I’m often asked about appropriate attire for “casual Fridays”. It’s quite simple: keep things smart casual. This is the easiest way to tone down the formality but maintain a professional look. It ensures that you are prepared for an unexpected event. You might even like to dress smart casually on a daily basis if your dress code or lifestyle allow it.

Here’s an update to refresh your memory on this flop-proof outfit. At a high level, this is the simple formula:

Smart Casual dressing = Dressing up smart denim

Here are the components in more detail:

  • Smart jeans or denim skirt: get the darkest blue wash that you can find. Trouser cut denim styles are also great (grey and black are other colors to consider). No rips or fading.
  • Dressy top: select styled knitted tops or pieces of knitwear in better-end fabrications, woven girly tops, tunics or tailored collared shirts. Plain T’s are not smart enough, unless they’re in a luxurious fabric and used as a layering piece. You’ll want to look professional when you take off your jacket, so the dressier the top, the smarter you’ll look.
  • Camisole: pop a camisole under a dressy top as an interesting layering piece and color vehicle. It’ll also work wonders to smooth out and narrow your silhouette.
  • Jacket: layer a structured jacket over your first layer (or second layer if you’re wearing a camisole) when it starts to get chilly, or when you need to look extra smart.
  • Trench coat or coat: you’ll want something warmer than a structured jacket in Winter, so pop on a trench or coat instead of a jacket as it gets colder. Add a dressy scarf and gloves as temperatures begin to plummet.
  • Shoes: wearing dressy shoes is key. They can be heeled or flat, but not casual. Knee-high boots and hose are an ideal choice for denim skirts.
  • Bag: adding a small or large dressy handbag completes the look and without it your style quotient will slip.

Opting for smart jeans is the obvious choice for the denim component, but adding a cropped, tailored denim jacket to a dressy skirt or dress works equally well. Tweak the formula and create a funkier look by wearing a dress over jeans, tucking skinnies into dressy boots or adding a dramatic, waist-cinching belt to a voluminous top. Once you have all the pieces, smart casual will become like a uniform that you can put together creatively every day. You’ll always look naturally pulled-together, appropriately dressed and effortlessly stylish.

Susan B Wool Sweater & Stam Denim TrouserMetal Cotton Coat & May Denim PantMartine B Jacket & May Denim Pant

Feel free to interpret smart casual dressing according to your fashion persona. These funky smart casual ensembles are from BCBG. It’s refreshing to see fancy flats incorporated into the look.