Have you ever received communication that gives you a dress code but are flummoxed by what it actually means?  Different people may have different expectations or understandings of dress codes. Did you know there are 3 levels of Casual?  It’s as much about assessing the environment you will be in as it is about the actual garments themselves.

Read on to see what these 3 levels of casual are, and which one suits which area of your lifestyle and when.

Smart Casual / Business Casual

This is where you don’t need to be suited or booted or dressed for the nines socially but still need (want) to look smart and stylish.

As opposed to more formal wear, this level of dress has more colour, more texture and is more relaxed as well as making it easier for you to express your personality.  It is pretty much the same for socialising as it is for work.

You don’t need to have separate work and going out clothes because you can easily wear the same garments for both. Transforming them with more accessories and different shoes makes a huge difference to their overall appearance. 

Smart Casual outfit. White blouse with camel dots, camel trousers tan sandals and belt

Links to garments:






When this might work for you:

  • Working in an office or retail environment that doesn’t have a uniform.
  • Going out for dinner
  • Going to the Theatre
  • Drinks reception

What to wear:

  • Smart separates
  • Colours in your colour pattern
  • Fine knitwear
  • Jacket or blazer to compliment your outfit
  • Good jeans
  • Stylish shoes
  • Accessories
  • Good quality fabrics
  • Well applied make-up

What to avoid:

  • Chunky knits
  • Baggy T-Shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Scruffy anything
  • Clothes that do not flatter your shape, colouring or personality

Tidy Casual

Interestingly, most women have at least 60% of their wardrobe in this level of dress as you can combine the items with the smarter pieces to make them smarter.

It has a softer feel too Smart Casual.  When the activities are more relaxed, so, therefore, the clothes can be too.


Tidy Casual outfit of summer checked dress, belt, denim jacket and tan sandals

Links to garments:




note:  I have used the same belt as before


When this might work for you:

  • Going into town
  • Meeting friends
  • Pub lunch
  • Cinema
  • Relaxed BBQ

What to wear:

  • Good Jeans
  • Variety of different tops
  • Knitwear
  • Day dress
  • Relaxed jacket
  • Smart leggings and Tunic
  • Casual shoes / boots
  • Accessories
  • Make-up

What to avoid:


Finally, this level is really only for when you have no social plans. Some of my clients don’t have any clothes in this category as the most relaxed they go would be Tidy Casual even at home.  Others can’t wait to wear clothes in this level.  No rights or wrongs as to whether you like it or not – again it’s about when it’s appropriate to do so.

Casual outfit of yellow breton stripe long sleeve T shirt, Jeans and Yellow Converse

Links to garments:

T Shirt




When this might work for you:

  • Relaxing at home

  • Popping to the local shop
  • Gardening
  • Going for a walk

What to wear:

  • Clothes that may have previously been in the Tidy Casual level but are no longer your favourites.
  • Relaxed T shirts
  • Leggings
  • Chunky knits
  • Comfy Jeans
  • Minimal Jewellery

What to avoid:

  • Nothing is really out of bounds as it’s entirely up to you how relaxed you go if you are not going out

As you can see there is a big difference for when to wear each of the 3 levels of casual. Obviously, this isn’t set in stone – your own personality and lifestyle will dictate what is right for you.  For example, exercising.  Some of you will love wearing the latest stylish gym gear – so that effectively becomes Tidy Casual, while others may prefer an old tatty T shirt and leggings (Casual).  Going for a walk doesn’t necessarily mean wearing your scruffiest clothes.  It may be a relaxed activity, but you can still look and feel good by wearing clothes that suit your colouring and your shape.

One thing that should be consistent is that no matter what you are doing and what level you are choosing to wear, is that you should always love what you are wearing.  (We can all love a snuggly Sunday jumper as much as (if not more than) our best frock).  Just make sure it is appropriate for whatever it is you are doing.