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Casual wear/attire/clothing is a Western dress code category that comprises anything not traditionally appropriate with more formal dress codes: formal wear, semi-formal wear, or informal wear. It saw broadscale introduction in the Western world following the counterculture of the 1960s. Notwithstanding sportswear, when emphasising casual wear's personal comfort, it may be referred to as leisurewear.
In a broader sense, the word "casual" may be defined as anything relaxed, occasional, spontaneous, "suited for everyday use". Sometimes it is also popularly called "informal" in the sense of "not formal", although informal attire traditionally refers to a Western dress code associated with suits - a step below semi-formal attire - thus being more formal than casual attire.
Definition of casual: what it is not
In essence, because of its wide variety of interpretations, casual wear may be defined not by what it is but rather by what it is not:
- Formal wear, such as:
- Semi-formal wear, such as:
- Informal attire, such as:
Yet, when indicated as a dress code for instance on an invitation to a gathering or in an office place, casual wear may still be expected to be done tastefully, meaning that trousers and shirts do not have holes, tears, or stains.  , it may also be combined with informal wear dress code components, illustrated by dress codes such as business casual, smart casual .
Furthermore, dress codes within casual wear category such as business casual, smart casual or casual Friday may indicate expectation of some sartorial effort, including suit jacket, dress trousers, and necktie, resembling the result of informal attire.
With the popularity of spectator sports in the late 20th century, a good deal of athletic gear has influenced casual wear, such as jogging suits, running shoes, and track clothing. Work wear worn for manual labor also falls into casual wear. Basic materials used for casual wear include denim, cotton, jersey, flannel, and fleece. Materials such as velvet, chiffon, and brocade are often associated with more formal cloths.
While utilitarian costume comes to mind first for casual dress, however, there is also a wide range of flamboyance and theatricality. Punk fashion and fashion of the 1970s and 1980s is a striking example. Madonna introduced a great deal of lace, jewelry, and cosmetics into casual wear during the 1980s. In the 1990s, hip hop fashion played up elaborate jewelry and luxurious materials worn in conjunction with athletic gear and the clothing of manual labor.
Casual wear is typically the dress code in which forms of gender expression are experimented with. An obvious example is masculine jewelry, which was once considered shocking or titillating even in casual circles, and is now hardly noteworthy in semi-formal situations. Amelia Bloomer introduced trousers of a sort for women as a casual alternative to formal hoops and skirts. The trend toward female exposure in the 20th century tended to push the necklines of formal ball gowns lower and the skirts of cocktail dresses higher. For men, the exposure of shoulders, thighs, and backs is still limited to casual wear.
A U.S. artist wearing a casual minidress during a public interaction.
- Western dress codes
- "Attire Guide: Dress Codes from Casual to White Tie – The Emily Post Institute". The Emily Post Institute, Inc. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- Allan, Patrick. "What All of Those Confusing Dress Code Terms Really Mean". Lifehacker. Retrieved 2017-05-05.