Dressing smart-but-casual can be a tough style option for us mums, especially when fashion keeps changing and you find that most of you older clothing is no longer comfortable, appropriate or even liked after having a baby or two, or three... I know when I had my first, second and last son I had no idea what to wear for 'off-duty' (between you and me, off-duty just meant 'out of the house' back when my sons were born my normal style resembled some oversized t-shirt and big pants. It's still pretty much my go-to style) and going back to work just made the whole escapade even harder.
One minute I was dressed casually - casual style with a baby brain equals comfy leggings, trousers suitable for hiding a Sunday lunch food baby or some hideously low-cost top that was purchased just to be worn in the house and to cover my private region answering the front door. When it came to dressing up ever-so-slightly, well, I think I went OTT. Someone who hadn't dressed up for forty weeks who was now getting to dress up 'smart' like the real humans, hell I was all over that. However, I put too much gusto into this style as I'd pull out the day dresses (that really were just ''dresses'') then I'd get overly excited about putting on heels and accessories and before I knew it I looked like I was ready for hitting the nearest wedding or French Restaurant or something equally glam
So to all you mama's out there this guide will hopefully let you know that smart-casual is a ''thing'' and will guide you back to the light side [or dark side depending on how you look at it].
Let's Start at The Beginning
Getting the smart-but-casual style of dressing right can be tough, we've come to realise that the airy fairy label isn't so airy-fairy when you're putting it all together is it? So casual normally means something you'd wear in your downtime - right? And, equally smart is something you'd wear to go visit church; your granny or for an interview - right? Well, those terms still apply but with modern day change-ups.
This look isn't really for 'downtime' aka wearing your pants around the house and scratching your behind. It's also not suitable for interviews (unless you're a creative type and so is the company you're applying too - that's a whole other post). What this style is suitable for is shopping, appointments, visiting other humans and regaining some of your YOU back. It's a style that's great for flitting to-and-from places comfortably and humanely
It’s Always Better To Overdress Than Underdress
If you’re unsure of how to nail this look, there's a totally awesome Pinterest board called it’s ' Always better to overdress than underdress ' I recommend it for male style and I recommend my own Off Duty Style for female [or male] inspiration. I mean, don’t wear a tiara or anything, but leave your patent stilettos at home. In any given situation overdressing slightly or more maturely is better than underdressing, so bear this in mind. You’ll avoid any embarrassing situations this way too. So overdressing - surely that's just as bad as under dressing? Well, yes and no. Underdressing can catch you short in the wrong circumstances, out for a quick trip into town in your slobby tracksuit bottoms and suddenly you see your frenemy/enemy/boss/someone you just interviewed with and yikes! panic sets in. Imagine that scenario but you're looking more dressed up, no-one can ever fault someone who overdresses but you can sure bet there will be someone Tweeting or social media sharing their opinions at your underdressed new look. So you simply swap a few key elements - to do this think of the fabric and textures. Here are some examples:
△ Down Low. You swap your Lycra leggings that are oh-so-comfy for skinny jeans, you can always opt for the soft waist banded version and no-one will ever know. Failing that you can totally cheat this look by opting for a jumpsuit. Easy to pop on, you can wear these anywhere if you choose the right fit. When purchasing your jumpsuit you should consider a long leg style for a smart-casual look. If you opt for a colour that's masculine - say khaki, you want to ensure you opt for feminine additions such as shoes or accessories. If you opt for a neutral such as black, denim or monochrome then you can pretty much take this look anywhere. You can find plenty of colours, shapes and sizes on your local high street or online - such as the Jumpsuits at Stylewe.
△ Underwear. OK, so we all want to fit back into our skinny little thongs and bikini sized pants. Don't hold onto those, they don't serve you at the moment. Now I'm talking about going all out here with the big pants. Like seriously belly-button covering, hip cuddling BIG PANTS. At first, you're going to want to fight these unsexy pieces of material, however, I dare you to put on a pair of big [size appropriate, don't be cheating by sizing down ladies] pants and then slip into the clothing listed in the steps below.... You're welcome.
△ Up Top. Your loose and ill-fitting t-shirt that has a stain, tear or an overly childish [but cute] print on it swap it. Choose instead a tee that's either slightly oversized with a little elastic or Lycra in it, so you can tuck in or wear loose. V-necks are great as round necks can make a lot of ladies very square and therefore more block looking. Choose a dark colour if you're not confident about your waist or tummy area. And white if you want to emphasise a narrow hip or make your legs the main focus in this outfit.
△ On the top. It's spring now so swap your jacket for a waist-length denim or leather jacket - but keep it simple and forgo any embellishments on the jacket such as rhinestones, tassels and such. For lighter coverage a small knit or floaty kimono style cardigan is clean looking and great for layering as the seasons change. If you hate your bingo wings like I do a small arsenal of shirts from Next won't do any harm - I have so many longline and varied fabric shirts in my wardrobe to wear over vest tops, with jeans, to work or as stand-in cardigans. They never go out of style.
△ Accessories. Take everything you have on you off (with your ring finger being the exception). Accessories worn as 'smart-casual' are supposed to accentuate and to embellish your features. For a smart-casual look, it's about gentle-enhancement. Ask yourself this question:
* What features would I want to change if I was given the option? *
For this, I'm talking features and not body parts. For example, if you want to highlight a small waist and draw the eye away from the bust you want to go for a long line necklace with a simple pendant. If you want to feminine the face a gold or silver stud will never go out of style. If you want to slim a wider face or jawline then opt for a simple metal hoop. Hate your arms, or want to accentuate your slim hands, bangles in varied metal or wood tones stacked or worn singly look great and if you want to shorten a long neck or bring the eyes up from the tummy area a shorter chain necklace or pendant that sits in the decolletage or above is ideal. What you don't want to do is wear too much. A bangle here, a stud there and a pendant - at the most.
Most ladies I know adore a good shoe. We still tend to have our old favourites that come out when no-one's around. I have a few pairs of flats that are beyond shocking in my own cupboard. Flats, however, can absolutely be worn. What you're looking for is a good fit and shape to the flat. Leather (faux or real) and suede are the ideal materials for a polished but casual look. Think Kate Moss, Jessica Alba or Nicole Richie. For the heel fanatic you're going to want to give a kitten heel a try, again in the same materials listed above - or - a simple classic pointed stiletto a la Blake Lively.
Pay Attention To Your Hair And Makeup
Paying attention to your hair and makeup will finish off your outfit nicely. You can have a casual look when it comes to your hair also if your outfit looks clean and fresh. Choose to wear your hair in a bun or back when it's not quite clean, wearing the hair back brings out your natural features and freshness. A dab of under eye cream, some highlighter to accentuate and a slick of lip balm and you're good to go. If you're a hair down gal' then straight, shiny and sleek or bohemian natural looking waves both look great. If you have shorter hair ensure it's clean because dry shampoo has its limitations ladies.
Remember, rocking this look means you need to carry yourself well. You should be confident and smile as that's the easiest way to fake confidence especially if you're someone who's naturally quite shy or nervous. You can find some of my previous smile tips over on this blog post: Beauty Secrets. Keep in mind also, when you take the time to care for yourself with your hair and clothing you’ll automatically feel better, and, your confidence will shine.
It's a win-win ladies.