How To Dress To The Code: Smart-Casual

If there’s one dress code I dislike, it’s ‘smart-casual’.  What does that even mean? It seems like a contradiction.  Does it mean smart, but not too smart, or casual, but not too casual?

It took me ages to fully understand this dress code.  I’ve been to enough events now where the dress code is ‘smart-casual’.  But there is always that underlying fear that I am too smart.  But then, I don’t want to turn up too casual.

How to figure out how smart or casual you should be:

  1. Look up the venue for the event.  I recently went to an event at Goldfinch Bar in Auckland.  It was ‘smart-casual’.  I decided to be a bit more casual for this one as it was just at a bar.  It was a ‘pre-party’ for a conference – so it didn’t require you to dress up so much.
  2. Look at the type of event it is.  If it is a cocktail party, I would dress up a little bit more.  Be a bit smarter. Dresses above the knee are the best for this type of party.
  3. Ask other people what they will wear.  This is important because you don’t want to be the person who dressed up for a cocktail party when it’s really just a pre-party.
  4. Clarify.  Ask the event organiser what they mean by smart-casual.  Give them examples.  For guys, ask if it’s a tie event. This will actually make it easier for the ladies too.  If a girl can see what the expectations for the men’s attire is than it makes it so much easier to pick a dress or outfit for the occasion.
  5. Dress up, but not too ‘up’.  I like dressing up anyway, so if I do have a smart-casual event to go to, I tend to put on a pair of heels that aren’t too flashy or I do my makeup a little bit more understated.
  6. Take a cute cardie with you.  I have a heap of lace cardies or boleros that I take with me to events.  They make the outfit dressy enough so if you get there and the event is dressier than you expect I chuck the bolero on and it instantly dresses up the outfit.  I really like my Vero Moda lace and chain bolero – it adds a bit of edge to my outfits and it looks dressy too.
  7. Add a few accessories.  Nothing too heavy but just something that catches the eye and dresses up your outfit.  I like to wear my Chanel earrings – they are covered in diamantes and catch the light.

With smart-casual I think it is important to dress smarter than you think the event will be.  You can always dress your outfit down (e.g. with less flashy heels) so that it doesn’t appear to smart.  It really would be horrible to turn up to an event looking really casual.

This is a picture of a smart-casual Christmas cocktail party I went to:

cocktail party

A picture of another smart-casual event I went to in January (summertime here):

smart casual

For another event I went to recently I wore the same outfit as above but with seamed stockings and black heels.  I also wore my Vero Moda bolero since it is the middle of winter here.

It does get much easier as time goes by to figure out the best outfit for such an event. But it is still mind-boggling sometimes!

What’s your least favourite dress code for parties?

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