Dressy Casual: The Difference Between Smart Casual and Business Casual

As if deciphering dress codes isn’t confusing enough, it has been made all the more tricky with the advent of dress codes like business casual, smart casual, and dressy casual attire.

While decades ago, people’s dress code vocabulary was limited to white tie, black tie, formal, strict formal, casual, and business attire, today, we have many dress codes in need of decoding, like business casual, smart casual, and dressy casual outfit.

What are business casual, smart casual, and dressy casual outfits?  What are their differences?

Is it just another version of a casual outfit?

Or are business casual, smart casual, and dressy casual outfit more than just casual?


When we refer to casual outfit, we already know that almost anything goes in here – from jeans to shorts to t-shirts and sweats.  Casual refers to informal attire.

It screams comfort more than elegance and style.  But aside from the usual, ordinary casual outfit, there are also other categories of casual outfits that, though it says “casual,” are in reality more than just casual.

Business Casual Attire

Dressy Casual Attire Do’s and Don’ts for Women [Essential Tips]

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Business Casual refers to a relaxed version of business attire.  It’s more casual than your traditional power business attire that’s very formal and uncomfortable to wear.

While it may be considered one of the categories of casual outfit, it can also be considered one of the categories of business attire along with business formal.  It’s really in between casual and business attire.

Unlike in ordinary casual outfit, however, when dressing for business casual, always remember to wear knee-length skirts, khakis, or dress pants.

Avoid wearing jeans (unless your employer allows a specific type of jeans that you can wear), sundresses, and short and body-hugging dresses.

Are Jeans Casual Wear? [Decoding Dress Codes]

Shorts, sweats, and other too casual outfits should also be avoided.  Collared shirts and more conservative shirts and blouses are more acceptable for tops.

Smart Casual Attire

Smart Casual refers to a well-dressed version of casual .  The Oxford dictionary defines smart casual as “somewhat informal but neat.”  This dress code screams flexibility; when you dress up for a smart casual look, you can dress according to your own style, show your personality, and still look and feel comfortable in what you wear.

What is Dressy Casual Attire? [Decoding Dress Codes]

Smart casual outfit is usually for events such as casual social gatherings, weekend meetings, a dinner or night out with friends, or even a date.  Separate pieces such as slacks, crisp jeans, blazers, a skirt, or a nice blouse can be mixed and matched; just make sure that the pieces that you choose are inoffensive and that they flatter you well.  You can also wear boots, flats, or mid-heels to go with your outfit.

Dressy Casual Attire

A dressed up version of your ordinary casual outfit is what dressy casual means.  While it’s in between casual and formal, the emphasis is on being dressy and on having a well-accessorized and well-coordinated outfit.  For dressy casual, the fabrics and outfit must be on a richer and dressier tone.

What Is Dressy Casual For Men? [Decoding Dress Codes]

For dressy casual attire, a knee-length dress or a sundress would be appropriate.  You can also wear a pantsuit, slim slacks, or a knee-length skirt paired with a silk blouse or dressy shirt to pull off a casual yet semi-formal look.  You can also wear your work clothes but with a touch of whimsicality or on a more informal level.  Low and plunging necklines as well as short skirts, denim, and shorts must be avoided.

This Article is part of the Dressy Casual Attire series. Read On:

Decoding Dress Codes: What is Dressy Casual Attire?

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Amy Taylor on Email
Amy Taylor
Hi, I'm Amy, the Beauty section editor for Independent Femme! I've worked at a cosmetics distribution company for a number of years and learned my way through beauty tricks by making a ton of mistakes along the way. I'm here to ensure you don't make the wrong choices some of my former clients and I made!

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