The Smart-Casual Conundrum

 This week Jane and Beryl are tackling the most tricky of dress codes, smart casual.

 Why is this difficult A. because its an oxymoron and B. no one knows exactly what is meant by the smart-casual request, raising the spectre of being under or overdressed. Jane and Beryl have debated the meaning of the smart-casual invitation, and think that what the hostess is indicating is that she wishes everyone to be comfortable, informal, have fun, but still have made some sartorial effort. Call them old-fashioned but Jane and Beryl don't think anyone wants a guest with unwashed hair in a saggy-arsed pair of jeans, (not judging just saying). Now that jeans have been mentioned, can we discuss the conjunction of the middle aged bod and this eternal symbol of rebellious youth. Post 50, bottoms start their slow inexorable slide towards the ankles, and flesh emerges over tight waistbands in what the French call la brioche, which for once sounds no better in French. This being the case Jane and Beryl have thrown caution to the wind, and not included the jeans, nice top combo in their smart-casual repertoire.

Beryl is by nature a dress-wearer, but here

 is wearing loose-fitting white satin trousers £29 from Zara (bought this summer) and a £75 T-shirt from At Last in Andover, bought about two years ago. The ice-cream cone necklace cost 50p from her village fete and probably dates from the 1950's. She has swapped her usual high court shoes or strappy sandals for what the French call tropezines (Beryl has come over all Frenchi-fied this week, it's all this referendum chat). These were about 45 Euros from Cerutti. Topping this off is a fine suede coaty thing (£110) from Spirit in Devizes. All these items collectively appear luxurious, but the shapes are casual and easy to wear. Voila, élégante décontractée n'est pas, Marie Claude?

Jane is sporting her last year top fave dress from Anthropologie's sale reduced from £198 to £128. She is comfy in this ensemble especially with her patent brogues also bought in a sale reduced from £200 to an amazing £50, and a recently acquired bag from TK Maxx for £29.99.

Beryl's striped trousers were Zara this spring £29. The blazer is Paul Costello and came from Black/White in Bath a vintage shop which is sadly no more and cost £28. Beryl loves the blazer, shoulder pads and all, it has that sexy masculine vibe, and is a good disguise for those of us with a good pair. The top was a full tenner from New Look. The yellow brogues are from Seasalt and cost £65. If Beryl wanted to dial up this look for an evening out, she would add high gold sandals and a gold clutch.

Jane is rather wedded to this blush colour currently and can't get enough of it. This top was a birthday gift from her sister-in-law and with these trousers from Principles via Debenhams for a measly £24 reduced in the sale, make for the epitome of S-C. The hot tip here is that the trews are not linen but a much warmer polyester fibre, so perfect for this year when Jane heard the weather described as 'autumnal' only this week on Radio 4 - it's the end of June for goodness sake!

Firmly back on this side of the channel Beryl has broken out in a jump-suit Andy-Pandy would have been proud of, which cost about £100 from Dr Boom. An unstructured fabric is a good ruse for adding informality, while a jump-suit is always a little less dressed up than a frock. The jacket is part of a cream suit by Kaliko, which currently has a collection designed by Jeff Banks that claims to be created especially with smart-casual in mind. The bag (below) belongs to Jane and is an Orla Keily hamper that was half price in a sale many moons ago but always comes out with the sun.

This outfit is the result of some serious shenanigans
by her dresser (Beryl). Firstly, she bought Jane this lovely
skirt from Barcelona , and secondly, she
manoeveured Jane's back fat out of shot
 (it's behind the door in her bedroom).
The skirt was 22 euros and the top came from
Top Shop two years ago. The espadrilles are by Aspiga
in their sale (£35).

A smart-casual dress sounds like a tricky customer, and sometimes they are, being neither Arthur not Martha. Like maxi-dresses, this sundress fits the bill and comes from Warehouse and cost £45. It could grace a barbecue or informal summer gathering. These are probably in the sale about now. Warehouse in Beryl's humble opinion have had the nicest clothes on the high street this summer. Worn here with Zara £29 chunky pumps. 

Ahh, the joy of navy and white! Jane can never get enough of this combo, it has such a relaxed yet jaunty vibe with a little hint of the seafarer about it. Jane's jacket is from Jasper Conran at Debenhams (£59); her chiffon white top from French Connection and her trousers a gift from Beryl via H&M. The platform espadrilles came from Kurt Geiger several summers ago and were £85. Jane is breaking up the match-matchy tempo with a blush bag from a local sale.

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