Last update on: 12:03 pm February 27, 2024 by fashionabc

A smart casual outfit is a great option for varied events, parties and group activities at nighttime. But it can also be one of the more challenging ones to get right.

That’s because there isn’t always a clear definition of what ‘smart casual’ means. Unlike ‘black tie’, which has specific requirements like tuxedos, dinner jackets and long dresses, smart casual can mean different things to different people — and are largely dependent on the type of occasion they’re being worn for.

To make it easier to get a smart casual look right, we’ve put together some evening-specific outfit ideas depending on the activity you’re partaking in. Read on to find out more.

The best smart casual outfits to wear on a night

Cocktail hour

A cocktail hour outfit can be a challenge for both men and women alike. While appropriate for cocktail parties, it also falls into the realms of weddings and other slightly more formal celebrations.

For men, this outfit usually would involve a suit. For a relaxed look, we recommend a contrasting blazer and trouser combination. If the event is in summer time, you can consider a pair of loafers without socks or white colour trainers (brand name is always best in this instance). Women on the other hand can choose to wear a dress or pantsuit, as long as the fabric is of a good quality. It’s also worth considering what bag to bring, with the ‘mini bag’ making for an in-trend choice. 

Casino night

Whether you enjoy playing around the table and trying your luck for a big win just taking in the atmosphere with a fancy drink, a visit to the casino always makes for a great evening activity. Most casinos these days don’t require you to arrive Bond-style in a black tuxedo suit or glamorous dress, it’s always best to dress neatly to ensure you guarantee entry (and fit in too!). It’s been said that the popularity of online slot games and internet casinos have led to land-based versions being much more relaxed when it comes to dress code. 

In many casinos in 2024, a nice pair of jeans are enough to get you through the doors — although for a smart causal look you should wear a nice top or jacket alongside them. 

On a dinner date

While smart casual isn’t always the easiest to understand, the fact that it can encompass a range of style choices makes it ideal for dinner dates of all kinds. Having a romantic dinner at a restaurant? A suit jacket and a pair of nice jeans might do the trick. Looking for something a little more relaxed, like drinks on the patio? Match a dress with a cardigan for a sightly more casual look. These days, t-shirts have a place in smart casual wear, depending on the environment.

There are rules that come with wearing them, though! Make sure the t-shirt doesn’t contain graphics and looks fresh and clean. When in doubt, always opt for a designer or other well-known brand and include t-shirts into a smart casual look with caution. It’s always better to lean on the ‘smart’ side of smart casual, so you don’t end up being underdressed for the event. 

Wedding reception

Wedding season is a busy time of year, and one that can require some planning. This includes having the right outfits pulled together for one (or more) wedding receptions, so you can feel great on the day and in the photos too. If there aren’t any exact requirements for dress code on the invitation, smart casual is usually a safe way to go. 

It’s worth taking into account what time of year the wedding is taking place, as this can help guide you when pulling together an outfit. For a summer wedding, light colours and fabrics make for a great choice, especially if it’s taking place outdoors. While navy colours and darker tones — alongside slightly heavier fabrics — will work best for a winter wedding. In either case, you can leave the tie at home as long as the rest of the outfit is well considered and put together.

Work events

Smart casual is a great option for work events, especially when they’re held directly after a day at the office. In fact, some might say that the smart casual look comes from the ways we have dressed down our everyday formal wear. 

You can easily go from meetings in the daytime to a more relaxed vibe in the evening, by switching your suit jacket to a more casual blazer and leaving the tie in your desk.