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5 Prompts for Putting Together Outfits from Your Closet

Building a Wardrobe that Works
May 3, 2021

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.

5 prompts for Putting Together Outfits from your closet

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…

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.

See the original post for details. Ego Platform Sandals // more economical option

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.

How I Dressed for Thursday 3 (1)
See the original post for outfit details. Balica Flats in frost leather

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.

simple Spring Style
From last spring. See the original post for details.

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.

Linen Up for Summer
See the original post for details.

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???

Feminine Spring Blouse + Jeans
See the original post for details.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I choose shoes that will contribute to the overall vibe I want to achieve while staying subtle and in the background.
  4. 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.
Embroidered Top
From last spring. See the original post for details. But this embroidered blouse is available again this year.

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!

Style Formula #1 - Top This!
From last fall. See the original post for details.

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.

Floral Kimono
See the original post for details.

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?
Blues and Greens
See the original post for details.
  • 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)?
Final Photo

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.

How I Dressed for Wednesday

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.

How I Dressed for Friday

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???

Casual Friday OUtfit
See the original post for details.

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.
Sweet Sweatshirt for Spring
See the original post for details.

Starting an outfit from a feeling or vibe is a great place to begin when:

  1. you need to feel a certain way so that you can perform your duties better or interact with people in a particular way or
  2. you want to express yourself through your clothing, letting people know a little something about you or
  3. you need people (clients, customers, students, etc.) to perceive you a certain way (professional, competent, trustworthy, engaged, etc.).
Blue Cardigan
See the original post for details.

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.

Barrel Pants with Sandals
See the original post for details.

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.

Styling White Jeans for Spring
From last spring. See the original post for details.

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.
See the original post for details.
  • choosing modern silhouettes
  • selecting footwear that adds interest without overpowering the simplicity of the outfit
How I Dressed for Monday
See the original post for details.

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

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xoxo, Kay
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41 thoughts on “5 Prompts for Putting Together Outfits from Your Closet

    1. Hi Kay, I enjoyed this post! So many great ideas. Love your look in each of them. Wondering if the sleeveless tank with the front ties/ laces that is worn under the light blue blazer is a current purchase? If yes can you share the store?

  1. Thank you for the great tips and biblical encouragement. I really needed the later today and your words seemed heaven sent just for me. Have a blessed day Kay! I truly enjoy your content.

  2. Hi Kay,

    I just love your posts! In my 70’s now but still loving clothes, it’s difficult to find options that are age appropriate. Your suggestions are so valuable for many “older ages”. That said I would love to have a book with all the hints compiled together for reference. Have you produced one and if so, how can I obtain it?

    Thank you for being a beautiful witness of Christ in your work! Have a blessed day.

    In Him,

    1. Hi Margie. I have not compiled such a book but I do need to update my freebie e-book. I’ll try to do that soon.

  3. Wonderful post. Such helpful prompts. I too work through the shoe prompt. It is hard when lately each weather day is different in Michigan. Yesterday 80 today cold and rain. I have learned to go with it. Because of feet issues, I do need to consider how long I will be in my shoes. Thank you again for putting all these prompts down for reference.

  4. I so enjoy your posts and your YouTube videos. You have helped me get my wardrobe in much better shape! I can’t imagine the hours you put in just getting all this information together!

    I live in Florida and it is mostly hot and humid. While I love your all your jeans and long pants looks, I find that I need something cooler and very casual (as I live in a retirement community). Suggestions?

  5. Thank you for your BLESSED FOR YOUR DAY message. It was especially meaningful for me today, Kay. I’m going to print this message so I can reflect on it during this week and the weeks to come.

    I hadn’t really thought through the steps I go through to get dressed each day. Today, it was pull- on jeans- and a knit top- kind of morning to get the dog to an unexpected veterinarian appointment! But, thank goodness my typical morning isn’t that way. Sometimes I decide what I’m going to wear according to the weather, my mood, or a new shoe or clothing piece I want to wear.

    I’ve really been honing in on what my main style is. Now that I know I’m CLASSIC with a little PREPPY shopping for clothes and accessories is incredibly easier!

    Thanks for an inspiring post!

  6. I never have started out with the shoes. Another option to consider. I usually start with the pants or skirt I want to wear
    according to the weather and then pick the top and then the shoes. You have given us other options to dressing to consider. Sometimes I want to wear a certain pretty top and I have a lot of these. I always gravitated towards the pretty new tops when I went shopping. Then I pick out the pants or skirt, and then shoes according to the occasion or weather. Have got me pondering about the shoe option first now. Hum? You go to so much work for your blog and is so appreciated. Loved the BFMD. Another thing to think about. Have a blessed day.

  7. The BLESSED FOR MY DAY message was especially meaningful to me today. I’m going to print it so I can reflect on the message and scripture.

    Your tips for thinking through how we each get dressed each day is a helpful eye opener. Thanks, Kay!

  8. Hi Kay! I really enjoy this post. Very informative and helpful! Color and fit are important first steps for me…I check the weather and check my mood! ?. Shoes! I put them last on my list. Looking at your posts with a new shoe perspective, I see things with new eyes. I’m going to pay a little more attention to my whole look now. Your BFMD messages always improve my day. ?

  9. Your comment about wearing heels when meeting with the decorator did resonate with me. Often my choice in what to wear is based on my “audience” for the day, meaning who I’ll be seeing. And of course setting/event is very important in what I wear. I’d dress differently to be in court for example, than I would for my book club. Just as I’d dress more casually if we’re going to a barbecue restaurant than if we’re going to that high end bistro.
    Anyway, great post. Love the idea of using our simple, basic pieces. It’s all about the accessories in my book.

  10. Navy is a great color on you, Kay. That navy blouse with the embroidery looks terrific.

  11. Thanks for today’s BFMD. It was like an encouraging pat on the shoulder. God is good and he is always at work.

    I subscribed here a couple of weeks ago. Almost every day I find a good, applicable-to-me wardrobe building nugget I had not considered before, OR an affirmation that a particular item already in my closet is just right (which is really great!). I’m learning so much about looking “put together” rather than feeling “thrown together”!

    1. Wonderful to hear, Melanie. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog and that the blessing resonated with you. Thanks for letting me know.

  12. I always enjoy your posts. Funny that I get dressed using your suggestions without realizing that I did. Another one that I do is wanting to wear a certain color and go from there. I often want to wear red in the winter when Michigan is cloudy and dreary. And I want to wear pink alot in the spring.

  13. I often start with a handbag. I love bags with interesting designs, often multi-colour. I decide which bag I want to carry and then put together an outfit to go with it, bearing in mind what I will be doing and how dressy/casual I want to be.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Jo. I think I’ve done that some too, but not recently. I’ll have to add that to my list to talk through in round 2!

  14. Thank you Kay… informational !!

    That is so true about which shoes to wear based on the event….funny you mentioned it, I know I wore a 1” sandal but I wouldn’t have worn that in other circumstances but when traveling I was limited…..and yes it was raining but I still wanted to look stylish? Lol

    All points mentioned are something that I will carry with my styling.


  15. Hi Kay,

    Great article and very helpful. I really like the loafers that you feature in a few outfits. Do you find the pointed toe comfortable? I have slightly wide, size 9 feet. I still wear a medium width. I ordered the black dress that you featured in your video 2 weeks ago. I can’t wear pumps, so I have ordered ballet flats in black and leopard print. This article showed me that I really need more shoes, so glad I have ordered these 2 pairs. Do you think I can wear loafers with the black dress? I am wondering what other shoe options I can try in addition to the ballet flats and flat sandals.

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Beth. I think the ballet flats will definitely work. The look will be a little different but they’ll still look nice. I enjoy the look of the pointy toes shoes but I can’t walk in them just all day. Of course I make it a practice not to ever wear the same shoes two days in a row. I’ve heard from multiple podiatrists that changing your footwear daily can help prevent problems.

  16. Great post, Kay! Temperature is the first thing I consider when selecting an outfit. Shoes are the last thing! I understand your consideration of dressing a particular way to go furniture shopping. As another lady mentioned – the audience. I do that. It’s the same with speech. I (we) select words according to whom we are addressing. Elevated speech or daily speech. Anyway, lots of food for thought. Very useful information! Thank you.

  17. Your message today was also my verse of the day and I know the Lord is using both to speak to me about a situation in my life. Thank you for being that conduit.

  18. Thank you for the BFMD! While I know what you wrote, I needed the reminder. You provided us with wonderful suggestions. There are times when I build an outfit based on a particular handbag that I want to carry or I will build one based on particular jewelry that I want to wear. I wish you a beautiful day!

  19. Excellent post, Kay. So often it is difficult to know where to start when putting together an outfit, especially when there are so many options, but your tips provide great framework. I am often disappointed with my outfit after I add my shoes – now I will try starting with my shoes! Thanks for all your insights.

  20. Kay
    I came across your blog online and am so glad I did. This was an excellent post to read (my first) and I look forward to many more. I love the peplum Vince Camuto blouse, so sweet. I red somewhere that peplums work on an Apple shape? What do you think?

    1. Hi Gail. They absolutely can. Just check where the peplum hits you for the best proportions. But it can definitely help give you are more defined figure. Thanks for reading. And welcome! ?

  21. I had an outfit picked out for our Mother’s Day party Saturday that was a little dressy, then ran across your blog. It’s just family so I decided to dress more comfortably. I pulled out a pretty colorful summery peasant blouse and decided on black pants with sandals. I consider weather, occasion and how I feel physically when I get dressed most of the time these days. At 78, I’m slowing down. Now don’t tell me about the 90 year old who runs marathons. God bless em!

  22. Put together an outfit with a statement necklace.
    Consider: the neckline of blouse, shirt, dress, jacket or blazer;
    Clothing colors that compliment the necklace and do not distract especially up top.
    My husband loves to see me wear the jewelry he bought for me.

  23. Hi Kay,
    I’m enjoying your posts/articles. I don’t think much about what to wear; I certainly don’t start with what shoes I’ll wear (maybe that’s because I have such a variety). For me, getting dressed is more of an intuitive process. Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes, and have “studied” style for some time. It just sort of comes together without much planning.