What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

by Paris B on · 37 comments

in Clothes,Fashion

Please tell me I’m not the only one out there who doesn’t understand the concept of “Smart Casual” dressing? Every time I am told to come in “Smart Casual” dress, I am stumped. Recently, I picked up a jacket/cardigan that seemed to fit the bill so I plan to trot it out every time I am told to come in “Smart Casual dress”. I put a picture of me wearing it on Instagram and was reminded by a friend that I hadn’t done a “What I Wore” post in a while. So I thought I’d do one using this jacket/cardigan.

smart casual What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

The reason I thought this jacket/cardigan would fit the smart casual bill is because it wasn’t too formal in material, yet had a structured shape to it so it didn’t look too casual. It is a heavy knit and actually looks quite preppy, with the round collar and all. All I’m missing is a string of pearls icon razz What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

Perhaps if I were the more creative sort, I’d do something with the buttons. Change them to something a little less plain, but since I’m terrible at sewing, I’ll live with them.

smart casual4 What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

You can see how up close, it really is more like a knit cardigan than a structured jacket, yet the material is so thick that it holds it’s shape quite well especially at the shoulders. I was taken by it mostly due to the high round neck, and the way it looked. Something that could travel well, hold itself in smart casual settings (whatever that means) without looking too fussy and formal.

I picked this one up from Banana Republic at 50% + 20% off in Singapore on my last trip down so it probably came up to under RM150 or thereabouts. I can’t recall the price off hand now.  I wouldn’t shop in BR otherwise because their clothes are really quite pricey here, but at that sort of discounts, I was willing to. Plus, I don’t work in a very formal setting so this suited me for those times when I needed a quick cover up. It is surprisingly warm and will do well in air-conditioned places too!

The only thing that bugged me was that my black skirt was very quickly covered in fluff from this jacket/cardigan. I can’t really decide what to call it. It looks like a jacket, yet it is made like a cardigan. Jacdigan? Cardiket? icon razz What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing  So knowing this, I’d have to make sure I wear something lighter coloured underneath.

smart casual3 What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

Jacket/Cardigan and Top from Banana Republic (past seasons), Skirt by G2000

Stiff as a board, but here’s an idea of how it looks worn open and buttoned up. It definitely looks far better worn open. If I wanted it buttoned up, I’d have to size up but if I did, it would be too big about the shoulders (I take it in XS). So I plan to wear this mostly unbuttoned, or if I really had to button it, then probably lose some weight LOL! icon razz What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

I’d wear this one with jeans or even a casual denim skirt because I think the design dresses up a casual outfit as well as it dresses down something formal. Is that what “smart casual” means? icon smile What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing

How would you dress if you get an invitation that says “Smart Casual”?

I never know how to so I usually interpret it as “you can wear pants or jeans” icon razz What I Wore Vol. 4 : Trying to understand Smart Casual dressing Ideas welcome!

Paris B

Previous post:

Next post:

[ 37 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Tracy@Beauty Reflections July 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

Love the sweater!
Is it just me, or is the phrase smart casual just a modern term for preppy? That’s what I think of when I hear it!


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Thank you Tracy and your guess is as good as mine! I guess dressing preppily works at all times doesn’t it? Well except for black tie events and honestly, how many of us go to those :P


Jennifer July 28, 2013 at 10:47 am

Hahaha, cardiket? You’re too funny. Yeah, I love it too when I saw it on your Instagram. I am a big fan of knitted stuffs and this one looks lovely in beige and the texture is just nice. Aww it sheds eh…but it looks good on top so maybe a lighter bottom will help. Does it require dry cleaning?

Usually I turn up at smart casual affairs with a short dress and shawl or cardigan. I thought dresses should be quite safe since I won’t be putting on those gala dresses with scoop back or high slits lol. For example, when I go for concerts at Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the dress code calls for smart casual. Sometimes I see ladies in pants and a shirt, sometimes skirts with a blouse…so I stay on the safe side with a simple minus plunging neckline.


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Yeah, I couldn’t decide what to call a cardigan-jacket hybrid hehe… and no, it doens’t need dry cleaning, thank goodness. I try not to buy anything that needs dry cleaning because it is just too much of a hassle and expensive, and I’m a little leery about the chemicals used. Sometimes I can’t help it, but I try to avoid it where possible. I think your interpretation of smart casual is quite spot on. It is smart (dress) and yet casual (shawl) :D I have only been to the Philharmonic once (yes, I’m a Philistine :P ) and I noticed that people didn’t didn’t really dress up for it as much as they do overseas. I think overseas, it is considered a formal event to visit the orchestra. Would be nice if it was the same here. It’ll be fun to dress up, even if I might end up snoozing during the show LOL!


Romana July 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

I love the cardigan. But the only problem I have is the gaps when its all buttoned up. Not easy to find one that doesnt reveal a tad too much . I believe Marks & Spencer recently came up with a better design that promises to solve that.


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Yep! Can’t button it in this size, but if I sized up, it buttons without pulling, but then the shoulders droop a little, so I opted for an open look :) I did read about the M&S shirt that doesn’t open up. Generally, I don’t have the problem (seeing as I’m not terribly well endowed in the boob department) but it’s nice to know there are options now for those who do!


Jenn July 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

I can’t help but to be drawn to your green twist top (wasn’t deliberately staring at your chest… PROMISE!! :D)! It looks stunning against your fair skin! :D

I don’t understand “smart casual” either. I’m guessing that it means something less formal but is still looks presentable and professional, but i’m not sure if thats the correct definition! lol. I usually turn up at “smart casual” events with a brightly colored structured dress (with a jacket sometimes depending on where I’m going), I hope I didn’t offend anyone! Hahaha! :D


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Haha Thanks Jenn! It is a little precarious that top, hence the need for a jacket to make sure it’s decent :P Got it for about 70% off from BR during a sale a few years ago ;) Your interpretation of smart casual sounds about right. I would have done the same. Basically, whatever I wear to work, I’d deem smart casual without a blazer and formal with haha! :P


Jyoan July 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Nice one.


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Thanks Jyoan!


LeGeeque July 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

YAY! I’m so glad you did this post :)

Smart casual will ALWAYS mean jeans for me. I won’t wear my 10-year old ratty Levis but a smart, dark-coloured denim that is fitted always works well.

I’ll add a blazer and a silk scarf to jazz it up. If the weather is too warm, a thin cotton/silk shirt works wonders. For those in-between seasons, I’ll wear a white cotton tee. I would almost always have a colourful/bold silk scarf to add some colour to the outfit.

To be honest, I do sometimes abuse this at work i.e. I’d still wear jeans on non-Fridays. Again, I’ll really dress up the jeans – shirt, blazer, killer boots and fantastic accessories (earrings, statement ring and a bold scarf)

A suggestion to the button – you can always button either the top 1 or 2 buttons. Or, button the middle one. OR, Etsy sells the cutest cardigan guards. Simply drape the cardigan over your shoulders (don’t “wear” it) and clip the cardigan guard across the top of the cardigan. Add a choker-length strand of pearls. You’ll look like Jackie Kennedy with the crop of short hair of yours ;)


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Ooh nice suggestions! I have no idea what a cardigan guard is so I’ll go and look it up! I am quite irreverent when I dress for work so I sometimes try to pass off a pair of casual pants for work, but I team it with something a little more work friendly like a blouse instead of a T-shirt, or I go the other way and wear a T-shirt with a formal skirt but wear a necklace. Still can’t get the hang of wearing scarves although I love how they look especially a bright scarf against a white tee!


Candy July 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Smart casual at my workplace is usually just “no jeans, no shorts, no mini-skirts, no slippers/sandals”. So, a knee-length skirt, a simple blouse and covered flats usually works!

And, you look really great in green!


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Thank you Candy! :D And that is a good interpretation of smart casual although in a social setting, I’ve been advised that dark wash jeans are generally acceptable if you dress up your top :D Then again, work is of course different ;)


xin July 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm

LOL @ Jenn’s comment.

I don’t quite get smart casual either, i always think i look too casual if i go in jeans. If i wear pants/skirt, it wouldn’t be smart casual either. So i think the best way is to throw a chic blazer with a jeans. that at least it’s 50% formal there ;)


Paris B July 28, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Haha you are so right! I think generally, people here aren’t very formal anyway and jeans seem acceptable if they are decent ones, not like holey, faded jeans ;)


Lily July 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Smart casual for me definitely means “jeans OK”. Of course, nothing like worn denim with holes, but something more pulled together, with a blazer, or a cropped jacket. I can’t pull of a cardy like what you’re wearing because the knitted material makes me look extra bulky. I’d need a structured jacket. That green top looks good on you :-)


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Thanks Lily :) And you’re right. Definitely nothing holey on the cards except perhaps lace? Haha…


Kristin T. July 29, 2013 at 1:28 am

My understanding of “smart casual” is the usual office attire (in Malaysia, and perhaps most countries), minus the matching blazer and pants/skirt i.e. suit sets. Even button-down blouses +pencil skirts are considered as smart casual. Peep-toe heels, ballerina flats, short sleeve blouses, shell tops, cardigans, wrap dresses, shift dresses…etc are acceptable under smart casual.

“Formal Business Attire” generally means matching suits and close-toe heels.


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I do tend to agree with your take for most local office wear. In fact, I have noticed a certain relaxing of office attire in recent times! In my case I suppose I’m always in smart casual wear then :D Too fussy to be in formal wear all the time unless I absolutely have to be hehe… I do jeans on Fridays but if the occasion calls for smart casual wear, I have been known to wear jeans too with a dressier outfit ;)


Kristin T. July 29, 2013 at 1:32 am

To top up on my comment, smart casual in most offices generally does not include jeans and sandals as an acceptable attire.

In most corporate companies, jeans (and sometimes khakis) are only allowed on Casual Fridays, that is, if there is any.


Arianne July 29, 2013 at 4:45 am

I’ve never heard of “smart casual” before, but to me I’d interpret it as no tube tops/ripped jeans/flip flops. I think I’d also do a cardigan or blazer (whether structured of flowy) on top.

I dress pretty casually most of the time. Actually your outfit here (so cute, btw! Love the pop of green) is what I’d call dressed up for myself. Hahaha. :)


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Haha I think it’s absolutely interesting how everyone is interpreting this phrase “Smart Casual” It’s such a contradiction! I think your interpretation fits well. Everyone seem so think jeans will be ok with a dressier top which suits me fine :D


lisa July 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

My interpretation is “casual but presentable” enough for semi formal setting. E.g. well tailored fitting jeans in colours like dark navy or white/chino pants, accessories, a nice looking pair of footwear, a nice looking watch, a good looking bag, crisp white shirt etc.


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

You know, Lisa looking at your list, it’s probably what I’d consider getting dressed up haha! I am such a slob on most days :P


Irene July 29, 2013 at 10:12 am

Love the jadigan! :D Smart casual for me would be a dress. Any knee-length dress except those strappy, holey, casual beach/sun dress will do. Worn with ballet flats for more casual than smart, or heels for more smart than casual :D Or I will wear a dressier blouse and paired with trousers/skirt.

Little anecdote : the other day I attended a meeting on a Friday. Being a MEETING – I wore the usual smart-ish blouse, knee-length skirt + closed toe shoes. Nothing is worse than being OVERLY FEMININE in a meeting full of men (in my books). Then all the men were wearing jeans + collared t shirt / casual shirts. But somehow I didn’t think it would have been appropriate for me to have worn my jeans. Double standard yo!


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hahaha Jadigan :D I had to LOL at your anecdote but you know what? I totally agree with you. When it says meeting, I dress up a little more and if I know it’s going to be in the company of men, I always wear skirts or a shift dress and heels ;) But I do agree that men have it so easy. They just have to put on a pair of pants and a shirt and they’re dressed. Women have to consider if they should wear pants or a skirt or a dress and if so, what top to wear, whether to accessorize… so unfair :P


Firn July 29, 2013 at 10:33 am

Lovely! I just can’t wear any coats/sweaters here without sweating the moment I put them on and I don’t really spend that much time in super cold air-conditioning either.

I just think smart casual allows for a structured dark-wash jean and flat shoes (but no sandals/flip flops). Or a casual shorter dress. Basically it’s code for: come in comfortable clothes but don’t look like a bum.


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

When my office air conditioning acts up, I have to put on something before I freeze haha! But when I go out, it comes off :P I like your code! I’ll bear that in mind the next time I see it says Smart Casual :D


Victoria July 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Love your green top and it matches your skin tone so well :-) I always thought smart casual means no jeans, mini skirts or flip-flops. I guess the interpretation differs according to organisations. I prefer short sleeve cardigans which i usually pair up with sleeveless dresses or if I need to button up, I would go for structured jackets.


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm

You’re right actually Victoria. Different people do seem to have different interpretations of the phrase. But I like what Firn said above – dress comfortably but don’t look like a bum LOL! :D


Maya July 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I think it would be ‘smart casual’, if you put on pants, free flowing, quite wide, better dark brown/chocolate or even beige/sandy colours (same color tone or a bit more saturated as your cardigan) with high heels. This green top colour is in fashion, but with your black hair and black skirt, they create too many different directions… Cardigan has warm color, you type (skin and hair tones) has more ‘cold’ accent, so you would warm up it with ‘warm’ tone cardigan, dark grey, black top (neutral) and with some bright warm tone scarf (brick red or terracotta) or neutral grey, white! Scarf should be or in contrast or complimentary to your clothes tones! try it, take your picture full height and you will see! Otherwise this excellent cardigan has too much of ‘formal’ (old chanel) lines and you need to add some freedom and ‘flow’ with wavy pants and scarf (or long, distinctive big beads necklace) ! pls, don’t mind!!!! this is not critique! just I see it like that!


Paris B July 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Hi Maya, thanks for the feedback :) what you say does make sense so I’ll give them a go next time. Fashion is just so hard haha!


Maya July 30, 2013 at 5:46 am

Yes, it is!! Just thought to add: this cardigan is definitely ‘smart casual’, knitted gives that ‘casual’, brand and style gives that ‘smart’. I might be wrong, but to me ‘smart casual’ is like a ‘good taste’, even a bit ‘luxurious’ clothes, that made for ‘casual’ wear, but belong to good brands and good quality style (or look like :). Anyway, great choice!


Paris B July 30, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Thanks! I like this cardigan too – had to get it the minute I set my eyes on it hehe…


Ting July 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

The “cardiket” :p looks lovely unbuttoned. I think you can add a nice thin belt around your waist too. If you have a black top, an interesting detail belt will add a lot of interest. :)

My impression of smart casual, like many who commented here, is primarily dark denim jeans + heels (no flat!) + fitted blazer + neat top. And of course, not too much makeup! :)


Paris B July 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for the suggestions! So many ways to wear this – so fun! :D


Let's Talk ~ Share your view

No SEO names, rude comments or advertising in comments. Please read the comment policy if new.

Previous post:

Next post: