What Is Smart Casual Attire for Women?

By Marie Sporich

When it comes to fashion, the term "smart" refers to a look that appears polished, classy and put-together. The foundation of a smart look is clothing that fits well because it's properly tailored to the wearer's shape. Outerwear and accessories bring balance and show personal style. For women, smart casual dressing describes a style that can be worn just about anywhere, from the office to a sporting event or dinner date. Start with the right foundation of tailored separates or a dress, and add appropriate outerwear for the season along with understated accessories.

Women in a conference call
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Color and proportion help balance a smart casual look.

Sleek Separates

For a classic smart casual look, start with a tailored trouser. Try straight-leg pants tailored to fit your waist and hips. Hemlines should just graze the floor when worn with a mid-height heel. If you're more comfortable in jeans, go for a very dark blue or black washed denim. A classic white collared button-up shirt is another flattering closet staple, with long sleeves for winter and short for summer. Silk blouses give you a more feminine alternative -- just make sure your blouse isn't too baggy or sheer. Balance the color of smart separates with a neutral black trouser and patterned shirt. A slim pant or pencil skirt balances proportion with layers on top.

Day to Night Dresses

Traditional dress silhouettes that fit you well are the easiest foundation for a smart casual look. The right dress can be worn year-round when paired with the right accessories. A shift dress or sheath dress should have a hemline that rests just at or above the knee. Though solid neutrals like black, navy and cream are the most versatile, prints can work too, as long as they're not too bright or large. Wear any jacket or coat over a sleek dress, with tights or leggings underneath during cooler months. Sleeveless shifts or sheaths are appropriate in the summer if they have wide shoulder coverage -- no spaghetti straps.

Flattering Outerwear

A universally flattering choice to polish your look is a tailored blazer. One-, two- or three-button blazers with a notched collar help create a flattering silhouette on any body shape. The hemline should hit between high and low hip length, and the first or middle button should close right at your natural waistline. No matter what you wear underneath, a woven blazer always looks smart. Denim jackets are another versatile option, and strike a chic balance with a little black dress. Cashmere and other fine knit sweaters always look smart over a collared shirt with a pencil skirt and heels or dark denim.

Polished Accessories

Classic pumps enhances any smart look, from jeans to dresses. Heel height is a personal preference, but should not be so high that the shoes are difficult to walk in for long periods. Boots give you another smart option, at ankle, mid-calf or knee height. Neutral shades like black, chocolate and camel brown in leather or suede go with any ensemble. Handbags should never be too bulky, and the more structure, the better. Solid hues look more polished than prints, and leather or PVC is durable and chic. Keep your jewelry subtle, aside from one statement piece. A chunky necklace or cuff bracelet adds personal style to basic trousers and a tailored blouse.