to know.
How to become the smart casual woman
A smart casual dress code means fighting the right balance between smart and casual, i.e., you have to dress up in a presentable yet comfortable manner. The aim is to look well-dressed without looking too formal. The smart casual dress code is all about looking polished and presentable. You have to merge the elements of your business formals with your casuals, without looking like either. You want to use pants, coloured blouses, blazers, heels, and watches, but ignore the formal shirts or basic sneakers. The end result has to be a look that is well put-together; something that looks like you’re always ready for a client lunch out of the office.
Acing your office style with the smart casual look
1. Layering right
You can spruce up any look with a well-fitting blazer. A structured shrug can do the trick too. The key is to pick solid, muted colours like blues, blacks, greys, beiges, and browns. If you want to layer up with a cardigan, make sure the rest of your attire is formal because a cardigan can border on being too casual. When wearing a dress, a longer coat without the exaggerated belt or button details will complete your look.
2. All over overalls
If you don’t want to play mix and match in the morning, dresses have proven to be the chicest office wear for women. Depending on your office style you can also go for co-ord sets in neutral colours, or jumpsuits with pants. The smart casual look does not favour flouncy skirts or shorts. Remember to keep it simple; a dress is a statement in itself.
3. Pun on the pants
When it comes to formal office wear for women, we encounter limited options in terms of pants and skirts. But the smart casual attire lets us play around with this look. You can go for bootcut pants, dress pants, straight fit pants, high-waisted pants, or even culottes. While a lot of the orthodox fashion maestros have insisted on throwing jeans out of the scene, young stylists still have their hearts set on them. The key is to go for classic colours like black, blue, or white. Ditch the distressed denims and go for the best-fitting pair you have. A formal component is a must when wearing jeans – heels or a blazer can set the tone of your outfit.
As for skirts, you can opt for the regular A-line skirt or the classic pencil skirt with a slit in the back. Make sure all the other elements of your office outfit are casual – switch the shirt with the blouse, the shoes with ballerinas, and add a scarf to really step it up.
4. So much for shirts
Since we’re neither looking for casual office wear nor obsessing over business formal wear, casual t-shirts with huge prints and pin-striped shirts with regular collars can see their way out the door. Blouses in fabrics like viscose and georgette, silk shirts, satin tops, classic white shirts and plain solid t-shirts (with a formal blazer or shrug) are all in. If you’re concerned about the cold getting to you, V-neck sweaters in premium fabrics can be your office wear go-to.
Remember not to go bold with your colour choices. Your top-wear allows a lot of room for experiment, but don’t let chunky details make you the biggest fashion faux pas in the office.
5. Ask for accessories
One of the biggest mistakes a woman can make while picking out her office attire is not concentrating on the accessories. For a proper smart casual look, you can go for the classic metallic watch. Minimal necklaces like snake chains or Italian chains are a great choice too. Steer away from beady earrings and opt for smaller hoops or studs. If you’re really keen on detail, make sure to pair up silver jewellery with the silver watch, or gold accents with gold.
6. F for footwear
Almost out the door but not sure what shoes to wear with your outfit? Strappy heels, ballerinas, and wedge heels are some of the options to consider. Shoes with suede, like loafers and oxfords can make for elegant footwear choices with your elite office wear. If your look is already bordering on the formal, tone it down with boots. While casual sneakers or sandals are a big no, make sure the former is very clean and scuff if you’re taking the risk at all.
If you’ve found yourself in a pickle over finding the best look for your office, fret not. The aim is to keep it simple yet sophisticated. Your office is a reflection of who you are, so don’t try to imitate. Find what makes you comfortable. As for smart casuals, there is no one definition of what to wear and what not to. It’s a bricolage of components of different styles, and you can pull it off the way you like. Just look at it like the Yin and Yang (business and casual), and let the two balance each other out.
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