Katie O'Malley

Guest Writer



How to Master Smart Casual Workwear

From an oversized blazer teamed with a crisp white T-shirt, to a pair of midi heels that’ll take you from desk to dancefloor, understanding how to style workwear attire that’s both interchangeable and multifunctional has never been more imperative. Gone are the days where women would pull out a trusty 1980s-inspired double-breasted ‘power suit’, or a polka dot dress with architectural shoulder pads from the wardrobe to effuse authority in the boardroom. Nowadays, working women know it’s not so much what you wear, rather how you style your clothes with confidence that really matters.

In a post-pandemic world, following a near two-year period which saw many of working from home in tracksuits and pyjamas, the business smart casual approach has done a 180. For some, dressing for the office now means tucking a slouchy silk pyjama shirt into a pair of comfortable ‘mom’ jeans, styled with a pair of chunky trainers. For others, it’s an opportunity to opt for a tailored blazer, knitted midi dress, and wide-legged suit trousers. The strict 9-5 office dress code has gone, and in its place are a new set of rules written by and for the working woman.

Karen Millen Smart Casual Workwear

Read on for more inspiration on how to master business smart casual and create a look that’ll take you from dawn to dusk.

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A failsafe way to incorporate sharp tailoring into your wardrobe is to invest in a well-fitted suit. While camel and black are classic hues, why not try experiment with colour for a fresh take on the style in 2023? Alternatively, play around with your silhouette with a belted midi dress and heels, or button-up waistcoat styled with a pair of cargo trousers and chunky loafers as a modern interpretation of business dressing.

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The Hard-Working Dress

A dress is the perfect piece of arsenal every working woman should have in their wardrobe to strike the balance between business and smart casual, that can be styled up or down depending on the day. One of my go-to outfits for a day in the office is a midi dress that can be teamed with a pair of tights, chunky platform boots and an oversized blazer for the day, and switched up with an oversized pair of statement earrings and strappy heeled sandals for post-work cocktails. My top tip is to opt for a midi with a bold print, such as stripes or an animal print, or a variety of textures with a touch of leather or silk. Alternatively, choose a brightly-coloured mini dress that can be layered with a trench coat or duster jacket to mix up dimensions and add some formality.

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Maxi Skirts

A maxi skirt is a great alternative to jeans or leather trouser if you’re looking to add a touch of luxury to your look, or experiment with proportions. My go-to maxi skirt during the winter is a pleated midi skirt that can be styled with a graphic T-shirt and midi heels, or a chunky knitted jumper, tights and chunky platform boots. If you want to mix fabrics, opt for a brightly-coloured satin or neutral-hued leather skirt that can be teamed with a knitted vest or bodysuit for a clean and streamline aesthetic.

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Leather Jackets

People often veer away from wearing leather jackets in the office for fear of leaning too much into the biker trend or looking too casual, but this year is the time to invest. The key to styling leather is to mix it up with softer fabrics, such as a black leather jacket teamed with a midi satin slip dress and ballet flats, or a rollneck jumper, a pair of jeans and pointed-toe heels. If black feels too classic, opt for burst of colour and keep your base layers, such as your top and shoes, neutral for a modern twist on the trend.

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Blazers as Separates

Every woman should have at least one blazer in their wardrobe, period. An oversized blazer has fast become a staple piece that successfully elevates what might be a casual look to a new level, especially for the office. If you’re worried about a blazer looking too professional or dated, my advice would be to size up so that the overall look – when styled with a pair of high-waisted jeans or a midi dress – doesn’t look too intentional and stiff. If you’re more about the fitted aesthetic, however, I suggest playing around with dimensions on your bottom half, be it with a loose-fitted maxi skirt or wide-legged trousers.

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Work Tops

Choosing a top that’s not only sartorially appropriate for the workplace but feels comfortable and on trend is no small feat. However, when chosen well a work top can be the foundation of a great office outfit. A lightweight roll neck jumper, that can be styled either with a skirt or trousers, is one of my go-to options in winter weather, no matter the colour. If your outfit is lacking shape, experiment with satin and sheer fabrics, sleeve lengths or exaggerated cuffs for an androgynous and fluid feel. Add a dash of Eighties glamour with a pair of oversized gold hoops or a chunky gold chained necklace.

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