I realized after helping a wonderfully creative woman declutter her wardrobe the other day that most women need a refresher on how to put an outfit together. Many of you are winging it! Which is fine, especially if you’re leading a busy, interesting life. You may not have a lot of time to devote to your look. So you take a chance every morning. When the outfit works you’re thrilled, but when the outfit doesn’t work, you may not understand WHY it doesn’t work. Wouldn’t you like to be able to shampoo, rinse, repeat putting together a great outfit that makes you feel powerful and confident?

When you figure out what works for your coloring and body shape¬†and suits your personality, you’ll have a “uniform” formula for most of your outfits. Here are basic steps to create a proportionally balanced outfit that flatters and gives you confidence:

Step 1:

Choose a piece you want to showcase in your outfit. It might be a gorgeous blouse, a midi-length skirt, a blazer, pair of boots, or one of these chunky long cardigans. In other words, start with a piece you’re excited to wear that day and build your outfit around it.

Step 2:

Let’s say you chose a long cardigan as your signature piece. Next, you add layers underneath. Look in your closet for a simple loose-fitting blouse or tunic and a pair of skinny jeans (rolled up) or tailored slacks. That’s the most comfortable option. If you want to appear elongated, choose a monochromatic top and pant combination. Here are some examples:

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Step 3:

Add jewelry to complement and finish your outfit, such as a necklace (or several layered necklaces), a bracelet (or several bracelets layered up your arm) or earrings. I usually stick with 2 of these accessories for myself, but if you LOVE your bobbles, go for more! I know this is an extra step, especially if you’re just running to the market or post office. But I’m telling you — if you make the effort to adorn yourself with beautiful accessories — you WILL get noticed. Compliments always feel great! A special pair of sunglasses will add chic sophistication. A great scarf makes your outfit look finished and keeps your upper body warm.

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Step 4:

Select shoes, boots or booties, that give your outfit proportional balance. When wearing skinny jeans or leggings, booties look chic, as do gladiator sandals or loafers. With skirts I prefer a small heel that’s comfortable and gives me a slight lift. No need to match your shoes to your outfit. In fact, the more colorful the shoe the better! If you want to appear taller, match the shoe color to your pants or tights.

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Here are some guidelines to follow when putting an outfit together:

  1. Matchy matchy is not a rule anymore. You do not need to match your belt to your shoes, or your shoes to your handbag. In fact, accessories can provide a pop of color to a neutral outfit. It’s up to you! If you like the matching look, then go for it. We don’t want to be told what to wear or how to express style — it’s all about style YOUR WAY.
  2. Why the outfits pictured above work: 1) They combine loose with fitted pieces to avoid the “frumpy” look; 2) A long sweater or coat elongates the body (added bonus of keeping your entire body warm); 3) A small heel adds length to your leg line; 4) Striking accessories pull the outfit together.
  3. If you’re wearing a loose top, wear something more structured on the bottom. And vice versa. This prevents the Frump-A-Dump look when you’re baggy all over. It actually adds weight to your look. The exception is tropical living — loose-fitting clothes are ideal to keep you cool and comfortable.
  4. If you’re wearing a long, flowy skirt, make sure your top isn’t so long that it cuts your body in half. Instead, pair the skirt with a shorter top that hits right around your hip bone, or tuck the top into the waistband, or add a low slung belt over the top.
  5. Wear all the accessories you can handle to add style & fun to your outfit. Don’t save your precious jewelry for special occasions. Wear your gorgeous diamonds, rubies, and emeralds proudly! Just make sure they’re insured…
  6. Layering adds interest and texture to your outfit. Mix fabric textures such as silk, cotton, wool, leather, woven knits, etc. to create multidimensional looks.
  7. An overall monochromatic look is chic and powerful. Try to choose a color other than black and have fun with color.
  8. Organize your wardrobe according to function first (hang tops, pants, jackets, dresses, skirts together) and then group by color. This makes building an outfit easy and intuitive. You’ll know where to look.

Do you have a special formula for putting your outfits together? Please share your secrets with us!