A stylist has finally told us what ‘smart casual’ actually means

Do jeans count?

The most ill-defined dress code of all, smart casual is slapped onto every event to ever exist. Coffee, brunch, meeting the parents, interviews – literally every single time you ask what to wear to an event, people will say “smart casual.”

At a glance, smart casual seems like an anything-goes situation, but it’s actually a lot more prescriptive.

To put an end to everyone’s suffering, we asked fashion stylist, Alex Longmore, to tell us once and for all, what smart casual actually is. According to her, it’s “just one step below cocktail, a more polished look compared to what you tend to wear on a day-to-day basis, but not too much effort.”

The biggest mistakes are wearing unironed clothes or going too over the top

Turning up to an event without ironing your clothes is pretty obvious, but not going too over the top is the key to the smart casual look.

Annoyingly, there will always be that one annoying person in your friend group who nails every single look, always effortlessly chic in her white cotton trousers and elegant silk blouse. Alex told us “the key to their success is staying in the safe middle ground between effortless and polished.” Apparently going too over the top is as big a faux pas as being too scruffy. Alex added: “no head to toe Gucci please.”

Jeans are okay, as long as they are paired well

Alex says plain jeans in indigo or black are okay as long as they’re not ripped, so leave that Topshop pair in your wardrobe. If you want to risk it and wear jeans, Alex says: “The key to bringing an outfit together is a smart pairing – like a smart silk shirt or flouncy top.” If the balance between the two opposites is off though, it won’t work.

But, apparently ‘smart casual’ isn’t a thing anymore anyway?!

Nowadays we’re pretty aware of what’s too smart for a pub, or too casual for a party, but regardless we use the term for everything.

Alex says smart casual is a somewhat of a dated concept, because “nowadays we have a better understanding of the dress codes of venues we are going to, so smart-casual doesn’t have much of a standing anymore.”

The rules are different for men and women

Sometimes wearing smart casual can feel forced and therefore uncomfortable. According to Alex, that’s because the dress code is geared more towards men than women.

“Men are expected to wear ironed shirt and jackets, but may get away without wearing a tie. For women smart casual often means dressy”, Alex commented.

There is a fine line between business casual in London and outside of the city

The meaning of smart casual varies depending on where you’re from. Alex explains the reason why most fashion related mistakes happen is because people don’t consider the setting of the venue, or the people that will be there when they’re getting dressed.

She says: “While in London you could get away with pretty much anything within reason, in the countryside it is best to make sure you are not as dressed up.”

So there you have it: jeans are okay for smart casual as long as there are no rips, iron your clothes and always consider the venue. Easy.