To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact support@masterclass.com.

Design & Style

Style Guide: How to Put Together a Dressy Casual Outfit

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

MasterClass Video Lessons

Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Cocktail attire, semi-formal, white tie, black-tie optional—dress codes can feel like a maze if you’re not sure what you’re doing. It’s important to learn the basics of each dress code, so you don’t show up in a ball gown or tuxedo to your cousin’s backyard barbecue or jeans and sneakers to your friend’s wedding gala. Here’s a rundown on one of the most common dress codes: “dressy casual.”

Save

Share


Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

Learn More

What Is Dressy Casual Attire?

Dressy casual attire (also called smart casual) is a combination of relaxed and refined pieces—think blouses, dress shirts, button-downs, dress pants, dark jeans, and clean shoes. Along the spectrum of formality, dressy casual is one step above casual (jeans and t-shirts) and one step below business casual (office wear like dress pants and pencil skirts).

One of the most common ways to achieve a dressy casual look is to pair pieces of slightly different formality levels—for example, wearing a pair of heels to dress up your jeans, or wearing a blazer to dress up your sneakers.

When to Wear Dressy Casual Attire

Dressy casual is an ideal style choice for social occasions without clear dress codes. The style choices in this dress code offer a balance between casual and formal wear, making it a safe option for events like nights out with friends and first dates.

Dressy Casual Attire for Women

Going out to dinner with friends and not quite sure what to wear? Here are some options for dressy casual outfits for women:

  • Tops: Try blouses made of nice fabric or with interesting details, or a collared shirt or button-up—either short sleeves or long sleeves work great. Wear a blazer over your top of choice for added dressiness. Avoid cotton T-shirts or anything with large printed graphics or slogans.
  • Bottoms: Non-denim pants like chinos, silk pants, or dress pants are a great choice for a dressy casual look. If you want to wear jeans, opt for slim-fitting dark or black jeans without rips or distressing. In terms of skirts, flowy skirts or pencil skirts work, but avoid pencil skirts that look too structured or have formal details like pinstripes, which can skew too business casual. Avoid pants with holes, rips, or stains.
  • Shoes: Oxfords, ballet flats, and loafers work well for a dressy casual look. Try ankle boots, wedges, and low-to-mid heel types. If you choose to wear heels, consider dressing down the look with jeans to stay casual enough. Only wear sneakers if they’re clean. Avoid ultra-casual shoes like running shoes or dirty sneakers.
  • One-piece outfits: Sweater dresses, shirt dresses, and sundresses all achieve a relaxed and refined balance. Jumpsuits are a great way to try something more unique; opt for one that belts in the middle to add dressiness. Cotton maxi dresses are acceptable, but avoid other floor-length dresses, which often skew more formal (into festive or black-tie optional territory).
  • Accessories: Choose one or two delicate accessories to look polished but not overdone. Simple earrings, delicate necklaces, bracelets, or nice watches all work well.
Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone
Diane von Furstenberg Teaches Building a Fashion Brand
Marc Jacobs Teaches Fashion Design
Frank Gehry Teaches Design and Architecture

Dressy Casual Attire for Men

Headed to a first date and not quite sure what to wear? Here are some options for a dressy casual dress code for men:

  • Tops: Button-down shirts are the best way to go, either short-sleeved or long-sleeved. Add a blazer or sport coat over a shirt for extra dressiness.
  • Bottoms: Chinos, dress pants, or slacks are all great choices. If you want to wear jeans, opt for slim-fitting dark or black jeans with no rips or distressing.
  • Shoes: Loafers and Oxfords are great dressy casual shoes; go for leather for the dressiest look. Only wear sneakers if they’re clean. Avoid ultra-casual shoes like running shoes or dirty sneakers.
  • Accessories: Adding an accessory or two will help elevate an outfit and give it a final dressy touch. Nice watches or simple bracelets are a great way to go.

Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass Annual Membership and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

MasterClass

Suggested for You

Online classes taught by the world’s greatest minds. Extend your knowledge in these categories.

Tan France

Teaches Style for Everyone

Learn More
Diane von Furstenberg

Teaches Building a Fashion Brand

Learn More
Marc Jacobs

Teaches Fashion Design

Learn More
Frank Gehry

Teaches Design and Architecture

Learn More

Save

Share