How to Smarten Up Your Casual Clothes



Late last year I asked for readers to tell me what they would like to know more about, here is the first reader request from the lovely Lisa at Priviledge

LPC said…

You may have covered this before I found you. Here’s my problem. I did fine at dressing for work. Fine at dressing up. Casual in the house, who cares. But given that I’m always tempted to wear my loose jeans, my yoga pants, and a tshirt, what kind of jackets can I get so that I look decent when totally comfortable? For shoes I’ve found casual, semi-hip Aerosoles that I am fully willing to put on in place of sneakers. But what to replace my sweatshirt?

Smarten Up Yoga Wear
Smarten Up Yoga Wear by imogenl featuring Miss Selfridge

Look for softly structured jackets in more casual styles such as the suede biker jacket shown, alternatively try a jacket style cardigan, one that is belted if they suit your shape, or cropped, or just a more tailored shape.

Ballet flats, or more refine bowling styles shoes are great options instead of sneakers. 
Keep your casual clothes in good condition, when they get saggy, baggy or worn out, no matter what you put with them you will lose your stylish edge.  
Too much tumble drying will kill the lycra/spandex in yoga wear and t-shirts, so when these garments start looking older, they need to be replaced.  Fitted and formed is always more flattering than baggy, shrunk and faded.


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  • Great ideas, Imogen. I also find that making sure to add great accessories helps dress up casual looks – funky jewelry, scarves, and the occasional workwear shoe with dressed-down ensembles works wonders!

  • Yay, great post! I don't wear yoga pants, but I do have the most trouble with fall/winter casual wear. Jackets are definitely my "cheat" to looking put together in this case, and I loved all of Imogen's suggestions.

  • Imogen, thank you so much for these suggestions. I'm not an accessories person – that's probably one of the reasons I struggle. The options Sal puts out, while great for some, just aren't in my arsenal. But I'd LOVE a biker jacket. With pearls, of course:). In fact, I'm going up to SF to shop today at Saks. Think I will see what I can come up with…

  • Oh, I love this. I am always in jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt and flat shoes, and wearing a nice jacket or cardigan with a matching necklace is my trick to looking 'proper' 😉 And these same cardigans look good with skirts and heels when I finally wear them!

    – Tall & slim anon

  • Such great advice! I left my career to be a SAHMom and while I love it, my daily style definitely took a hard hit. You just don't put on a nice suit to wrangle babies all day. 🙂

  • Loved this post, can we get more like it please?
    I know I stray into scruffy cardigan territory too easily, so the tailored-but-soft reminder is a good one.
    And how nice to know my huge collection of ballet flats is stylistically positive!

  • I too, struggled with looking polished in casual clothes. Then I figured out (Sal's right) that when I dressed for work I include accessories and I had been neglecting that with my casual getups. Once I put on a fun necklace, scarf or interesting belt, the whole outfit came to life!

    I've since learned that whatever I'm wearing I need to add an element of surprise (either from the color combination, a striking accessory, or even the way I knot my belt instead of buckling it) to keep the outfit from looking boring.

  • Guess what. I went out today and bought a peacoat made out of sweatshirt fabric by James Perse. I am so excited…I was inspired. Thank you.

  • Accessorizing is the easiest way to lift your casual wear. I agree with Sal, mixing something junky with something `serious´jewelry can be fun too. I prefer to wear less, but then it has to be eye-catching. I don´t like jewelry `sets´.

  • I wish I had read this post about 5 years ago! I was another one who really struggled leaving behind a very dressy corporate world behind to be a SAHM and trying to work out what a smart casual wardrobe should look like. In Winter I find it easier to acheive the smart casual look. I now have a great collection of casual trenches that are easy to pop over black pants/yoga pants/jeans, worn with ballet flats, boots and nice accessories such as a scarf my usual winter look. Summer I find a bit more of a struggle though!

  • Imogen, should we put our crappy old clothing for "heavy cleaning" and yard work in a different drawer or place? I'm not prepared to throw out all that faded stuff to ruin yet another nice top with bleach or while working on landscaping our cooperative flats.

    I do confess I sometimes wear comfy things like yoga pants when working alone in my home office, at my computer, or doing artwork. I really don't let anyone else see me in such things. unless I actually am doing sport.

  • Lived this article and very confident in autumn/winter clothes.

    My problem is in the summer. Winter colours and bright colours suit me best but are too heavy. Do you have any suggestion please

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