What Every College Student Needs to Know to About the Smart Casual Dress Code

From what to buy to style proof outfit combinations, here's your ultimate guide to nailing the "smart casual" look.
  |  Oct 1, 2021
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If you’re at that point in your life where you're starting to apply for internships or attending professional mixers, then you’ve probably encountered the term “Smart Casual” more than once. This ambiguous dress code can be confusing for college students, so here are a few failsafe guidelines to make sure you neither come looking drab nor overdressed. 

What Do You Mean by Smart Casual? 

Smart casual basically connotes an outfit that’s a level dressier than your normal look day-to-day look. The key is to pair tailored and office-ready pieces with relaxed items to look polished no matter what. For example, you can step out in a sweat top and pants but layer it with a blazer and finish off with sleek pumps. Another common outfit combo is to put together a white button-down and blazer with dark denims and sneakers. Juxtaposing structured outwear or bottoms with typical casual wear (like T-shirts or hoodies), helps break the formalness of your ‘fit—and that’s really the trick to pulling this off. Your shoes also play a huge role in completing the look. Opting for sneakers versus heels can ultimately make or break your look.

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But don’t confuse smart casual with business casual. A “business look” calls for more conservative pieces in a somber or serious color scheme. Let’s say you can opt for a pastel hued dress under a white blazer for a smart casual look, but in a corporate setting, it’s best to pick a frock and jacket in a dark hue for it to pass as “business attire.”  

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What Items Should I Shop for a Smart Casual Look?

Smart Casual Tops 

Always shop for blouses or shirts with a collar to play it safe. But we don’t mean just plain button-downs! Be sure to look for tops with statement pussy bows or ribbons, high-neck details, or ruffles to shake things up.

Smart Casual Dresses

Don't forget to shop for a chic dress you can easily transform for date night or dinner with friends as soon as you clock out. Though an LBD is a non-negotiable, also look for plain or printed wrap dresses, tailored puff-sleeved frocks, and modest bodycons for some variety.

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Smart Casual Outerwear 

When it comes to jackets, a blazer is a must-buy! But don’t just shop for one in black. Be sure to expand your repertoire with silhouettes in pastel and neutral tones. You’ll need structured vests and coats, too, if you plan to explore different kinds of layering. Of course, that’s dependent on the weather, as well.

Smart Casual Bottoms 

For skirts and pants for smart casual dressing, the trick is to never pick a piece that’s too short. What we mean by that is to avoid anything that falls mid-thigh. The shortest (and safest) length is a skirt or pair of shorts that fall above the knee. That’s basically the only rule! You can go wild in terms of the design, silhouette, color and even fabric.

Smart Casual Shoes 

Shoes definitely help elevate a look. But they can also be used to dress it down if it’s a bit much. Case in point: when in a full suit, you can opt for sneakers to add that touch of casual cool. Meanwhile, a sleek pair of pumps can spruce up a denim look. Closed shoes are a no brainer, but you can also shop for strappy heels in muted or neutral tones with a sleek heel if you’re tired of your usual.  

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This story originally appeared on Preview.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.

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