Smart Casual

During my retail management career, I worked for several department stores. In those days, we had a Smart Casual Department right next to the Missy Department. Today the Department stores are set up much differently by micro shops according to the designer or brand name; shopping for specific items is challenging and time-consuming. That is one of the many reasons I buy online so often now. I don’t have time to wander around in a two-acre store looking for a long sleeve top that doesn’t show my tummy each time I lift my arms. (Thank you, Covered Perfectly!)

If you are retired now, your wardrobe needs may differ from when you went to work every day. Many of you have asked me to show some less dressed up looks, so today, I am showing you what I wear on my most casual days while staying home or going to the grocery store and running errands. This time of year, I wear a pair of soft jeans or stretchy jeggings with a long sleeve tee and a lightweight knit cardigan with slip-on sneakers during the day. When I need to run an errand, such as going to the grocery store, I can throw on a scarf and a jacket to stay warm and look more put together. Note that I am carrying a small casual crossbody bag with this casual look. The scale and the attitude complement the casual footwear. Another plus for using this small bag is that it leaves my hands free to shop for groceries. The current way of styling is to carry a bag in an accent color rather than matching your shoes’ color.

If you choose well, a limited number of clothes can serve all your needs. You don’t need three different wardrobes.

The snow is almost gone, so I am dancing!

I have wanted a utility jacket for the longest time, but they usually come in an olive color, which is not a flattering color for my cool complexion. When I saw this red mahogany at White House|Black Market, I knew I had found my match. The gray layering tee was also purchased while I was there. The black jeggings are old from Chico’s. I am also wearing a very thin J.Jill knit cardigan, which barely shows. The crossbody bag is by Nine West. The slip-on sneakers with a bungee strap closure are by Ryka via Saks Off 5th. (Regarding the shoes, think urban rather than athletic.) I wore them with black short Ralph Lauren socks to make my legs look long and lean.

  1. I love this look. As I’ve gotten older it’s necessary to put more effort into how I look when I go to the grocery store. Frumpy is not for me!!

  2. Fabulous, yet classy! I would personally like to see more “casual” outfits from you. I’m not retired, but I live in Arizona where the women have seemed to given up on their appearance. Sure its hot, but most gals are in t-shirts given to them by the local hardware store, jeans and sneakers. This is especially true at the cubicle farms that dot the landscape here. Oh how my feminine heart yearns for a better dressed gal! More casual yet classy outfits please!

  3. Ahh, now you’ve hit my niche in the world of fashion. I didn’t it was called dressy casual, but it is exactly what I try to achieve when out and about doing errands, going to a weekday breakfast with my husband, or going to an appointment. As retired person, I no longer need suits, although I do sometimes look longingly at them, so this type of clothing is perfect for me.

    1. I have found the same thing! That is why I was happy to find Susan’s blog. Have been following her since I retired four years ago.

  4. You look wonderful as always! I was very happy to see this look, thank you for giving me pointers. I love the style of the sneakers, they look great and you look polished for everyday errands, that is my goal too!

  5. I love this look on you. I live in a senior community and the “style” here is super casual. Love the purse in gray. Will you have this color available on your site?

  6. “Smart casual” is perhaps what is also called “casual Friday” in a formal workplace. By either name, these looks are quite appropriate for Sundays in church (don’t gasp, folks!) in the very rural area where I live. “Casual yet classy,” as mentioned by Kathleen above, strikes me as a very good characterization. Like other commenters, I’ll be happy to see more of these looks.

  7. A timely post, as I will be retiring at the end of March of this year! I have always wanted a utility jacket, but like you, didn’t want an olive one. Last summer, I found a navy blue utility jacket at Nordstroms and snapped it up. It has been one of my best purchases for casual weekends and travel. I love that burgundy one!

  8. I think this is a fine look for doing chores, etc. However, living in NYC, (I am basically retired but do work p/t in a woman’s clothing store) a casual day out may also include going to places that need a more polished look. Maybe you can also show some more of these types of dressy casual outfits or what I call relaxed elegance. Thanks!

  9. Your look today is my everyday outfit but with slip-on Sketchers Go Walk shoes and not tennies. I do dress up during the day when we have occasion to do so….special lunches, etc. I appreciate all your looks and advice. You always look perfect!

    1. Catt, I learned to wear these urban style slippers while visiting LA so often. They aren’t athletic shoes, rather urban style slip-ons meant to be worn with leggings and slim fitting jeans.

  10. I love this type of look. I am also retired so this is exactly the kind of look I need now.Please keep them coming!!!

    I was just wondering about the shoes and handbag as I notice that the Princess of Cambridge almost always wears the same color of them together rather than a different color bag or shoe. Is that old school or maybe just for royalty?

  11. This is a great casual look and I love it! I just transitioned to working out of my home and am looking for casual styles. This is definitely something I’d wear! Love your jacket!

  12. Months of parkas and boots ahead here, so I’m jealous! No wonder my winter coats wear out after two seasons. Seriously, you’d think I’m a moulting duck with all the feathers I leave behind.

  13. This was particularly helpful. It’s the shoes and socks that held my interest. I am seeing zillions of pictures of women, usually age, say, 19, in leggings, jeggings or skinny jeans, casual shoes and no socks. They can pull this off. I have great looking ankles but am not going to shave my legs for love or money. It looks like you are wearing fitted slim leg pants that go to the bottom of the ankle and socks that absolutely must match black casual shoes. If you bought into the ankle pant craze, you would have a fussier look and be searching in your sock drawer for socks that match.

  14. So good to see you Susan. I’m on vacation in the Caribbean…right now St. Thomas & your advice has served me well on this cruise. Thanks so much!

  15. Another educational post, Susan. Maybe a future topic would be developing the idea of the difference between dressy casual and smart casual. I would have thought them to be the same, having not really thought about it before, but I am beginning to see the difference.

    I’ve been sorting through old photos from previous decades and realizing how right you are that wide pants really add on the (visual) pounds. Wish I’d had your guidance all those years ago – but grateful that I at lease have it now!

  16. Thank you so much for this post on dressing casual. This is my problem area. When I was working (teaching) I felt I had ‘style’. Now being retired, and living in a large city, I have a great deal of difficulty hitting the right note between formal and casual, without looking frumpy. Your colourful jacket,the sharp looking runners, and a lovely scarf make all the difference. Thank you so much for your fabulous suggestions.

  17. Nice casual outfit, which is more in line with my lifestyle. The shoes look great . The shoes are my big problem area with the more narrow leg styles . I’m a sneaker shoe person but many of those are so big & bulky they make my feet look huge. I’m a work in progress , thanks for your help and inspiration .

  18. Thanks Susan for this casual look. I’m in my sixties and live in Athleta clothes because I can mix and match to polish up the look. My two young 30’s Moms dress in this style all the time. I figure my life is just as busy, and I love the freedom to dress in this more casual and functional style. Life is about movement and these clothes fit that bill! More please!

    1. I rarely wear a belt, but when I do I match the tone to my top because I have a short thick waist. That is why I often do only a half tuck or wear a jacket over the belted item. In my opinion, the belt color has nothing to do with the shoe color. I dress to elongate my legs and my waistline so I always try to match the tone of my shoes with my pants.

  19. I really like this look and I’m looking forward to your post on how to take an outfit and dress it up to make it office appropriate and/or dinner worthy… thanks for sharing!

  20. Perfect post, thank you, Susan. Living in a Del Webb retirement community in Texas, casual is common but I always try to look very put together, even for Pilates or Yoga classes. Your tips and especially shopping recommendations have made my life so much easier.

  21. Love the jacket. When I worked in retail back in the 70’s this look would be found in the ‘Sporty’ section. I miss the old layouts of the department stores. I rarely shop at the mall.

  22. Hello Susan, You always look lovely and I really appreciated today’s post about dressing “smart casual”. As a lawyer who retired and moved to a small town five years ago, I love my new life but it’s been a challenge to build a wardrobe that suits my new lifestyle, and is both comfortable and classically fashionable. You strike exactly the right note. Wish you were here! P.S. Like you, I wish department stores would rethink the way they organize their stores — they’re even doing away with petite sizes in my area. I can stay interested in shopping about 2 hours so this is a problem, and shopping on-line doesn’t work well for me as it seems I need to try things on to ensure a good fit and look.

  23. I love the color of the casual jacket. Isn’t it magical the way a scarf elevates an outfit. Thank you for demonstrating a casual look.

  24. I love this outfit. It’s exactly what I wear around the house and out running errands. The crossbody bag is perfect for grocery shopping. I have to say that I also wear sneakers with laces a lot. My doctor recommended them, and they make it possible for me to walk over a mile a day in complete comfort. Slip-on sneakers often slip up and down at the heel, and finding ones that fit properly is nearly impossible. Much as I like seeing your dressy outfits, I’m thrilled that you are showing more casual wear with flats. Thank you, Susan!

  25. I like this look. I dress more casually most of the time, so it’s nice to see this. I always love your other clothing styles, too, though! I do like that gray cross body bag!

  26. This is the mode of dress I am in most often..errands casual. You look pulled together, coordinated but not matchy-matchy & pretty. Very interested in finding some good socks that are soft but not binding..many that are smooth leave a mark like they are cutting off my circulation. Great bag! I’m still carrying a heavy, full size bag all the time, but am being convinced to size down some & change bags more often. Loved your “what’s in my bag video” Susan & looking forward to your new video in the works. Also enjoyed Janet Earling’s story on your FB page…kudos to all of your followers who lost so many pounds & got healthier.Very inspiring! Thanks bunches!

  27. Like others, this is more my look. I wear scrubs to work, then change into a similar outfit to walk my dog. My figure is an “hourglass ” so I have found a little flair balances my hips. However, trouser type pants are awful! (I’ve found this out by taking selfies as Susan suggested; the mirror does lie!) For those of you with this same problem, Lands End makes the perfect active pants. They are slim through the hips and thighs and have a bit of flair. Nice enough to dress up as well!

  28. I agree with you on the way stores have their clothing setup. I get very frustrated. I also think that petite sizes are few and far between. The causal outfit you are styling is a perfect outfit for anyone retired or is a stay at home Mom. Thanks for sharing!

  29. So glad to see this look which suits my casual active lifestyle and youthful, modern city so much better than the dressier outfits you usually show us, lovely as they are. I wear this combo 90% of the time, except I need to make the utility jacket a down-filled microfibre one with a fur-trimmed hood, switch out the sneakers for snow boots, the light scarf for a knitted one, and add some kind of knitted hat (yes, there are days I need the hat and the hood πŸ™‚ and mitts (I’ve tried all kinds of gloves and found that for our truly bitter winter weather nothing beats mittens for warding off frostbite although I do use gloves for driving).

  30. Thanks for all your great ideas! I just “found” your blog and You-Tube posts. Can you tell me them name of the company that makes the one piece bra/slimmer that you show on the “business travel” and ” long weekend” videos? Your remark that the bra actually fits caught my attention since I’ve never found a slimmer with bra that actually fits! I’d love to try one.
    Thank you for all the wonderful ideas and photos. Your cameraman is so handsome, no wonder you always have such a great smile!
    I’m looking forward to more great ideas and info!

  31. I am only in my 30s but enjoy reading your blog because I work in a conservative field and can’t wear ripped jeans or high heel studded shoes like the younger bloggers with no jobs wear.

    I also live in NYC so I am very familiar with urban footwear. My mother, who is in her 60s, is always asking me what sneakers are in style in the city that might look age appropriate on her.

    These all white Puma sneakers are my favorite for spring and fall. I bought a boys size 7C (normally wear a woman’s size 8). They are sleek and not clunky, but are also NYC tested comfortable.

    I also have the women’s Nike Court Royale in grey for the winter, which I find to be less heavy or harsh than the black. They also are NYC tested comfortable and not clunky. They come in white and black too.

  32. I love the idea for your video and can’t wait to see that concept. I have transitioned to JJill Wearever the past year almost exclusively and been working on how to wear it daily but then dress it up for dinner out etc. Works great and so comfy! I need fabrics that move, but look polished too.

  33. This is such a practical ensemble for those of us who work from home and want to look polished yet stay casual. I like the term you used: “smart casual.” That is exactly the term I’ve been looking for…to describe my style. As this is the first time I’ve commented on your blog, I want to thank you for the great effort you put into it. For years now, it has been a great source of inspiration to me, in both areas of fashion as well as health. As I am in my mid-40s, please know you’re reaching a greater demographic than you realize. πŸ˜‰ Have you considered a trip to this side of the state? It would be great!

    1. Thank you so much! When I plan the event for Nashville, I will let you know about it several times in advance of the date. I am looking forward to meeting you! πŸ™‚

  34. I enjoy greatly your valuable opinions and advice on diet, appropriate clothing for everyday and special occasions. I appreciate you sharing your life. Thank you.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.