From Great Pieces to Great Outfits: 5 Creative Look Formulas Based on Fashion’s Rule of 3
For the longest time I thought that great pieces make for great style. That if I just got this spectacular dress, and that interesting top, and “Oooh! THE skirt…” I would be able whip them into great outfits.
But, as I previously wrote here, that turned out not to be the case. Those individual items did not seamlessly work together- because each of them was too busy trying to steal the show for itself!
And when your clothes are stealing the show, that means you definitely are not…
And that’s not the purpose of what you wear! Your style– of which your wardrobe is just one part- does not exist to swallow you whole. Instead, its value lies in its ability to uplift you and allow you to confidently express yourself.
So, with that in mind, this article is for those of you out there standing where I stood too: in front of a closet full of wonderful pieces, with few cohesive looks to whip them into.
To help get you unstuck, I’m sharing 5 great outfits based on just those outstanding wardrobe items. And you will see that they are (almost exclusively) based on the Rule of 3- which I explained on Instagram last week- a fantastic helper in their case!
The examples are my own, but the formulas are universal. Try them out, and let me know what you thought!
Great outer layer + Plain 2 piece outfit
If you tend to buy the majority of your statement pieces from the outerwear section, you might feel like you just get to wear them at parties or for nighttime outings.
But one of the easiest ways to wear a fab coat/jacket/blazer during the day without it feeling like overkill is by pairing it with an otherwise minimal, simple 2 piece look.
Aka, you’d be intuitively employing that Rule of 3 that I mentioned!
And you’d be creating more intentional and interesting outfits with less effort.
Plus, you’d be getting more use out of your statement pieces.
Your outerwear can be a gemstone hued trench coat elevating a jeans & tee outfit (like I wore here) or a timeless houndstooth coat covering your navy trousers and cashmere office sweater.
Or a tuxedo style blazer, transitioning your exuberant summer outfits into elegant fall looks.
And remember: a great third piece doesn’t necessarily have to be flashy, but it does need to be high quality. A subtly elegant item will be just as eye-catching- so when you do catch those eyes, you can give them something truly well crafted to see.
Glitzy dress + Tights + Sweater
Sometimes, the best way to get more use out of great pieces that simply don’t pair very easily with others is to just give into them and give them center stage! Only in a way that’s more suitable for day to day.
And this particular tip is especially good when it comes to elegant dresses, which often get to see the outsides of our closets only for parties and formal outings:
So, what I like doing is adding a pair of opaque tights (which immediately take the dress into more casual territory), as well as a sweater. If it’s a thin one, it goes underneath the dress, and if it’s a big, chunky one, over it (essentially creating a skirt & sweater look).
This way, you will be getting significantly more mileage out of an otherwise glamorous dress- by taking it from ballroom style to street style. Plus, you get to wear your favorite summer party dresses well into the fall or even winter!
Monochrome outfit + Captivating accessories
I know not everyone is a fan of collecting statement pieces when it comes to clothing. But what about accessories?
Designer purses and shoes, decorative belts, vintage jewelry… Am I ringing a bell with you too?
If yes, you might want to consider the effect that giving your accessories a chance to fully shine (pun intended!) will have on your overall look.
By relying on a monochrome outfit (you can even go with a one piece like a dress/jumpsuit) you’re creating a blank canvas for your accessories. A canvas that will not distract, but instead support them, enhancing and enriching the total look.
It’s not for nothing that many style consultants advise investing in very high quality, beautifully crafted accessories in favour of garments. The right accessories can be worn creatively in numerous combinations, raising the perceived value of each of them.
Print + Print + (… proceed with caution for a third)
The Rule of 3 is indeed a fantastic styling principle. But like any rule, it’s meant to have its exceptions too!
One of them being choosing to mix bold prints.
This based on the fact that a printed item (especially if the print is large, high-contrast, very visible) is already a stand-out piece. For many, it’s even enough to insert only one such item in an outfit for a pop of interest!
Two strong prints together is something I see rarely. And this is simply because a lot of women are afraid of mixing (and especially clashing) prints*, lack the knowledge or examples to feel inspired to do so*, or simply don’t feel represented by this style concept.
*N.B: For the first 2 cases, I have a proposal:
Give You and Your Personal Style a try, as it not only provides multiple sources of style inspiration, but it also comes with a list of tried and true print-mixing examples and tips!
The third case I respect as a style choice in itself, and I applaud you for knowing and owning your personal preferences!
Now, coming back to those bold printed pieces in your closet:
When we choose to mix two of them, the combination can be quite electric, and sufficient, I think- even for those of us with more fashionable or artistic inclinations- to feel like we are making a statement.
By all means, if you really want to, you can include a third printed or attention-grabbing piece.
But my advice is to proceed carefully, taking the right steps to create a harmonious and interesting image, not a grating, haphazard conjunction.
2 piece outfit + Statement lingerie
Lastly, while this may not be a large group (not the majority in any case), I know that some of us prefer manifesting our glam side through lingerie.
Like I said, it’s not a popular view! And a lot of women I speak to see still see it as either something that needs to be practical and comfortable, or as something more akin to “indoor-wear”. A part that nobody sees, the looks or qualities of which don’t matter.
Still, if you choose to dive in the world of Chantilly lace, luxurious silk, rich embroideries and fun cuts and fits, why keep the results hidden?
Wearing lingerie in a visible way has become less and less a taboo in the past years, thanks to designers, celebrities and Social Media.
Still, I see a distinction between outfits that intentionally and creatively expose undergarments, and those that do it gratuitously.
And the key to an intentional look can be found again, in the Rule of 3.
Only this time the third piece, the exquisitely well crafted, beautifully designed eye-catcher happens to be lingerie!
I mention these attributes as I think they are essential for any item you choose to showcase. And just as with any other piece of clothing, lingerie that is well-cut from a quality fabric, and well-fitted to you will always be an elegant part of your total look.
And in terms of that total look, I’d say that exposing an item that is normally meant to go unexposed is in and of itself an act of rebellion. So keeping the rest of the outfit relatively covered up not only gives you a good visual contrast of textures, lengths and fabrics, but also gives you an overall intriguing air.
And relying on mystery rather than fully unveiling is infinitely more interesting and imaginative, at least in my humble opinion…
Finally, I hope you’ve found this post useful! I hope it gave you inspiration, and maybe even a bit of extra courage to wear your style on your sleeve. And to make your own great outfits, 3 pieces (statement and not) at a time!