Putting on your casual clothes is a relief after you’ve been dressed smartly for work all week.

Lounging around at home, you’re happy to be in your oldest T-shirt, yoga pants, and a pair of bed socks or slippers. When it’s time to step outside, though, you feel like you should be a bit more presentable. You don’t want to dress up too smartly in case you’re not comfortable, or because it’s just too much effort. But you also don’t want to look like someone who doesn’t care about their appearance, either. Fortunately, you can keep your outfit casual while smartening it up a little. It’s the ideal way to go from relaxing at home to a night out.

Get Some Structure into Your Wardrobe

The first thing you can do when you want to smarten up a casual outfit is ensure there’s some kind of structure to your clothes. Loose and baggy might be as comfortable as can be, but it can be hard to make it look smart in any way. That’s not to say you can’t wear loose items, like a floaty blouse. You may just want to avoid stepping out in sweatpants and a sweater bigger enough to smother you. If you want to wear anything loose, add a structured item to your outfit to balance it out. A jacket is the perfect garment to use.

Switch Out Your Sneakers

Sporty shoes are great for running, cycling, or just doing your daily errands. But they’re not always so great if you want to put together a smart-casual outfit. Sometimes they look cute, but some styles are more informal than others. If you want to avoid being too casual with your sneakers on, swap them for some ballet flats instead. They still look casual enough that you won’t be overdressed, but they’re also cute and lend a little smartness to your outfit. You can find some really comfortable ones too so you won’t miss the comfiness of your favorite worn pair of sneakers.

Go One Half Casual, One Half Smart

An excellent way to dress both smartly and casually at the same time is to go half-and-half. If you’re going to go for casual on the bottom, with a comfy pair of jeans or your best yoga pants, smarten up on top with a tailored jacket or a chic top. Or if you’re going to go for the other way around, balance out a casual T-shirt by wearing a smarter skirt or a fancy pair of slacks. It’s an excellent look if you’re on your way to or from the gym, or maybe you’re just having a day when you don’t want to wear anything too constricting.

Try Some Cute Patterns

You’d be surprised by how much the right pattern can immediately smart up your outfit. Some patterns are more suited to casualwear than others, but many of them lend a smarter air to an item of clothing. Even a pair of yoga pants can look less casual with the right pattern. Take a look at the tops by Verge clothing and see how the patterns they use make casual shapes look more sophisticated. You just need a keen eye to assess whether a pattern is going to make your clothes look more or less casual. It also helps to think about what you’re going to pair an item with.

It’s All About Accessories

The accessories you choose can make a huge difference to how smart your casual outfit looks. Apart from your shoes, you can also consider jewelry, bags, sunglasses, hats, scarves, and all manner of winter accessories. Choosing your accessories carefully can elevate your outfit in seconds. Add a waist belt to your casual T-shirt for a smarter look, or choose a necklace and bracelet to give your outfit some sparkle. Accessorizing means you can choose your most comfortable clothes and quickly make the smarter just before you head out the door.

Invest in the Basics

Even your favorite casual items don’t have to be too casual. One example that’s easy to make a little smarter by spending a bit more is a pair of jeans. Jeans are the ultimate comfortable and casual item to wear, but they don’t have to be worn and full of holes. Investing in a quality pair of jeans will give you a smarter look, and they should last longer too. The same goes for a number of other things, including yoga pants and even T-shirts. If you spend money on quality clothing, you won’t have to replace it so often, and it will be less effort to make it look better.

Learn to Layer

Layering your clothes is often the secret to smartening up a casual outfit. You can hide all manner of sins by putting on the right cardigan or jacket. If you want to layer your look, you should consider different colors and textures. Layering often works best during cooler weather, when you can afford to have a few extra layers. But there are still ways to do it when it’s hot out if you lighten your layers and choose the right pieces.

Keep Your Clothes in Good Condition

If you want to look good at all times, don’t forget to keep your casual clothes looking good. Dressing casually doesn’t have to mean you look like a slob, but when your clothes start to stretch or sag, it’s time to stop wearing them – in public, at least. If you take proper care of them, you can prevent the colors from fading and help them to keep their structure. You should do things like following the care instructions, avoiding too much tumble drying, and washing like colors together. Take good care of your clothes when you’re wearing them too, and avoid stretching them or damaging them in any way.

You can be casual and comfortable while still looking and feeling smart. If you want to make any casual item smarter, you only need to know what to pair it with to get the look you’re going for.

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This is a contributed article written for WhimMagazine.com

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