8 Ways to Look Stylish in a Casual Environment when Jeans are Not Your Thing


The eternal question that I get asked repeatedly, is how to make your outfits stylish, but still relaxed enough to suit your casual environment?  And now let’s add another ingredient to this mix – that not everyone likes wearing jeans – so what to wear instead so you don’t look either over-dressed or sloppy and unstylish?

This is the topic of my conversation with Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe and 16 Style Types.

What are your options?  How do you marry up all your requirements?

Let’s consider different aspects of a relaxed and casual style.

1. Casual Fabrics

Different fabrics communicate in different ways.  For example a silk or satin is a high level of refinement – they’re dressier fabrics as they require special care and attention.  Any fabric with a sheen or shine is dressier than a fabric that is matte.  So for a casual environment, think about fabrics that are more matte and are wash and wear (rather than needing dry cleaning or hand-washing).


  • Cotton not silk
  • Stretch fabrics rather than structured wovens
  • Chunkier fabrics with texture rather than refined and smooth fabrics
How to make an outfit stylish and casual
Jersey is a great fabric to make your outfit more relaxed and casual

2. Colourful Clothes

As you learned in this blog post about how your colours communicate, brighter and more ‘colourful’ colours are more casual, whilst neutrals and darker colours are more businesslike.

Wearing a garment such as a jacket, but in a yellow, orange, pink, green – is much less formal than wearing the same style in navy, taupe, black or grey.

3. Prints and Patterns

More formal clothing is usually in solid colours (neutrals too) or only has a fine or delicate pinstripe pattern.

Florals, abstracts, animal prints and other prints make a garment less formal (find out more about the formality of prints here).

The same garment in a colourful print is always less formal than one in a subdued print or a solid (check out this post here to see an example).

How to create stylish casual outfits
Cotton scarf in a pattern


4. Garments that Aren’t Jeans

So you don’t like jeans but what to wear instead?

Dresses  – One piece outfit – so simple and easy – think about the fabric and construction, wearing them in prints or more fun colours rather than neutrals or dark solids which appear more formal.


Leggings are an option (remember that leggings are not pants) but they are a relaxed bottom option as they are made from a stretch fabric (less formal) and work best with a tunic top (also an informal garment).

How to create stylish casual outfits
A loose waterfall cardigan in colour is great to wear with a comfy pair of leggings

Of course, you could find cotton trousers, harem pants and other non-jean options that aren’t a classic dress pant, and you can see more options here.

Skirts – in a looser fit (rather than a formal style) and teamed with a garment like a denim jacket and boots will dress down your skirts and dresses.

How to create stylish casual outfits
A denim jacket will always reduce the formality of an outfit

5. What’s on Your Feet?

What’s on your feet will also impact on the formality of your outfit as a whole.  A fabric shoe is generally not as dressy as a leather shoe (find out about the formality of shoes here).

Espadrilles – rope and canvas – by their very nature are relaxed and casual!

How to create stylish casual outfits
Espadrilles say summer holidays and the beach and are perfect for a casual summer outfit

An open shoe such as a sandal or shoe that shows toes is also more relaxed and casual.

Flats rather than heels too – whether they are ballet flats or boots, sandals or sandshoes, will also all make an outfit less over-dressed.


6. Which Accessories to Choose to Look Casually Stylish

To look stylish, unless you have your detail built into your clothing (which is a great option in summer when you don’t want to add lots of extra elements to your outfits), then add some accessories that are not overly fine or refined.

Scarves – cotton or wool not silk or satin

Jewellery – leather, wood, polished stones, acetate, resin not diamonds and pearls – the level of refinement rules work here too.

Belts – patterns, textures and colours, not patent and refined

Handbagsstraw, fabric, softer shapes – are all less formal – hard, structured and shiny are all more formal.

7. Level of Refinement

Think about the level of refinement for each element of your outfit.

As you put together an outfit, so it doesn’t appear overdressed,  ensure that if the garment can have a more formal interpretation (such as a blazer) it’s in a fabric that is relaxed in a colour that is more fun or a pattern that is not associated with the corporate world.

Adding accessories and details will ensure that you are stylish – but keeping them at a lower level of refinement will make sure that they don’t make you stand-out as overdressed or “try hard”.

8. Own Your Style

No matter what you choose to wear.  Some like to blend in more, others have a style that is more naturally dramatic.  The key is to own your style and accept your personality and how you feel most comfortable dressing (and if you’re interested in discovering more about your approach to style and why you may find casual dressing more tricky then discover your style with 16 Style Types which will give you the inside information on your style preferences).

I want you to always love what you wear – and you’ll do that best when you feel comfortable and confident that what you’re wearing is an expression of your style essence and personality.  This is why I developed my 7 Steps to Style program – to assist you in understanding all the pieces that go into your style puzzle so that you know what is right for you and makes you feel empowered about your style choices.

Tips on Creating Casual Stylish Outfits

10 Comfy Casual Outfit Ideas You Want to Copy Now

How to Smarten Up Your Super Casual Clothes

Top 6 Ways to Choose Shoes to Go With Your Outfit

How to Make a Classic Garment Suit a Casual Lifestyle

What to Wear to Casual Events

How to Be Contemporary and Casual in Classic Clothing Styles


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • I mostly wear dresses and skirts. Dresses are the easiest as I can get either stretch fabric or shapeless that will fit both my shoulders which are one size and my bust that is a different and significantly larger size. Skirts are great but I rarely find ones I like These days. Pants tend to slip off of me when I move. I’m V shaped so look best with flared bottoms. It’s easier to find fit and flare dresses. I don’t care for floral prints. I love solids and geometric prints. I look best in pastels and clear and warm colors. I get the most compliments when I wear those colors. Lately though my happy colors are blue and green. Blue has always been my favorite color and light green reminds me of my deceased younger son Thomas’ eye color. Black and white are the least flattering colors on me. Oddly enough though most people mistake my dark brown hair as being black. The only time. If that was the case I’d look pale and sickly all the time. I have solids are those two are are gifts. I only get them if they are combined with colors I like. Alas these days I’ve found I and my spouse prefer the feel of cotton/stretch blends. We hate rayon and polyester which most printed ones are made of. I’m most definitely casual though. I treat all my clothing like T-shirt and jeans. I’m a stay and home mother so I don’t need any particular style. I also prefer leather bags because they are more durable than fabric ones. I prefer comfortable shoes with good traction as I regularly walk across mud or ice depending on the time of the year. My son tends to grab or remove shiny things so I go for matte clothing and accessories.

  • Thank you! I leaned so much from this post. This will help immensely as I go through my wardrobe to purge. I had already figured out how to dress for business settings but no longer have a corporate job.

    I live in a casual city and want to dress appropriately, comfortably and as myself! I try to walk as many places as possible. Footwear choices for comfortable walking tend to be casual but I don’t always want to wear jeans. Thank you for a super useful post!

    (ps I LOVE all your tips!)

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