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How much should I pay for: A casual outfit?

How much should I pay for: A casual outfit?

Dressing for when you're off-duty should be easy. There's no dress code to match up to – whether your office's is overt or implied – so surely you can wear whatever you like? But in reality, the lack of rules also means you've got nothing to guide you. When you can wear whatever you like, it's tough to make sure all the things you like actually look good together.

"The best casual outfits are built from pieces that work separately," says Thread's Alice Watt. "That also gives you more flexibility if you need to adjust your layers because the weather changes." If your t-shirt looks good with just the jacket, or just the shirt, then you're prepared for any situation. "It also means that you get more for your money, because each item can be worn with a number of other things in your wardrobe." Which means you can spend that little bit more and still get great cost-per-wear.

To help you figure out precisely how to invest your budget, Alice breaks down what to look for in the perfect casual outfit. So you're set whether you're looking to spend a little or a lot.

Budget: £100

Affordable casual outfit

Photographed: Hammond & Co. navy jacketMarks & Spencer red plaid shirtMVP white t-shirt;

Jacket: “A Harrington jacket is casual, but because it has a fold-down collar – rather than the baseball-style collars you get on things like bomber jackets – it feels a bit smarter. At this price you’ll probably get a blended fabric: look for a good ratio between the cotton and what it’s mixed with. Anything above 40% polyester can start to look shiny.”

Shirt: “Checks are always more casual than block colours and, as a rule, the larger the check, the less smart it is. If you stick to a midsize check in a muted colour then you get extra use out of the shirt, as it will pair with a blazer too. For extra versatility points, look for pure cotton – it’s light and breathable, so you can use it as a layering piece all year.”

T-shirt: “You can buy white tees for less than a pint, but you shouldn’t. Flimsy versions will shrink and bobble after one wash, so you’ll have to replace them quicker, which makes them more expensive in the long run. Because you’ll wear them so much, it’s worth spending a bit more. Then just be careful when you’re drinking your coffee.”

Budget: £450

Investment casual outfit

Photographed: Paul Smith navy jacket; Paul Smith red & white shirt; Derek Rose white t-shirt

Jacket: “At this price, a Harrington is still a versatile option, but you should look for subtle details that make it stand out. Things like a slightly textured fabric – suede is great if you’re willing to look after it – feel premium and add depth to any outfit. If you nail the fit – snug enough to fit under a coat in winter, but roomy enough to wear over a sweatshirt in autumn – you get even better cost-per-wear.”

Shirt: “Again, checks are ideal for a casual outfit, but be careful not to go too baggy. You want it to look as good done up as it does open. If you want something for colder weather, go for flannel – it’s warm and incredibly soft, so perfect for when the nights are getting long.”

T-shirt: “If it seems ridiculous to spend this much on a t-shirt, consider how much wear you’ll get out of it. If you look after it – that means washing it only with other whites and being careful when you’re eating – it could last for years. And a premium version that fits perfectly always looks amazing. Just look at Marlon Brando.”