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How to Master the Smart Casual Dress Code for Your New Grad Job

by Urszula Sosnowska

Starting your new graduate job and need some office style guidance? We get it, dressing for work can be a bit tricky - or even downright boring. And new jobs always give us the Sunday Scaries. 

As the corporate fashion era gradually gives way to Gen Z-dominated offices, the smart casual dress code is gaining popularity.

But what exactly is smart casual?

Smart casual lies somewhere between your everyday attire and formal office wear, striking the right balance for that mid-week meeting.

Smart casual isn't rigid, with no strict rules to follow every time you prepare for work. And while that flexibility can be great, the endless possibilities also seem daunting. 

But don’t worry, we're here to guide you on how to create a smart casual outfit that's perfect for your new job.

Here's what you need to know to build your smart casual wardrobe, regardless of your style or gender:

1. Tailored Trousers 

Beginning with tailored pants will instantly elevate your outfit's sophistication, an easy way of looking ‘put together’ (even if you don’t feel it).

Cigarette pants, wide-leg trousers, and chinos all work well. Pair formal trousers with a less formal tee for a smart casual ensemble.

Even jeans can fit the bill, provided they fit well. Consider combining them with a blazer for that touch of smart in your smart casual.

2. Incorporate the Timeless Blazer

On that note, lets talk more about blazers. 

Although they seem very corporate, a blazer can help make a maybe too casual look still work for an office. Without the restriction that you get from other more corporate clothing like a button down shirt or chinos. 

Wear it over a plain tee, a polo, or a blouse. But, to maintain the casual vibe, skip the tie and matching trousers.

You can also swap the blazer for a lightweight cardigan when the weather heats up.

3. Embrace Layering

Layering can transform your look. The same blouses or shirts from your corporate wardrobe can serve as base layers to enhance your smart casual appearance. Add a tee and ensure the shirt's collar peeks over the top.

While it might evoke a Chandler Bing vibe, a sweater vest can surprisingly elevate your work attire too. Stick on a long-sleeved maxi dress and pair it with a comfy sweater vest for extra sophistication and added warmth. 

Opt for a vest in a colour that ties with one of the hues in your dress, and voilà – you've effortlessly infused your ensemble with a touch of corporate chic.

4. Embrace Colour

Don't shy away from bold, colorful outfits. The essence of this dress code is simply to present a polished appearance.

Your wardrobe need not be limited to dull grays and blacks. Colorblocking is a hit in the office. Think pink jumpers with yellow trousers, a silky dark blue maxi skirt paired with a light blue tee, or a green blouse matched with a black pencil skirt - you get the gist. 

A vibrant tailored jumpsuit or a plain shirt with wide-leg pants can also embody the smart casual aesthetic.

An easy way to add colour is through dresses and skirts. And, they’ll always remain reliable choices, as long as you avoid minis. The options are endless: wrap, pencil, midi – explore them all.

6. Choose Your Footwear Wisely

As for the shoes, this is where smart casual really has it benefits. Chunky work shoes? Stick them in the bin. 

Smart casual shoes strike a balance between practicality and style. Opt for clean trainers that make darting between meetings or coffee runs a breeze.

If trainers aren't your preference, don't worry. Heels, stylish boots, or comfortable ballerina flats seamlessly fit into this look. Although you may want to consider the height of your heels - we’re just trying to look out for your feet!

7. Find the Smart-Casual Sweet Spot

The essence of smart casual is to balance smartness (such as a blazer and cigarette trousers) with casual elements (like trainers and a tee).

While the vague description of what is and isn’t smart casual can seem overwhelming; embrace the multitude of pairing options and allow yourself to infuse your personality into each ensemble.

Remember, the key to success is good tailoring. Clothes that fit well not only enhance your appearance but also boost your confidence.

As you embark on your new graduate role, mastering the smart casual dress code can empower you to exude professionalism while expressing your unique style. Good luck, you got this!

Edited by Emily Duff


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