On the heels of a post about thrifting and in the midst of a 30-day closet purge seems like a good time to discuss how to put outfits together.  I appreciate fellow bloggers who are very thoughtful about this process – Adina at Blue Collar Red Lipstick is the Queen of Outfits, IMHO.  I tend to be lazier more intuitive but upon reflection, I realize I use a simple approach and thought I would share it.  Here it is, in a nutshell.

  1. Choose my strategy
  2. Choose my core pieces
  3. Put on the finishing touches

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy…  Allow me to elaborate!

1. Choose Your Strategy

What do I mean by “strategy?”  Well, I think outfits have a couple different ways of coming together: they are either matching or contrasting.

Matching – this includes MMS (Matchy-Matchy Syndrome) along with monochromatic looks and mixing neutrals (black, brown, grey, navy, taupe, denim) together, but the most common form of matching is putting a neutral core piece (i.e., black pants) with a patterned/colourful core piece (i.e., printed top) and using shoes and accessories to pick up the colours.  I have inadvertently fallen into a matching holding pattern and I’m hoping this post will shake me up a bit, not that there’s anything wrong with it!  Many a great outfit use the matching strategy.  Here are a few examples of matching, recent and from the archives:

This outfit didn’t get the Instagram love it deserved. Matchy matchy bliss!
Bestill my matchy-matchy heart!
Colour + neutral denim skirt + matching shoes + matching accessories = MMS.
Neutral bottom + printed top + matching shoes + matching accessories = MMS.
Matching orange and red from head to toe for Thanksgiving a few years ago.
Blazer $7, pants $5, flats $3 plus accessories from my collection.
Of course, black is the neutral we reach for most often and for good reason. It looks great with colours and other neutrals.

Contrasting – this includes contrasting prints, contrasting colours and contrasting styles and each bears some explanation.

 Contrasting Prints:  I’ve blogged about mixing prints before and nothing much is new as far as I’ve noticed.  Generally, the traditional prints (stripes, polka dots, florals, gingham/plaid, leopard print) mix well with each other.  You can experiment with the scale of the print (e.g., mixing a small-scale stripe with a large-scale floral) and colours but will probably find that a common colour in both prints helps to create a cohesive look.  Some examples…

Mix of scale in these prints and a common colour.
Traditional prints – florals and polka dots (a version of) mix well when there’s a common colour.
Same top with a traditional polka dot. It works!
But this is what I ended up wearing.
Still a fave! Stripes are the default print mixer! They work with anything.
Recent example – earlier this week I purchased this striped J Crew dress and leopard print flats. #mfeo

Contrasting Colours:  Though it’s not as evident in my recent ensembles, I love an outfit with contrasting colours.  Whenever I encounter a difficult-to-style piece, I try it with a contrasting colour and usually find a style solution.  It’s not cheating to refer to a colour wheel.  In fact, I’m going to hang one in my closet!  Contrasting colours work best when they have the similar tone.  I learned something valuable about hue, tone, tint and shade just now – click here to be thusly enlightened – but let me assure you, you’ll know it when you see it.  You’ll get a sense that it “goes.”  So don’t over think it but don’t be afraid to try it!  You just might like it!

A most recent example of contrasting colours (on a cool day when I wore pants!!!) Olive green and blush/red stripes.  And what you don’t know from the photo is that I walked around all day in one earring because I forgot to put on the other one.  Didn’t realize till bed time, of course.
Mustard and turquoise work together because they contrast!
I can't believe it's November and I'm outside with a coat. It's a bit unnerving.
Raspberry and turquoise also “go!”
Turquoise and red!! I think turquoise and mustard are easily mixed with others!
The Essential Dress of a Colourful Wardrobe
This post talks all about my favourite colourful pieces and how to wear them!!

Contrasting Styles:  An easy styling trick is to pair something casual (e.g., distressed jeans) with something fancy (e.g., a pretty blouse).  Other examples: a pretty dress with a jean jacket, a dress with sneakers, a graphic tee with a blazer, a graphic tee with a full skirt, vintage skirt with moto jacket, boho tunic with skinny jeans.  I could go on.  The juxtaposition (that one’s for Mr. Sapach, my high school English teacher) is what’s interesting.

Look at that snow!! Look at that hair!! Nvmd, this is about mixing a fancy dress with a plain wool sweater – fancy with casual.
Alanis and Nanette...
Graphic tee with a pretty skirt – love it, especially when your graphic tee is as legit as seeing Alanis live in Montreal in 1996.
Dress with a jean jacket is such an easy way of mixing styles.
This whole post was about styling graphic tees.
I paid a relative fortune for this necklace but felt it was reasonable compared to regular retail and THANK GOODNESS I got it, because it was perfect for this outfit!
Casual sweatshirt plus sparkly necklace! Ever wonder why the statement necklace trend was so popular (and still going strong)? It’s because the contrasting styles work!

Matching is a good strategy when you’re low on time or energy and sometimes it’s just plain comfortable and pleasing.  But when I look back on my recent outfits, the meh ones were inevitably lacking contrast – casual top with shorts, skirt with a pretty blouse, and so on.  They were okay, but not great.  Contrasting is where you can showcase your creativity, style and individuality, and take your average outfits to great – so make some space in your life to give it a go once in a while.

2. Choose Your Core Pieces

What do I mean by “core pieces?”  Top and bottom or dress, what forms the core of your outfit.  Start with those first.  Sometimes a core piece might be shoes or a finishing piece.  When that happens, it’s usually because those finishing pieces are “statement” pieces.  They are bold in one way or another and they guide the rest of the outfit and hence become the “core.”  Usually when I’m in the shower, I think about what strategy I’m in the mood for, and the core of my outfit.  If I have something new to wear, I’ll start with that!

I *might* have picked these up today at an antique shop in Tomball and I *might* be treating them as the core piece for my outfit tomorrow by planning my ensemble around them!

3. Put on the Finishing Touches

What do I mean by “finishing touches?”  For my friends back in Canada, the finishing touches will likely include a finishing layer – a cardi, sweater or blazer that fits with your strategy.  Back in the olden days of winter, I abided by the “rule of 3” – having three interesting outfit elements up top, usually including a cardi, sweater or blazer.  Now that I live in Sweat City, two of the three elements usually come from accessories because I’m too dang hot.

EXCEPT FOR TODAY!! I wore layers today! And a scarf and my leather jacket. I was so happy.

Accessories are also a finishing touch.  You might have a signature look or a signature piece or maybe you use your accessories to play with your style… I wear the accessory trifecta (earrings, necklace and arm party) daily.  I am quite pleased to find my fellow Texans an accessorized bunch!  Kindred spirits!  Scarves and shoes are other finishing touches and last but not least is makeup.  Like it or not, a little makeup adds the final polish to your look.  I’m not suggesting you go full-on Instagram-contouring-tutorial…  Tinted lip balm works.  A five-minute face works.  A 20 minute face works.  When you see women who look “put together,” it’s probably because they’ve done the last step!  They put on the finishing touches!

I even felt better once I added a second necklace. With just the one, it seemed sort of predictable.

So many of us skip step 3 but I believe it is what takes us from being store mannequins to stylish women.  So, don’t skip it!!

In Conclusion…

Building a great outfit that you feel confident in is not that hard and neither requires much time nor money!  What is your default outfit strategy?  For the next week/lifetime, I challenge you (and myself) to try both strategies and their variations and to complete all three steps.  Tag me if you can so we can be mutually inspired to get up, get dressed, and put on the finishing touches.  I’m betting it will be a better start to a better day!


    • nicole

      hee hee that was kind of old school Nicole style but it was very pleasing!!