Smart Casual

For most of us, our internship placement packets included a single phrase when it came to dressing the part for our jobs, and that was perhaps the most confusing phrase we’ve come across since landing in London. I’m talking about Smart Casual.

Let me break this down for you now that I’ve been abroad a few months and spoken to other classmates about what to wear to their internships. This might help you when it comes to making your packing list as well.

Smart is the British English word for Professional dress. If you’re internship placement packet simply says smart, wear a suit. If it’s followed by ‘casual,’ you’ve got a bit more wiggle room.

Boys: a button down is always safe. Pay attention to the way London men dress, though. And please bring those tips home to share with your fellow Americans. Every girl will thank you.

Because I’ve worked in Jefferson City at the Capitol building as well as on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, I brought my work wardrobe all the way to London in an eager attempt to dress to impress. What I’ve found, though, is that none of those clothes have left my closet. I’m talking about button downs, conservative dresses, pencil skirts, and the like. So here’s what you should be thinking if you’re coming over and your assignment is smart casual.

Smart Casual is another way to say Business Casual. But be more casual than business.

London is a fashionable city. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty grungy looking girls running off to work with frizzy hair, layered clothes and mismatched socks. That may be because I work in Clerkenwell, the heart of London’s Design community (graphics, interiors, architects, etc.), and I’m not saying you ought to dress like you’ve just rolled out of bed, but the polished look is less common in the office.

My advice is to have fun with how you dress in London and let it express your personality so that people in your office can get to know your creative side. I typically wear a dress with a blazer and oxfords or jeans and a cute sweater.  Just leave the suit at home and get creative. When in doubt, err on the side of conservative. For more specific ideas, ask former interns what the office attire is like.

-Jamie Hausman

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