The ability to dress down an outfit is an essential part of any flexible wardrobe because it will allow your dressy items to do double duty in casual outfits. It’s easy to dress down an ensemble by adding one or more of a few key items. And once you have these items, you’ll be able to use them over and over again to dress down all sorts of new dressy darlings that make it into your wardrobe.

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Add denim: Wearing jeans, denim clamdiggers, denim shorts or a denim skirt with a dressy top and jacket is a no-brainer. A denim jacket or waistcoat is the perfect way to relax a dressy frock or dressy separates. And the more faded the denim, the more you’ll dress down the look.
  • Add casual footwear: Flat footwear tends to be less dressy but heels can also be casual. In warm weather, sandals with cork/wodden heels and wedges are great. Heeled espadrilles and ballet flats will also work. Casual and rugged boots, like Fryes or flat heeled biker boots, work very well. Slouchy boots are another good option. It’s usually the leather finish that makes footwear look more casual. For example, distressed finishes and contrast top stitching. Chunky soles also go a long way to relax the look of a shoe.
  • Add casual jewelry: Think pendants on leather necklaces, wooden or plastic necklaces and bangles, leather cuffs and casual floral pins. Basically anything that isn’t that shiny and glitzy. However, dressy refined jewelry can dress down an outfit pretty well too.
  • Add a casual handbag: Unstructured hobo-style leather or faux leather handbags scream casual, especially if the leather is distressed. Crochet and wicker bags too.
  • Add a casual belt: Sometimes adding a casual belt to match the casual footwear is effective.
  • Scrunch the sleeves: Scrunching long sleeves adds instant casual integrity to any outfit.

Here are a few examples that I’ve drawn from previous posts.

  1. Denim is hands down my favourite way to dress down any look. Here I dressed down my semi formal black pussy bow blouse with jeans, Fryes and a casual belt.
  2. I dressed down my professional and strict-looking pinstripe suit with the same casual footwear and belt. Yes the bag and accessories are still dressy, but scrunching the sleeves helped to further relax the vibe of the outfit.
  3. My purple Ted Baker frock is dressy enough for a day wedding, but I dress it down with my faded denim jacket and a slouchy bag to create an outfit that I wear when shopping with clients. The distressed leather on the shoes helps too.
  4. My red vintage dress has taken me to many evening weddings, but pairing it with a denim jacket is by far my favourite way of wearing it right now. That way, I can wear it much more frequently. The polka dot handbag is structured, but it’s made of cloth, which makes it less dressy.

Even with my dressed down outfits I either wear dressy jewelry, or no jewelry at all.

Finally, it is true that my relaxed looks err on the dressier side of casual. You may want to dress down your ensembles further, and you can combine more than one of my suggestions above to do so.