A smart casual dress code does not require formal business attire like suits. Instead, it allows for more relaxed individual styles that are appropriate for the business environment, such as sports jackets, sweaters and dresses.
According to the online magazine Etiquette Tips, the smart casual dress code is the one most easily misinterpreted because the word "casual" implies that you can wear whatever you want, when in fact there are rules that need to be followed. When thinking of smart casual dress, focus on the word "smart," which means presentable and neat. Instead of wearing a suit, men might wear sports jackets or sweaters and slacks, and women might wear sweaters and coordinating slacks or skirts or dresses. Keep in mind that the word "casual" in "smart casual" does not mean that old jeans, tee shirts, sportswear, club wear or beach wear are appropriate attire. Those should be saved for the events for which they were intended and for those times when they are appropriate in the office, such as on casual Friday.
Specific requirements and variations on what is and is not acceptable as smart casual varies by organization and sometimes by units within an organization. For example, jeans may be acceptable if they are dark, clean and free of wrinkles. Ask for the dress code, and take examples from what bosses and co-workers are wearing. Pick a style that is flattering, and accessorize it with scarves, ties, belts and jewelry that reflect individual personality and flair. A smart casual dress code removes the requirement for everyone to look alike, allows for more comfortable clothing and promotes a friendly and professional appearance.
This look makes allowances for personal taste and often includes dress skirts and pants, tailored clothing, leather footwear and complementary jewelery. Smart-casual clothing can often be seen on ambitious people who want to be promoted or people in supervisory positions.
Smart-casual clothing is also often seen on professionals in classrooms and business conference presenters. Attendees at these events are generally casually dressed. The term smart-casual first appeared in an Iowan newspaper in May of 1924.