Career

‘Smart Casual’ Workplace? Here’s How To Nail It.

Whether you work in a very corporate office or a much more relaxed workplace, understanding the dress code can be confusing. Especially when you have to master the smart-casual conundrum.

You don’t want to look too stuffy – like the kid who forgot it was mufti day. But you also don’t want to look too relaxed, as it is still a working day.

Two parts smart – one part casual

As a Personal Stylist I always advise my clients to err more on the smart side. Especially if you’re new to the workplace. You want to be taken seriously and project a professional image to your coworkers and managers, every day of the working week. Plus, when we dress the part we are nearly always more productive. We send a strong signal to our mind that it’s business time.

The easiest way to apply the Two parts smart to One part casual formula? Replace one of your obvious ‘worky’ pieces with a more casual item.

Try this:

  • Replace your work trousers with jeans (keep the rips/distressing to a minimum, unless you’re in a very creative industry) but keep the shirt and blazer.
  • Instead of blazer, grab a denim or leather jacket.
  • Replace your shirt or blouse with a fun t-shirt and work back with your trousers and trench coat.
  • Swap the pumps for Pumas for a sporty and fun twist on your pencil and skirt combo. These sneakers should be clean and not your workout ones.
  • Switch your fitted sheath dress for a simple t-shirt dress (at least knee length) with smart pumps and blazer.
  • Reach for your brightest shoes to wear with your otherwise simple outfit.
  • Depending on your workplace – a jumpsuit or denim overalls with a collared shirt and pointy pumps is a fun alternative to a work dress.

Another way to think about it – particularly if you are expected to wear more casual items Monday to Friday – is keeping the shapes very work appropriate but in more ‘casual’ fabrics. Think leather pencil skirts, cotton shirt dress, denim shirts.

If you’re worried you’ve gone too ‘weekend’ think: If I got pulled into a meeting right now, would I feel confident?

A fail-safe style tip is to always keep a smart jacket/blazer on the back of your desk chair so you can feel pulled together in a hurry.

Budget friendly

An upside to wearing weekend pieces at the office is you get more use out of your wardrobe and reduce the need to have ‘work’ and ‘home’ clothes. Which can be a nice relief for your wallet, too.


Gemma is a Melbourne based Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. The Founder of Dress Your Best, she’s obsessed with helping women celebrate their bodies and dress for the life they want.