Are you ready for a little style inspiration? Better yet, let’s get down to the brass tacks of putting together great outfits today. I talk a lot here at Dressed for My Day about building a wardrobe that works for you. And I’m a firm believer in a multifunctional, interchangeable closet. But the purpose of that versatility is to facilitate you in putting together outfits. Duh. We’re not inviting anyone in to see our magnificently curated closet; instead we want to put together outfits from that closet that serve us well with function and style.
So this past week as I was putting together outfits for daily wear, I paused long enough to think through my process so I could share it with you. And I actually found that the process was a little different on various days, depending on several factors such as weather, activities, my mood, etc. So I’m going to keep thinking through this and share other tips with you later on. But today I have five considerations that might help you put together stylish, modern outfits from your own closet.
Now before we start, I do want to remind you that these tips start with the assumption that you have built or are in the process of putting together a “wardrobe that works for you.” That simply means that I’m assuming…
- you have the necessary wardrobe essentials (see my Spring Wardrobe Essentials post for more info) for your personal style and lifestyle
- you have pretty much nailed down your personal style (see my post on defining your personal style or start with my style quiz)
- you’ve built your wardrobe with a refined color palette so that at least 85% of your clothes are in your 2-4 neutrals and your 3-5 signature colors (learn how to choose the colors of your wardrobe)
I noticed that when I approached my closet to put together something to wear for the day, I generally started from these five places. So let’s consider these to be outfit prompts. But I’ll also walk you through what I do after I’m “prompted” toward a specific direction. Hang with me. You’ll catch on to the method in my madness when we get started.
Outfit Building Prompt #1 – Pick Your Shoes for Function and then Fashion
I’m amazed at how many days I actually select my outfit based on the shoes I need or want to wear. You, too? Whether it’s raining and I need to wear closed toes or I’m going to be doing a lot of walking or I just really want to show off those darling new blue flats I got, quite frequently I think shoes first. And if you have finicky feet, I bet you do that even more frequently than I do.
And there’s nothing wrong with starting from the ground up. If you have chosen your footwear with both style and functionality in mind, you’re good to go. But don’t drop the ball here. Once you decide on your shoes, think about how you can wear them so that they play nicely with the rest of your outfit. Let them set the tone, but don’t let them rule the roost. Make sense?
In other words, just because you have to opt for closed toes on a rainy day doesn’t mean you have to wear a frumpy outfit. Turn those closed toe shoes into a fashion statement rather than a fashion cop out.
The outfit above is a case in point. It was a rainy day when I set out to meet a friend for coffee that morning. But I knew I wanted to look stylish. I was meeting one of our Facebook Group hostesses, Holly. So I chose these frost blue leather Balica Flats rather than settling for sneakers or plain leather loafers. Then I chose jeans that would show them off. Finally, I topped the look with a floral shirt that could hold its own with all that was going on below.
Note that I didn’t want the shoes to just “stick out.” I didn’t want them to be the star of the show. Honestly, I don’t ever want one thing I’m wearing to so grab attention that it’s the main thing a person notices about me. So I work pretty hard sometimes to tone things down. I felt like the floral shirt did that. Make sense?
Let’s consider another way you could play this prompt. In the photo below I’m wearing sneakers, which are certainly a viable choice when you need to wear closed toes because of the weather.
And again I chose shoes with some personality. But I also, once again, made sure that I wore something up top that balanced that choice out. The shoes are darling and fun, but they don’t pull anyone’s attention downward for long. I made sure “the party” is up near my face. Make sense?
So I guess the point is that when you begin putting your outfit together by considering your shoes, take that consideration a step or two further and…
- make sure your shoes work well with the entire outfit
- draw the attention upward toward your face, where it belongs
- add other elements to the outfit that balance out your footwear
Yet another way to work an outfit when you need to start with the footwear is to make sure that you have plenty of options in a shade that matches your skin tone. At this point I have sandals, loafers, boots, pumps and heeled sandals in my flesh tone. And those are definitely the easiest to work with.
And yes, there truly are days when I start off with the shoes above (because they are great walking shoes for a busy day) and choose my outfit from there. I tend to pair them with pants in a similar tone or white. But flesh toned shoes go with absolutely everything.
Okay, let’s move on to the second prompt.
Outfit Building Prompt #2 – Enjoy that Pretty Blouse
A second way I begin putting together an outfit is by choosing a pretty blouse that I want to wear. Some days I just gravitate toward an ultra feminine blouse. They bring me joy. Anyone???
Honestly, I don’t have a lot of pretty blouses. I find I do better with simple separates that mix and match easily. But every now and again I do add something colorful and feminine and just darn pretty to my closet. And I’ve learned that when I start with such a piece there is a natural progression I follow.
- I choose a pair of pants (or skirt) in a neutral that will frame the pretty blouse the way you’d highlight a work of art. I don’t want the pants (or skirt) to compete with the blouse, just frame it.
- I choose the pants or jeans to set the tone. For instance, the tone of the outfit above would completely change if I wore dressy white pants with the floral blouse. The jeans give this gauzy, dressy blouse more of a casual vibe.
- I choose shoes that will contribute to the overall vibe I want to achieve while staying subtle and in the background.
- I use jewelry to add a little sparkle, but not to compete with the blouse. The jewelry acts like lights that are focused on the painting.
I think I may need to add a few more pretty tops or blouses to my closet. They can be a little limiting, but they also are quite easy to style. You simply let it shine!
Outfit Building Prompt #3 – Take it from the Top Layer
I’ve discovered that during the spring (and fall and winter) I frequently begin putting my outfits together with the top layer. Maybe it’s chilly outside and I know I need a jacket or cardigan. Or maybe I’m just in the mood to wear a particular blazer or kimono. But either way, I start with that third piece in mind.
When I start with the top piece, I then take the following into consideration:
- Do I want that third piece to be the star or simply “part of the team?”
- What vibe do I want to create using that topper?
- Will I be taking that jacket, cardigan or wrap off at times or wearing it all day?
- How will that top piece affect my proportions? Do I need to tuck in my shirt underneath it or leave it out?
- Is the topper blousy and full (like both the kimono and the field jacket shown above) or fitted and tailored (like the blazer below)? Or is it boxy (like my denim jacket)?
So it’s perfectly fine to start putting an outfit together with that third piece or topper. But then I need to think through the rest of the outfit in relation to how that top element will work with it. I want to keep in mind that I still want to achieve pleasing proportions, both in length and fullness.
Outfit Building Prompt #4 – Starting with a Feeling
Then there are other days I begin putting an outfit together based on how I feel. Really I think about the vibe or feeling I want my outfit to emanate. Do I want to look relaxed and super casual, but still pulled together and smart? I might wear something like this outfit I wore to a casual gathering with friends last Wednesday. We just met for brown bag lunches in the park.
I think the outfit above looks very laid back but still pulled together. I’m wearing some friendly color, but comfortable pants. The pants are fashion forward and on trend, but not wild. And the animal print shoes read like a neutral, but also add some interest. I also kept my jewelry really simple to reflect the occasion. I purposefully didn’t wear a necklace.
On other days I want to look professional and smart. But I still want to be true to my work-from-home lifestyle. For instance, the day I met our interior designer to go over her proposals for our family room, I wanted to feel and look confident and sharp, but I also didn’t want to “pretend to be something that I’m not.” So I wore jeans topped with a simple but elevated tank and a pretty blazer.
I’m not gonna lie; I specifically chose to wear my pumps that day because I’d seen my interior decorator wear heels every time we met. She looks so sharp and professional. I wasn’t trying to compete or be just like her, but I needed (for my own decision making ability) to feel competent next to her. Does that make sense? Anybody???
So when I start off an outfit with a particular vibe in mind, I consider:
- What clothing in my closet naturally emanates the vibe I have in mind? (Blazers = professional, joggers = casual, denim jacket = fresh, button-up cardigan = traditional and ladylike, graphic tee = modern and edgy, etc.)
- What “neutral” pieces will I wear with those more vibey pieces to create the tone I want? For instance, in the outfit above I wore jeans with my blazer and pumps to create a professional but still more casual outfit.
- How will I accessorize the outfit so that I don’t overdo the messaging?
- What style hacks will I use to accentuate the vibe? For instance, in the outfit below I added a crewneck tee under my sweatshirt to create a pulled together but casual vibe.
Starting an outfit from a feeling or vibe is a great place to begin when:
- you need to feel a certain way so that you can perform your duties better or interact with people in a particular way or
- you want to express yourself through your clothing, letting people know a little something about you or
- you need people (clients, customers, students, etc.) to perceive you a certain way (professional, competent, trustworthy, engaged, etc.).
Outfit Building Prompt #5 – KISS – Keep It Simple Separates
But really some of my favorite outfits are just made up of simple separates. And this concept is really trending right now. When we talk about creating stylish outfits from simple separates we’re just talking about taking those most pared down, simple pieces from your wardrobe and putting them together with seemingly effortless style.
Because these outfits are generally comprised of simple solids in your wardrobe neutrals or signature colors, they’re very easy on the eyes. They’re not complex, but they frame you well. Fit is key here because these are pieces that should look like they were made specifically for you.
My biggest challenges when creating outfits from simple separates are:
- resisting the tendency to over-accessorize
- adding a style hack or two to create interest (rolled sleeves, a front tuck, a belt, a popped collar, etc.)
- making sure I have simple separates in my closet that are indeed simple but also stylish and modern
- keeping the look pared back instead of adding fuss and muss.
- choosing modern silhouettes
- selecting footwear that adds interest without overpowering the simplicity of the outfit
So those are my five outfit starting prompts that I had to offer you today. Do you have others to share? When you are putting together outfits to wear, where do you start? I’d love to hear from you. Then maybe I can take that prompt and work through it in a future post.
I hope you gained a little inspiration for putting together outfits today. Thanks so much for dropping in. Remember, for shopping information or just additional insights on any of the outfits I’ve shown above, just click through the link I provided in the photo caption.
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Blessed for My Day
Press on, dear friend. That answer you haven’t yet received, it’s coming. That trial you’re enduring, it’s not forever. That prayer concern that’s weighing you down, there’s hope. Today is a page in the story; it’s not conclusion. While things may seem very hard, discouraging, never-ending or hopeless today, they are not. Please don’t be pulled down by the defeating lies of the enemy.
You have not been forgotten, ignored or pushed aside by God. He is still at work. He is still involved in your life. He is doing something beyond your imagination and He is trustworthy. So you have a choice. And I encourage you to rejoice in the hope that you do indeed have, to be patient as you endure this trial and to continue to pray, affirming the trust you have in God.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12