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Tips for Coordinating Your Outfits Without Looking Matchy-Matchy

Building a Wardrobe
Comments(34)
April 20, 2021

Hello and welcome to Dressed for My Day. While I’m not a professional stylist, I am a woman who knows how to do her research. So I may not always “get it right” with my own outfits. After all, I’m just a woman like you…doing her best to get dressed each day in a way that feels stylish but still authentic and comfortable. But I’ve done a little digging around and I’ve got a few tips to share to help us coordinate our outfits…without looking matchy-matchy. Ha!

Tips to Help You Coordinate Your Outfits

I love getting blog post ideas or questions from my readers. These are the blog posts that I’m more confident will meet a real need. And I’ve received lots of requests for a post about how to look pulled together and coordinated without over doing it. You know that matchy-matchy look, right?

Well, first let’s understand that, to a degree, matchy-matchy is actually “in” right now. That is, it’s considered quite on trend to wear suits or matching coordinates, even matching joggers and sweatshirts or tops. But, as with most on-trend fashion, it actually takes a little finesse to pull that look off without looking, um, for lack of better words, dorky. Hahaha!

So while I’m all for wearing matching suit pants or skirts with jackets, let’s otherwise leave the “fashionable” matchy look to those who are a little more hip. Well, at least they’re more hip than me. And let’s instead perfect the seamlessly coordinated look that reads a little more effortless and casual…while it’s anything but in reality.

Tip #1 – Develop an eye for separates that “go together” without necessarily matching.

This first tip may seem a little lofty, but honestly there really is no substitute for just being a student of good style. I spend a lot of time looking at outfits coordinated by other bloggers, YouTubers, store stylists and magazine editors. But I don’t just look at them. I study them. I note the following things:

  • what clothing separates they combined
  • what prints and patterns they used
  • what colors they paired or mixed
  • what textures they combined
  • what styling hacks they used
  • what accessories they used, including jewelry, shoes, handbags, belts, scarves, hats, etc.
  • what ornamentation they highlighted and how much of it they used in an outfit
Spring Date Night
See the original post for details and shopping information.

I also look for what they didn’t do. Of course, I read and listen, too. But even when there’s no explanation, I truly study a lot of outfits and try to figure out what makes them work so well. And when I see something that doesn’t work, I study that, too.

It’s my hope that I provide study-worthy outfits for you here and at my YouTube channel. Like I said, I’m not a professional stylist, so it may be that I sometimes provide you with examples of how not to do it. Ha! But the key is simply taking the time to really note what’s going on in an outfit.

Tip #2 – If possible, try to use separates from a variety of retailers or brands when creating an outfit.

This is not a rule, okay? If you’ve been here long you know that I absolutely occasionally put together outfits completely from Talbots or J.Jill or Chico’s. But I also start to notice that I’m doing that (and try to stop) because I start seeing how my outfits are looking quite matchy-matchy in those instances.

Sandals
For details and shopping information see the original post.

In fact, this is always one of the challenges when I’m given an opportunity to produce a sponsored post for a brand. I’m so grateful for these sponsorships and choose them carefully, working only with brands I really believe in and enjoy wearing. But when I’m using only clothing and accessories from one brand it truly is a challenge to create more interesting outfits that don’t have that Garanimals look. Know what I mean? And I think some other influencers do a better job of it than I do. But I’m learning.

The photo above features an outfit completely from Chico’s. I love this outfit, but it definitely is identifiable as Chico’s. Wouldn’t you agree?

So the better option is to choose coordinates from a variety of brands when possible. In the photo below I remember intentionally choosing not to create a completely J.Jill outfit with my green J.Jill barn jacket. I combined the J.Jill barn jacket and scarf with jeans and a top from Everlane (quite a different style aesthetic). So yeah, work towards not just combining a variety of brands, but a variety of very different brands. Honestly, that’s quite a challenge, but it can push you to create more interesting outfits without looking matchy-matchy.

Blues and Greens
See the original post for details and shopping information.

Tip #3 – Build a wardrobe of interchangeable separates in a tight color palette.

I know I must sound like a broken record when I go in this direction, but building a wardrobe that works for you is such a vital key, not only to creating less matchy-matchy outfits, but to creating outfits that reflect your personality. When you build an interchangeable wardrobe each piece you purchase will work seamlessly with so many others that are already hanging in your closet. In fact, you’ll be delightfully amazed at how well new pieces work with the older garments you already own.

Spring 2021 Wardrobe Essentials
See the original post for Spring Wardrobe Essentials you need in your well-tuned wardrobe.

Part of building that well-tuned wardrobe that works together so beautifully is having the necessary wardrobe essentials for that season. I think a lot of women try to bypass this step and then they fall into the habit of purchasing outfits rather than purchasing separates from which they can get more mileage. Wardrobe essentials are those basics like white, black and or navy t-shirts, classic black or other neutral colored pants, good jeans and a classic blazer or cardigan that fits your personal style aesthetic.

Outfit
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For instance, in the photo above my modern straight leg jeans, classic white blazer and neutral colored tote (no longer available) are all wardrobe essentials that do heavy duty in my spring closet. Because I have them I can create a new, interesting outfit like this one with just the addition of a graphic tee, without looking matchy-matchy.

If you’ve missed it somehow, check out my series Building a Wardrobe that Works for You. It provides step-by-step guides for creating a wardrobe that is versatile and interesting, but also reflects your personal style. You can also always access this series through the menu at the top of my blog under the FASHION tab.

with Blue Blazer
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Part two of that third tip is creating that wardrobe in “a tight color palette.” When you work with a narrowly defined color palette you’ll have a closet full of clothes in just a few neutrals and a few (3-5) signature colors. So you’ll be more prone to have, say, a blue blazer that works with the blue print dress you later bring into your closet (see photo above). That blue blazer with “go with” most any blue print dress without looking matchy-matchy. Get the concept?

I can’t tell you how much more effortless and enjoyable it really is to put together outfits from my closet now that I work with a much more defined color palette. Yeah, every once in a while it feels restrictive when I have to remind myself not to order, say, that orange blazer. But later on I’m always quite happy to have pieces that truly coordinate.

Tip #4 – Collect accessories, especially leather or faux leather ones, in the similar colors and tones.

I get so frustrated when I go to put a belt on and don’t have one in a shade of brown that works with my shoes. Now your belt and shoes and handbag do not have to match. In fact, that’s the whole reason many of my readers have requested this blog post. They want to know how to wear shoes, belt and handbag without them being exactly the same. The best advice I can give is simply to say they need to “go together” but not necessarily match.

Handbags (2)
See the video for details and shopping information.

In the photo above I’m wearing leather loafers from Everlane, a leather belt from Talbots (no longer available) and a leather trimmed canvas camera bag from J.Crew. I’m also wearing a brown leather watch strap from Nordgreen. So I know they can’t possibly be the exact same color of brown. But they are a similar tone of brown. And you can see that indeed the effect is pleasing. Imagine if I were wearing black leather loafers, a brown belt and carrying a taupe handbag. The coordinated leathers definitely lend a more elevated vibe to the outfit.

Without going into all the industry terms and definitions (because I’d be way over my head!), we can consider the tone of a color or hue generally to be warm or cool. I sometimes have a hard time telling if a brown or camel is cool or warm. You probably do, too. But if we’ll just ask ourselves if we see hints of orange or yellow (warm tones) in the color or hints of blue or purple (cool tones), we can get close enough for coordinating shoes, belts and handbags.

But you don’t necessarily have to even match leathers in intensity. Below I’ve carried my straw satchel with medium brown leather trim and I’ve worn a soft honey beige in my slide sandals.

Brighton Straw Satchel
See the original post for details and shopping information.

You can also wear brown and black together. I do think that when you combine black and brown it’s a good idea to make sure it looks intentional. You can do this by repeating each hue somewhere else in your outfit, if possible. In the photo below I’m wearing my python print loafers, which are mostly dark brown and gold and a dark brown belt. But when I added my black trench and a black backpack the look still works because I have two brown elements and two black.

What I Wore to Church Second Sunday
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Oh, and about that belt. It’s reversible. Hey, that’s another good tip. Buy a reversible belt! I wear this one so often.

In the end I think I just eye-balled this look and decided it worked. So trust your eye…once you’ve developed it a bit.

Remember, when it comes to the “science of chic,” what translates to the eye as chic is effort. So I contend that as long as it looks like you’ve taken a little effort to choose your accessories carefully, you absolutely can look chic and pulled together. But don’t overthink this. Gone are the days when you needed to exactly match your shoes to your belt to your handbag. In fact, looking back at old movies, I’m not sure those days ever existed. I think maybe we just thought they did and we beat ourselves up over nothing. Ha!

Above I’m wearing a soft nude shade on my feet and carrying a creamy white handbag. They don’t match, but they go together. This is why it really is important to select your accessories carefully, not just buying colors you like, but thoughtfully adding to your wardrobe pieces that work together.

So the bottom line once again goes back to building a wardrobe. If you build into your wardrobe a selection – even if it’s small – of belts, shoes and handbags in similar tones of brown, nude and some black (if you wear black), then you’ll be ready to put together a coordinated look that is not matchy-matchy on the fly.

Tip #5 – Go with at least one “neutral” piece of jewelry in your outfit.

These days most jewelry brands and retailers produce coordinating jewelry that is not overly matchy. But, big but, if you wear all the pieces in a set of coordinating jewelry it absolutely will look matchy-matchy. And no one needs to hear that more than me. I’m the kind of gal who, when I find something I like, I want all of it there is to have. Ha! But I know that about myself and I do my best to constrain myself.

Ways to Get Ready for Summer shorts
For details and shopping information see the original post.

In the photo above I’m wearing a double strand necklace (similar concept) that you can actually take apart and wear separately. But it definitely counts as two coordinating necklaces. So I resisted the matching earrings and intentionally chose to wear what I consider to be a pair of “neutral” earrings with the necklaces.

But that doesn’t mean I never wear multiple pieces of a “set” of jewelry. If I like it, I wear it. I just try to balance it out by adding other pieces that are obviously not part of the set. There’s probably one out there, but I can’t find a photo right now of me wearing multiple pieces of the modern pearl jewelry that I love from Kendra Scott. See the necklace, bracelet and ring in the photo below. I do sometimes wear all of these together.

pearl jewelry together
baroque pearl necklace, bracelet and ring balanced with Veronica hoop earrings and demi gold multi strand necklace (in gold)

So I think the key when it comes to jewelry is to make sure you have some “neutral” earrings, necklaces and even bracelets, if you like, that can be worn with the more statement jewelry type pieces.

I just realized that I haven’t done a Spring & Summer Jewelry post, so I’ll try to get that one up next week. And if you have additional questions about how to wear jewelry so that it’s coordinated but not matchy-matchy, we can talk about those there.

Oh, one more thing. You absolutely can mix metals. It’s not something I do often, other than the fact that my wedding ring is silver toned. But the key to mixing metals are:

  1. If you’re going to wear multiple metals, wear at least two pieces of each.
  2. Your wedding band doesn’t count. Don’t worry about trying to match it.
  3. Adding a single piece of jewelry that contains multiple metal tones is a great way to anchor the mixture.

Bonus Tip – When you’re concerned that a look is becoming matchy-matchy, opt for a simple separate in a neutralizing color.

One of my biggest tricks for toning down a matchy-matchy look is changing out whatever top I’d originally chosen for a chambray shirt or basic white tee. Last year I wrote a post about How to Style Floral Pants so You Look Chic…Not Childish. I actually love this post and how it came together. I offered numerous ways to wear these floral pants from Talbots (last year). But this first look…

colored tee

…definitely looks more matchy-matchy to me than the others simply because I’m wearing a t-shirt in the exact same color as what is in the pants. Of course, keep in mind that they’re both from Talbots, so tip #2… But when I wore the pants with a chambray shirt…

chambray shirt

…the look is definitely pulled together, but not at all matchy-matchy. Same with the plain white t-shirt…

floral pants

Those neutral classic pieces just have a way of toning down the matchy-matchy factor, sort of like the effect of adding a little salt to a recipe to meld the brighter flavors together. The same concept works with a classic white button up shirt, a denim jacket, solid black pants, nude pumps, etc. So not only do those pieces add versatility to your wardrobe, they give you a leveling tool to tone down the matchy-matchy effect.

Sweatshirt on Shoulders
See the original post for details and shopping information.

Thanks so much for dropping in today. If you have other concerns about coordinating outfits that I didn’t address here, let me know. Maybe I can add that information at some point or do a part two post.

Have a great day! And let me know if you have additional questions or if this post answered any questions you’ve had.

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Blessed for My Day

God’s name is synonymous with His character. In the Bible we find many Hebrew names for God, and they each tell us something about His character or ways. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Provides. Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. El Shaddai, the all sufficient one. The more we get to know God’s character, the more we realize that He is indeed worthy of our praise.

Thus we are told to praise the name of the Lord. We lift up our songs of worship and our words of praise and our heartfelt adoration because we have come to know that He is indeed sufficient, trustworthy, able, with us and good. Today let’s be sure to praise the name of the Lord wherever we are. Let’s fill the earth with the praise of our God.

As is Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is full of righteousness. ~ Psalm 48:10

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xoxo, Kay
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34 thoughts on “Tips for Coordinating Your Outfits Without Looking Matchy-Matchy

  1. Your outfits always look great and so put together. I still struggle with the concept of matching outfits without looking too matchy match even after reading the blog. I can’t tell you how many clothes I have but can never seem to put great looking outfits together. Some people just have that knack, but not me

  2. Love your Blessed for My Day, Kay.
    I pray your move brings much fruit and happiness to your heart, and your parishioners love you, as we all do.

  3. Great blog today. I think you gave a lot of great tips for not being too matchy -matchy. Like throwing on a chambray shirt or white tee shirt too break up a printed bottom, or a graphic tee. Sometimes according to my mood or where I am going for the day, I matchy-matchy. That goes for me, if I feel like wearing jeans that day or dressing up. Mood or event. Sometimes you dress a lot more casual than I do, but that is your style versus mine, but I love your post. Great BFMD also. Love these!

  4. Ha ha! I got a big kick out of your comment on Garanimals look. I’ve definitely said that about myself a time or two. Enjoy reading your posts.

  5. Thanks for another fun fashion lesson! I subscribed to Cladwell earlier this year and it is interesting to see what outfits they put together for me. I am wearing so many more of the clothes I already own in combinations I never would have thought of. I’ll be 71 in May and still have fun “dressing for my day”.
    I love the mini Bible Study at the close of your posts!

  6. Great post! Really helpful and this is hard for me to pull off. I tend to error on being too matchy so thank you.

  7. Amazing what a V neck does to make us look younger! and give us an edge from a round face.
    Love your thoughts from Above.

  8. I am a new follower on your blog, and so far I am loving what I see! You are beautiful outside as well as inside. That is what I strive for every day too. I am a nurse so many times I cannot dress up like I want to, only on my days off. But, I am also a preacher’s wife, so I try very hard to dress modest but very tasteful with new updates to my wardrobe each season (if it’s in the budget! ) Having one daughter in college and one still at home can be hard on the budget while trying to pay off cars and a mortgage! The other day for an evening church service I got very bold, and wore a pair of nice skinny jeans, with a lacy edged (on the bottom) camisole in beige, and layered it with a black denim jacket and my new beloved pointy-toe tiger-print shoes. It was a bit of a different look for me but I got lots of compliments. I said, “Hey, I may be fifty, but I don’t want to LOOK fifty!!” LOL.

    1. Hi Cindy. Wonderful to meet you. Thanks for sharing. Yes I remember those days of putting kids through college. Sounds like your outfit looked great. Keep it up!

  9. This is such a helpful post, and I think I will remember to use my basics to avoid being matchy-matchy. You have been very helpful in the 3?4? Years I have been reading your blog. But I finally subscribed to Allison’s Outfit Formulas for the year, and I didn’t need to buy any clothes. She just helps you put together what’s in your closet. But I already had the basics, thanks to you. And your BFMD so many times seems to be exactly what I need that day. Thank you so much for all of your research and the quality of your work.

  10. Thank you for these helpful fashion tips, Kay. I have both a white button-up and denim shirt that I never wear. Your suggestions have given me some ideas to freshen my appearance.

  11. I’m a visual learner. I would love to see some future posts that show an outfit that’s a bit off compared to the same outfit that rocks. Some ideas could be correct proportions, correct color palette, correct accessories choices, etc. It would be so helpful to see an outfit styled that is just meh to a real attention grabber just by understanding what worked and what didn’t and why. I don’t see fashion bloggers giving this kind of visual instruction but I think it would be great.

    1. Hi Nancy. I’ll see what I can do…to an extent. I think the reason that you don’t see many bloggers doing that is because it calls for double the work and time during photo sessions. And most of us are stretched pretty thin as it is. A lot more work goes on behind the scenes than it looks. So maybe I could do something like that in a video. It still means a lot more work, but it sounds more feasible there. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hi Kay,
    I read your blogs daily and enjoy them. I have a topic suggestion. How about work out ,exercise or walking outfits, sneakers. Here in Connecticut we enjoy hiking, walking and yoga.

    1. Hi Brenda. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. Yes I’ve done those a lot in the past and will definitely do more. You can also check under my FITNESS tab in the top menu for old posts in that area. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Wonderful BFMD! Kay, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this very informative post. Of course, you would know that the outfit I have put together for tomorrow is what you would call matchy matchy and the top & bottom are the same brand. Hopefully, I won’t look dowdy, but if I do I will just have to own it. I hope that you have had a great day!

    1. Hey, remember these are not rules, just tips. Sometimes it just honestly doesn’t matter. I’m sure you will look wonderful!

  14. Great tips Kay!!! I appreciate all your time and detail you put into your blog. You can definitely tell that you enjoy your work….most of all your BFMD is always what I look forward to reading.
    ~Lisa~

  15. Hello Kay! I’m new to your blog and I love all your dress tips! You pose well for your pictures! I never know how to pose when it comes to picture time! I always look awkward, lol! Can you give any tips on how to pose for pictures? Thank you for all style tips! Bless You!

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Welcome. I can absolutely do that. Maybe I’ll do that in an upcoming video. Thanks for sharing your idea.

  16. I love your comments about buying separates rather than outfits, and also mixing brands. It can be a real challenge not to end up looking like you just stepped out of a Talbot’s or Chico’s catalogue! When I buy an item I try to think of at least two or three pieces that I already have that I can combine with the new item to make multiple outfits. Sometimes just changing the jewelry that I wear can change the look of an outfit and take it from classic to funky. And before I leave the house, I will often take off one piece of jewelry so I don’t look overdone with matching earrings, bracelet, necklace etc. I think that was a tip from either Chanel or Karl Lagerfeld!

  17. I tend to be a bit matchy matchy. Thank you for showing the print pants with some basics. I would have the same color top which is what I thought would look the best but you showed me that is not the best option. Also thank you for sharing your BFMD’s.

  18. Great tips! I loved seeing the variety with the print pants! My favorite was with the white tee shirt. I think what made the Chico’s shorts outfit scream Chico’s was the necklace. It seemed too much with shorts, to me. The floral blouse with jeans looked good, but I would also like to see it with khakis. Ditto the two white and blue blazers. Would the white one work with the blue and white dress? Would the blue blazer work with the jeans and tee? I’d love to see a video of various changes. I am learning so much from you, Kay. Thanks!

  19. Great info, Kay. Thanks!

    I’m still confused given the trend toward mono outfits when something is too color-matchy.

  20. Thank you, Kay. Wonderful post. Very engaging. You have pulled together great examples of the tips you are sharing that make it easier to understand and carry out. Your teacher parents would be so proud of you.?

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