Effortlessly toeing the line between super casual and ultra-chic, you'll find casual chic—a seamless marriage of both. But like its close cousin smart casual, casual chic for women can sometimes feel a little elusive and, well, frustratingly vague.
So, what is it, exactly? The M.O. here is all about elevating casual elements with dressier additions and then injecting some personality via small, unexpected pieces. Think of casual chic attire as "off-duty model," à la Chrissy Teigen or Jourdan Dunn. Or "ready for the paps but didn't try too hard" street style via Jennifer Aniston or Zoe Kravitz. It's a straight-leg jean paired with a lacy camisole, blazer, and vibrant clutch, or a breezy shift dress with sneakers and a statement necklace.
Still slightly confused? Read on for our tips on how to nail the casual chic style in four steps.
1. Gather the essentials
Consider these neutral essentials the backbone of your casual chic wardrobe. They can exist as a capsule collection of staples that are easily mixed and matched. But they can also act as a canvas for accessories and more unabashed pop pieces that speak to your aesthetic. Here's what to keep in your arsenal:
When jeans fit well, you don't just look amazing—you feel it too. Keep a few versatile picks on hand: a dark-wash skinny jean, medium-wash boyfriend-cut, and black straight-leg jean will be ever-faithful.
The dressier counterpart to jeans, slacks in neutral tones—like black, beige, army green, and grey—take the cake. A perfect fit at the waist, hip, and inseam is a must.
Cotton tee or tank:
Grab one in black, white, and grey, and feel free to spice it up via simple prints, crop tops, breezy tanks, and cold-shoulder cuts. Need inspo? Any photo of Gigi Hadid coming off a plane will do.
Where a cotton tee embodies the casual part of casual chic, a sophisticated blouse lends dressy flair. Think: a champagne-hued button-down, a steel-grey V-neck with bell sleeves, or a pale pink number with a high neck and cap sleeves.
Blazers are a casual chic superhero, instantly elevating anything they're paired with. Again, choose a neutral hue like beige, grey, black, navy, or white, and have it custom-tailored for a more polished look.
Cardigan or sweater:
This cozy staple leans more casual, allowing you to guide a slinky dress or dressy top into a more laid-back direction. Saturated hues like ruby, navy, and charcoal work, as do paler neutrals.
As (arguably) one of the most comfortable pieces in the casual chic wardrobe—and one of the easiest to dress up or down—it makes sense to have at least a couple of shift dresses on hand. Get one in your favorite neutrals and aim for a mix of varied lengths and necklines.
While a maxi dress can also work, a skirt lends more opportunity to dress down via a tank or tee. Pair it with a denim or leather jacket to double down on the didn't-stress-it aesthetic. For inspiration, look to casual chic women like Blake Lively.
2. Add shoes and accessories
After your casual chic wardrobe essentials are picked and sorted, incorporate a few other must-have accessories. These pieces should also lean neutral so they can fit seamlessly into any outfit.
The key here is that you have enough options to either dress an outfit up or down. You'll be set with a pair of white sneakers, booties, sandals, chic loafers, neutral pumps, and strappy heels.
Keep it simple via brown or black leather and a gold buckle.
A satchel, medium-sized crossbody, and straightforward envelope clutch are the hallmarks of casual chic attire.
It's all about the classics here too. Get yourself an aviator, cat-eye, and oversized pair.
Sleek, chic pieces are king. Think delicate chain necklaces, hoops, bangles, and subtle studs in a mix of metals and earthy stones.
Go for a variety of casual and dressy here too. Try a Panama hat, baseball cap, newsboy, and beret.
3. Bring in small-but-bold "pop pieces"
Casual chic for women doesn't mean basic or expected. The idea is that you've got enough neutral essentials for unexpected glimmers here and there—daring prints, statement-making jewelry, rich textures, and handbags that'd never get lost in a crowd. Aim for one or two small pop pieces per outfit via tanks, tees, jewelry, handbags, scarves, sunglasses, belts, and shoes. Here's a quick-reference guide:
Animal, floral, stripes, retro, abstract, graphics
Billows, poufs, unexpected cuts, large statement jewelry
Primaries, secondaries, neon, pastels
Fur, mesh, leather, ruffles, fringe, sequins, lace
4. Coordinate hair and makeup
Like your ensemble, keep hair and makeup neat but never fussy—and it's perfectly okay to add a few pops here and there. For makeup, stick to a soft and neutral palette that flatters your complexion. If you're feeling daring, add a red lip here or winged eyeliner there. Hair can be worn up or down depending on mood. For updos, try a messy topknot or a sleek chignon. For down, opt for beachy tousled waves, a bit of texture, or wear it au naturel with a bit of nourishing hair serum for glossy sheen.