I am often asked how to create the elusive “smart casual” outfit or how to dress for weekends comfortably, but still looking like you have put some care into what you are wearing. For some time after I worked in the corporate world I found it tricky to do casual wear without feeling scruffy. While there is plenty of information about what are the essential items to have in your wardrobe, the problem with this is they may not suit you. I am all for giving some style “rules” as guidance, but once you really know what suits you and what you love you can break these rules to suit you.
Over the years of running a styling business, dressing hundreds of women of all shapes and sizes, I have also learnt what suits me and of course this has changed as my shape has changed through having children and passing 40 – possibly the last time I saw my waist! As I don’t work in a corporate environment I can pretty much wear what I like now, but because of what I do the way I dress is still under scrutiny. So I have developed a way of dressing that suits my body shape (large bust, actually about 2 sizes larger on my top half than my bottom half, that elusive waist and legs which I’m happy to show off as they are one of my best features) by starting with a base outfit and then using colour and accessories to express my personality and creativeness. Not only does this make getting dressed in the morning much easier it also makes it a lot more fun as I decide on how I am going to give my base outfit a look that suits my mood for that day.
For those of you who are a similar shape to me here is what works for me:
- Put great colour close to the face (everyone can follow this advice) for me this would be strong, dark colours like chocolate, navy, deep or brick reds or berries.
- Add a scarf or necklace – again this draws the eye to the face and away from my largest part, my bust
- Softer fabrics on my curves, silks, jerseys, soft knits – avoiding stiff cottons and denim
- Balancing a looser top half with a fitted bottom half. I do this by wearing longer length tunic tops with slim or skinny trousers (hence my search for the perfect leggings which I have now found, details below)
- Great shoes – to show off the part of my body I like, my legs.
- Lipstick – I don’t feel dressed without it. Because my eyes are strong and dark a strong lip gives balance.
For those of you who aren’t similar to me you can still use this advice to work out what’s right for you. Think about how you can use accessories or colour to draw attention to the parts of your body you like.
Here are a few of my outfits working this formula. And by the way it works for evening too.
A few more notes – a polo neck (very on trend this season) shouldn’t work for a full bust but you will see that when I wear one I also wear a necklace that creates a V shape.
I have been on the search for the perfect leggings/casual trousers for ages and I have finally found three brilliant pairs that I love and that work for me, all because they are extremely comfortable, wash easily and can be dressed up or down; Eileen Fisher I love them for their softness but they are on the expensive side, LK Bennett, who do a similar shape in several colours (I have them in black, navy and faux leather) and my most recent find and fast becoming my favourite, Winser’s miracle leggings, and they are!
Here are a few more outfit combinations using my formula for both day and evening:
I hope you found this useful – to create the smart casual look that still looks stylish all you really need is some colour to add to your base outfit and a great accessories collection, then you can play with your formula to find looks that you love and feel confident and comfortable in.