What’s business casual dress code?

What does smart casual dress code mean?

Today I’m going to talk about a topic that I have been debating in my head for years. And probably so have you since you’ve reached this far: what’s business casual dress code? Also known as smart casual dress code.

Let me tell you: this question has no right or wrong answer. Smart-casual is such a vague umbrella term and there’s no way to pin down a precise rule for it. So keep reading to find out what you CAN wear as a smart casual outfit and also HOW you should do it. 

In our last blog we brainstormed ideas on what to wear and what to avoid wearing to interviews. Today’s topic somewhat overlaps with the concept of smart casual outfits, however it also addresses a wider topic that not only affect women preparing for interviews.

I joined the finance industry right after graduating from university half a decade ago. Our 10-storey office is located in the heart of London. And yes, you guessed right! It’s all about the business casual dress code uk! It took me a while to tune my wardrobe and figure out what I can and what I should not wear. This involved frustration, a lot of shop hunting and also a few embarrassing moments, but oh well…they all lead me here so I can explain & share them with you. 

Most workplaces will have different dress codes for business casual uk but the majority of them don’t enforce strict business outfit requirements anymore. In fact more and more offices in the city of London have a smart casual dress code in place. This is picking up across multiple industries, such as technology, academia and most of the start-up workplaces. Although my main area of experience is within the finance industry, the tips and tricks that you are going to learn here are multi-functional! So keep reading on!

What you’ll learn in this article?

I belong to the group of people who like to see their outfit ideas visually on someone else before buying it themselves. It gives us reassurance to see the dress not only looking gorgeous but also being fully functional and practical. But is this enough for work clothes? Does it mean that it’s acceptable at my workplace? How do I know if it’s appropriate in my industry? To tackle your questions we first need to find an answer to “what does smart casual dress code mean”. So keep reading to see what we came up with!

In this blog I want to focus on what’s business casual dress code exactly. And to do that, we will start off with a little history lesson on how work clothing has evolved over time. 

I chose to share this with you because after lots of thinking I realised that there is no better way to address all your doubts and questions than looking into the history of it all! So I want you to spend the next few minutes with me to go through the history of work attire! Hence I can show you how we came up with the three pillars of what’s business casual dress code.

After that, we will move right into our TOP 5 TIPS that we prepared for you to pick your perfect smart casual outfits for work. These are 5 little tricks that you should look out for when purchasing your office clothes. We will also talk about the thin line between smart casual and too casual and how you should never cross it!

So let’s get started!

The evolution of workwear

Middle ages – workwear is born

The first glimmers of work uniforms date back to the middle ages. This is when workers used to wear badges on their clothes. It allowed them to denote themselves to a specific job role or employer. It made them recognisable by others and helped them prove their legitimacy. Or in the case of the army it allowed them to differentiate their ranks. 

18-th to 19th century: the pride we felt to wear uniforms

Later on liveries became more popular than badges. (A livery is a special uniform worn by a servant or an official that tends to be colourful and outstanding.) Throughout the 18th and 19th century, many households employed staff who were dressed in liveries. Serving in a notable household was seen as an honourable thing and thus it gave them a sense of pride

You’re probably wondering why I keep rambling on about the past, instead of getting to the point of what does smart casual dress code mean exactly… Well, if you think about it, we are experiencing these same traditions ourselves now. Think about all the promotional T-shirts you have piled up in your wardrobe, whether they are yours or you inherited them from your siblings or friends. I mean, they were not created to only be worn as comfy pyjamas…I know, I do that too! But the intention was totally different.

Wearing your half-marathon T-shirt makes you feel proud and confident. It reinforces the cause you supported with all your time and hard work that you invested in your run. Wearing your company T-shirt on a community work day you feel proud for belonging to the company you work for. They are sponsoring your day away from your desk and daily responsibilities so you can serve and give something to the community. And the list can go on and on. What I wanted to show you with my point is that we still wear colours and logos. This is whether to represent the brand of the employer we work for or the sponsor that supports us. 

Essentially the outfits we wear represent a sense of confidence in our actions and behaviour and that’s what’s business casual dress code uk is all about. That’s the type of clothes we need to wear to work. 

Utility dresses as uniforms during the War

During the devastating time of the wars the world was in a state of ration. Governments began to apply restrictions on clothing and certain fabric types, such as silk. They also introduced the Utility Scheme in 1941 where the government established sewing patterns to tailors so they could produce utility dresses that followed the rules. These clothes needed less fabric with simpler and plainer designs, for example wrap dresses, tea dresses etc… Pleats, pockets and the number of buttons were also restricted. 

During the war women started taking up civilian jobs while continuing managing their households. Many jobs included heavy manual labour such as working in factories, power plants, military auxiliaries etc. For them traditional dressing including skirts and dresses were no longer feasible, instead they turned to trousers and overalls. In this case clothing saw a shift in purpose and functionality where safety and practicality took priority over fashion and glamour.  

However, women working in offices were able to wear utility dresses as uniforms. To boost morale, the government involved famous fashion designers to create 34 smart utility clothing designs. Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies were among the many popular designers who came up with some streamlined and stylish CC41 (Civilian Clothing 1941) utility dresses. They were designed with shorter skirts and slimmer silhouettes for practical reasons of course, like shortage of materials, but also emphasising elegance and femininity.

What does smart casual dress code mean in our modern days?

The line between what’s business casual dress code and casual workwear remains blurry so at Aya Mana we define smart casual workwear with our main three pillars as highlighted above: pridepracticality and individuality

Clothing is a part of your packaging, your brand. The way you dress conveys a message to your colleagues, boss, associates, and customers. Put in the time and effort to shape that brand of yours in a way that will make you confident and proud. Working from home for two years during Covid times has affected us all in different ways. You experienced the comfort of taking virtual meetings in pyjamas and answering work calls from bed. I get it, I’ve done that too! But while flexibility and comfort should be key factors in your outfit choices, make sure to dress smartly with a touch of your personality to your work wardrobe.

Top 5 tips on What does smart casual dress code mean?

We have already touched on the history of workwear which eventually led us to define smart casual dress code as a three pillar structure: pride, practicality and individuality. Now let’s dive into some tips and examples that can serve you as a guideline to create your most ideal smart-casual workwear wardrobe!

#1: Collars on blouses and dresses for a subtle formal look

You are unsure if your tightly-fitting blouse would be suitable for work. You are not convinced whether you should wear your glossy satin dress to the office. Here is a simple trick! Add the collar – get the chic look!

A collar will give a smarter touch to your entire dress or blouse. There are many collar styles out there, here we picked a few that can never go wrong when paired with any garments…

However, here is the key to our tip #1: classic white coloured shirts are not your only option! Aya Mana is introducing its very first collection featuring various styles of collars on tops and dresses so your workwear can achieve that extra je ne sais quoi! Check it out, try it and let us know what you think!

#2: Don’t be shy to play with the colours!

You asked what’s business casual dress code and here is your answer: colours. You must be surprised to hear that simply picking the right colours is what it takes! That it can be the thin line that separates smart casual from too casual! You can either go with your soft and hazy colours for a more sophisticated look or choose the quirky, cheerful and bold to reflect your character and individuality! 

I chose to include a lavender and mauve colour schemes in Aya Mana’s first collection to represent the gracepurity and intuition of the strong and hard-working woman of the modern era. But also because purple adds a hint of tranquillity and calmness to your appearance and boosts your inner peace – a great start to the hustle and bustle of autumn.

Fun fact – did you know that people who choose mauve as their favourite colour are hopeless romantics?

#3: Tune your outfit to match the new season 

Why not show a little creativity and playfulness with your outfit choices? Go for a seasonal themed fabric pattern, or pick colour sets that match the weather or nature. There are tons of other fun ways to mix & match your wardrobe, just let your creativity and imagination excel!

#4: Satin dress, sheen fabric, shiny you!

Combine a simple dress style with smooth sheen fabric for a boost of elegance and sophistication in your appearance. Satin is a popular weave known for its shiny and luxurious finish. 

#5: What’s business casual dress code you ask? Comfort, comfort and more comfort!

As our second pillar of what does smart casual dress code mean above, practicality should play a role of utmost importance in your choice of dressing. Afterall, you are committing to spending 8 hours of your day in one single outfit. You should feel liberated and confident not only as you move around your office, but also during your breaks.

The Aya Mana collection takes this into account: all the fabrics we chose give a little ease to the shaping of the garment around your body. The organic knit jerseys that we use in the Grace blouses are great for the colder seasons and well known for their stretchiness and flexibility.

On the other hand, woven fabrics do not stretch in any direction and hence accurate fitting is crucial before you buy them. They are better at holding the shape of a garment and also more suitable for the summer. Rich flowy draped garments also need to be made of woven materials to create a luxurious and soft look.

We wanted to achieve all of this but still ensure your full comfort, so the trick we applied to the Aya Mana collection was to add a percentage of elastane to the construction of the woven fabrics. This way you can feel lavish and cosy at the same time.

Now it’s your turn! What’s business casual dress code for you?

The pandemic made us get used to wearing whatever the hell we want at home during work hours because…why not? It was comfy and convenient to wake up just a few minutes before the first Zoom of the day. Then crawl out of bed and join the meeting in pyjamas. However, this state is not sustainable! We need to attempt to resume to our pre-pandemic habits. Although it’s undeniable that we will always bear the impact of covid times on our everyday lives. Noooow you’re up next! What does smart casual dress code mean to you? What are your top outfit choices for work. Let us know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “What’s business casual dress code?

  1. bright loveland snow says:

    its very crucial to know what to wear at a particular time. this post has been helpful to me. thanks for sharing

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