Appropriate Smart Casual Dress for Women

Naima T. Fleming
woman dressed in smart business attire

Stylish and Smart Casual Dress

For every occasion in a woman's life, there is a dress code. If you aren't sure what to think when you see the term 'smart casual,' and your impulse is to reach for a t-shirt, jeans and heels, don't give in. The term smart casual shouldn't be interpreted as relaxed leisure wear, but instead means that one should dress casually with a hint of a professional twist (just not quite as formal). So for your next Saturday business workshop, family function, or brunch try incorporating a few of the wardrobe suggestions featured on the following slides. For purchasing information, click on the More Details link at the top each slide.

Seen here, a structured blouse, fitted slacks, and heels look polished but not too formal.

Theory 'Tenia' Cotton Blend Blouse
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Basic White Button-Down Shirt

A white basic button-down shirt will open your closet up to a world of possibilities for any smart casual look you want to create. From wearing with a skirt, to layering, or with a casual pair of pants, a white shirt is a classic every woman should own. The Theory cotton blend blouse shown here (about $250, available in sizes petite through extra large) is a crisp, versatile staple that can be worn time and time again.

Women's Tailored Ponte Blazer - Merona™
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Sharp Blazer

Whether you want to wear a printed pair of pants, a skirt, or a knee-length dress, a solid color blazer, such as this Tailored Pointe style (about $30, available in sizes extra small through XXL) can add a sharp touch. Appearing pulled together with a blazer can even take a pair of jeans or leather pants far for weekend events when you have to have a casual, but put-together look.

Wool Blazer Vest
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Stylish Vest

Don't worry that layering outfit separates make you appear too laid back. By pairing a vest with other casual basics, a modern look can come together nicely. However, be careful of not wearing fabrics that are too baggy, or you run the risk of appearing frumpy. The clean lines and neutral color of this long wool Blazer Vest from Gap (approximately $80 in regular or tall) give it a look that is relaxed yet polished, and look beautiful with a fitted long-sleeved shirt.

Heart in the Right Workplace Shirt Dress at Modcloth
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Vibrant Printed Dress

Casual smart by no means should be mistaken for presenting a lack of personality through your clothes. Show off your style with a bold print that can be worn with a chic pair of heels or ballet flats. A printed dress is a simple one-piece solution when pulling together a casual smart ensemble. The modest neckline, nipped-in waist, and chevron pattern of this dress from Modcloth are flattering for most body types, and it is appropriate for many situations. It is available for just over $50 and comes in sizes XS through 4XL.

Pencil skirt at J. Crew
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Solid Color Pencil Skirt

Thinking of how to wear your favorite sweater or fun knit with a pair of ankle boots or strappy heels, but not in the mood for pants? A pencil skirt is a fuss-free closet must-have for tying together a quick outfit. The neutral grey color and classic style of this Italian stretch wool pencil skirt by J. Crew make it a flattering, go-to staple for a smart casual look. It can be purchased for about $150 and comes in sizes 000 through 16.

Black pants at Lands' End
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Basic Black Pants

Black pants, when paired with anything from a denim shirt to a basic tee shirt, add a subtle vibe of being polished with a touch of edge. A smart investment, black pants can be worn with anything whether you have to turn up your look for business or a smart casual weekend brunch or art gallery opening. The wide-leg cut of these mid-rise pants from Land's End are perfect to wear with a tucked-in top and heels. Available in regular sizes two through 12 and plus sizes 18 to 24, these pants are an affordable essential at just under $30.

Plus Size Seamed Sheath Dress
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Little Black Dress

If there was one dress to have in your closet that could be paired several ways and worn time and time again for work and any other occasion outside of the office, it would be the little black dress. For an easy day, you may want to pair a turtleneck under your black sheath dress and for a more business-filled day of meetings or a conference, you would wear a blazer with a little flair.

The classic sheath cut and flattering seams of this style from Dressbarn (available in sizes 14-22 for about $70) is easy to wear alone with a statement necklace and heels, or pair with other pieces to change up the look.

Sheri Velvet Skinny Jeans available at Bloomingdale's
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Pants With a Pop

Although neutral tone pants are versatile items that can be mixed and matched with a number of items in your wardrobe, pants in an unexpected color can add a pop. A gem tone such as burgundy can be worn with other neutrals and prints such as leopard. When you want a pair of pants that can be worn during the day and recreated for a jazzy evening look, a velvet pair, such as these BYDJ Sheri Skinny Jeans (about $135, sizes 0-16) is the answer.

Vince Camuto Striped Open Front Cardigan
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Long Cardigan Sweater

Having a few simple cardigans on hand is a great idea for any seasonless wardrobe. Once you have the basics covered, a long cardigan sweater may quickly become your favorite coverup. An open front cardigan, such as the Vince Camuto striped style shown here (approximately $120, sizes XXS through XL) can be worn with a black dress or layered over a tunic and leggings with boots or heels. There are no limits with a long cardigan.

IRO Frayed Edge Knit Jacket
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Frayed-Edge Knit Jacket

Blazers make all the difference when building a versatile smart casual wardrobe. While having a black or pinstriped blazer is a great idea, a vintage-inspired one is great to have on days when you are feeling a little Chanel-esque. A frayed-edge classic knit jacket, like this style from IRO (about $600, available in sizes two through 12) can be worn with a skirt or pants and paired with a dressy knit top, or blouse with a bow and topped off with pearls.

With so many diverse demands in a woman's lifestyle, having great basic wardrobe pieces that can be worn in a variety of ways is essential. Wearing smart casual looks is simple, yet requires a bit more effort than jeans and a tee. Keep your outfit polished with style and ease - and you will have a winning look every time.

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Appropriate Smart Casual Dress for Women