Do you ever see a woman walk by wearing what is, at first glance, a very “basic” outfit, but she looks amazing. And you wonder what it is about her outfit that makes it look so chic, so put together?
This is a phenomenon I’ve been trying to decipher lately.
I follow several fashion bloggers who seem to have mastered this art of wearing simple pieces in a way that is interesting and chic, and I always look at them and think, if I wore that, I’d look like frump-city! What is her trick?
Then I started paying attention to the various elements of their outfits and how they combine them, and I started to decode a few of their tricks, and the more I play around with them, the more I like my outfits!
We all know that good fit is key, and that’s a whole other beast, but once you have that figured out, your outfits still might feel a bit… boring. That is the fashion conundrum I want to help you solve today.
In this post, I’m sharing three tricks for creating more interesting outfits.
3 Tricks for Creating More Interesting Outfits
I’ll do my best to come up with examples, but as I said, I’m still figuring this out, so bear with me here! I prefer to use my own pictures because it’s really not right to use other blogger’s pictures without permission, so I’ll do my best with what I’ve got.
#1. Focal Point
leopard vest // sweater // jeans // boots // necklace // earrings // photo credit: Alison Cornell
Just as a piece of artwork needs a focal point, and your living room needs a focal point, your outfit should also have a focal point.
The focal point of an outfit is exactly that — it is where the eye is naturally drawn, the component of the outfit that will draw the most attention.
It can be a color, a texture, an accessory, or a print; but ideally that primary point of interest will be near your face, so as to direct attention to your smile and your eyes.
In the outfit above, the focal point is clearly the leopard print vest. Your eye is drawn to the interesting print, and the bright/light colors. The rest of the outfit are wardrobe basics that support the gorgeous vest.
In the outfit below, the focal point is the gorgeous floral blouse. The pattern is eye-catching, and I paired it with black jeans and black mules to allow the blouse to take center stage.
floral blouse // jeans // mules // tote // earrings // necklace // photo credit: Alison Cornell
This next outfit is pretty basic — ivory sweater, olive jeans, and cognac boots. The color combination is a bit unusual, which is interesting, and everything each piece is fairly well balanced, but it’s still rather plain. The addition of the layer necklace gives the look a much-needed focal point.
The patterned bag also adds another point of interest… which brings me to my next question.
Is it possible to have multiple focal points?
Yes, definitely. Since I tend to prefer classic, understated pieces, I often end up with a balance of secondary focal points, which is fine, and actually good, but there is usually still one primary focal point.
In the look below, I would say the primary focal point is the gorgeous color of this dress. Because it’s a rather simple look, I added a layered station necklace, which is a secondary focal point. Both serve to bring the eye up towards my face, and I think it’s also important to point out the balance of proportions and styles in this look.
A small, diminutive necklace would look out of place on the expanse of magenta, but a large bib necklace would be overpowering. The suede OTK boots, the simple cut of the dress (with the added feature of the ruffle cuffs — another secondary focal point) and the just-right necklace all work together to create a pleasing balance of details. In my opinion, anyway!
When sharing this type of information, I suppose there is always room for disagreement, but I think this outfit is a great example of a good balance of focal points.
Here’s another outfit that has multiple focal points that I believe are very well balanced. The pink sweater draws the eye first, but the snakeskin booties definitely add an interesting and unexpected element. Then the leather moto jacket adds yet another.
I was also wearing a necklace that you can see better in this next picture.
turtleneck // grey jeans // snakeskin booties // similar leather jacket // pendant // similar tote // photo credit: Alison Cornell
Is it possible to have too many focal points?
Yes, definitely. Sometimes an outfit is simply too busy, there is too much going on and too many components competing for attention. Too many focal points can confuse and detract from the ultimate focal point — you!
I’ve probably made this mistake at times, but overall, my tendency is to err on the side of being too safe with my looks. In other words, I couldn’t find a good example in my archives, but you may beg to differ.
Because I’m such a Plain Jane, I tend to downplay my accessories and often miss having a focal point in my outfit, but I’ve been working on this! Now before I walk out the door, I try to remember to look in the mirror and ask myself, Is this outfit missing something?
I still err on the side of minimalism in my outfits, especially right now that those looks seem to be trending; but I try to be sure if my outfit is minimal, it is by choice, not because I didn’t think it all the way through.
similar sweater // raw hem skinnies // leopard mules // tote // initial pendant // earrings // photo credit: Alison Cornell
This is the trick I’m having most fun with at the moment. You’ve heard the saying, Opposites Attract! Well, that’s the gist of juxtaposition.
The idea is to come up with unexpected combinations that mix up styles and textures to create a subtle tension (and thus, interest) in an outfit.
Here are a few examples: edgy and classic, sporty and preppy, feminine and masculine — all are great combinations that add interest to an outfit.
In the look above, the sweater is preppy/classic, the raw hem jeans are casual, and the leopard mules also add an edgy detail. They also add pattern and texture to an otherwise very simple look.
In the look below, the puffer vest is preppy, the ripped jeans are casual/edgy, and the ballet flats are feminine. The striped tee and monogram necklace are also preppy, and the leopard print is a little edgy.
This outfit also features pattern-mixing, which is another form of juxtaposition, and a great way to add interest to an outfit.
As you can see, an outfit can combine a bunch of different styles — it doesn’t have to be just two, but all the components need to work together and create that balance we talked about above.
You can definitely over-do it, but I don’t think that happened here… although maybe I should let you be the judge!
You can also create these contrasts with colors or textures. For example, knit and leather is always a good combination. I think this is why I love wearing a leather jacket over a cashmere sweater. Add jeans and pumps or boots, and you pretty much have a perfect outfit… in my opinion. At least, you have the perfect outfit for my personal style.
That is definitely something to keep in mind when creating outfits. Ultimately your outfits should express you and your personal style. You may need to tweak these looks to work for you.
Here’s why this outfit works: The leather jacket is edgy, the cashmere sweater is luxe and classy, the jeans are casual with some masculine/rugged notes, and the pumps are feminine and a little bit sexy.
Throw on a scarf or a piece of statement jewelry, and you’re ready to paint the town red! Oh, and a leopard clutch never hurts.
If I replaced the jeans in the outfit above with black dress pants, and the leather jacket with a classic seasonless blazer, the outfit would be classic and elegant, but a tad boring. See what I mean?
This is why work wear looks are so hard! I’m always trying to combine all conservative, classic elements, and without any juxtaposition, it’s kind of boring. Not to say you can’t create juxtaposition in work wear looks — I just struggle with how to do that because I’m so used to relying on jeans or a moto jacket to create contrast with the rest of my classic wardrobe.
This cardigan outfit is another great example of juxtaposition — and focal point, actually! The stripe cardigan is the focal point, of course. It’s also classic and rather conservative, so I added raw hem black jeans for an edgy component, and the white leather sneakers are sporty.
stripe cardigan // white tee // similar black jeans // sneakers // pendant // star necklace // similar tote // photo credit: Alison Cornell
Here’s the same outfit with backless loafers, which I still love, but it’s not quite as interesting. The menswear-inspired loafers still create some juxtaposition against the delicate feminine jewelry and the edgy raw hem jeans, but the sneakers really take it up a notch and give it a more modern, youthful vibe.
stripe cardigan // white tee // similar black jeans // pendant // star necklace // black mules // similar tote // photo credit: Alison Cornell
Imagine the same outfit with regular black jeans with a finished hem — then the outfit would be overall quite conservative. It would still be a nice outfit, but not terribly interesting.
#3. A Completer Piece
leopard teddie sweater // black jeans // similar pumps // similar leather jacket // earrings // bucket bag // photo credit: Alison Cornell
Another trick for creating interesting outfits is to add a completer piece — usually a layer over the foundation outfit pieces.
In the look above, the leopard sweater and black jeans and pumps make a great stand-alone outfit. They have a focal point (the leopard sweater) and some juxtaposition (jeans with pumps), but the addition of the black leather moto jacket take it to a whole other level.
In the look below, the grey cashmere turtleneck, black jeans, and black booties makes a fine outfit on their own, but the quilted vest turns it up a notch.
puffer vest // grey turtleneck // similar jeans // black booties // similar tote // earrings // silver link bracelet (budget option) // photo credit: Alison Cornell
I could have added a necklace as a secondary focal point, but I opted to keep this look more minimal. I felt the layered look jacket was interesting enough on its own.
Also note the choice of the raw hem jeans — a subtle rugged/edgy detail against the luxe cashmere turtleneck and sporty vest. There’s your juxtaposition.
Taking one of the examples of focal point from above, the completer piece in this next look is clearly the black leather jacket.
The outfit does stand alone just fine due to the interest in the necklace and the booties — if I get warm inside, I can remove the jacket — but the jacket improves the outfit immensely. (And please pardon the static cling! That sweater is always super staticky. Also, the jeans look a bit tight because they ended up in the dryer. I’ve since stretched them back out again.)
See more leather jacket outfits for your fashion inspiration!
turtleneck // grey jeans // snakeskin booties // similar leather jacket // pendant // similar tote // photo credit: Alison Cornell
I also have a suede moto jacket that I like as a completer piece during fall and winter. Once again, one of my favorite my go-to outfit formulas is in play here: cashmere sweater, raw hem jeans, ankle boots, and a structured moto jacket. FYI, these Rag & Bone booties are finally on sale. Still an investment, but I think that’s about what I paid last winter. I also love this taupe suede version.
See more moto jacket outfits.
moto jacket // similar turtleneck // raw hem skinnies // booties // bag // photo credit: Alison Cornell
People often ask me if a leather or suede moto jacket is supposed to be outerwear that you remove when you get inside, or an outfit component that you wear all day. The answer is, it depends!
I usually take the moto jacket off if I’m in a restaurant or visiting a friend’s house, but if I’m going to be at the mall or running errands and going in and out a lot, I keep it on.
It also depends on what I’m wearing underneath. I sometimes wear my leather jacket over a camisole or sleeveless shell to go out for dinner with my husband, and in that case, I usually leave it on in the restaurant — unless it gets really hot!
A denim jacket is another great option for a completer piece — especially in spring and summer.
This next outfit is from last spring, and I love the dark denim jacket against the bold yellow top with white jeans. The yellow top is obviously the focal point, but adding a completer piece adds another layer of interest (quite literally!)
See more denim jacket outfits for your fashion inspiration!
similar yellow blouse // white skinnies // wedge sandals // denim jacket
Putting It All Together: Improve An Outfit
This last look is one of my attempts at work wear. Y’all know I struggle with these looks the most!
While I think it is one of my better work wear attempts, there’s definitely some room for improvement. Let’s break it down.
Working backwards, the jacket is obviously the completer piece, so at least this look has one component of an interesting outfit!
The green top, tan pants, black pumps are nice enough, but it really needs the jacket to pull it together. Plus the top is sleeveless, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for most work environments without the jacket.
It’s still a rather safe outfit because there isn’t a whole lot of juxtaposition going on here — although I suppose the bag is a tad edgy, the pumps are feminine, and the trousers are a bit masculine. The jacket has a more feminine cut to it than most blazers, and the choice of top is also a bit more feminine than, say, a button-down shirt. So maybe there’s enough juxtaposition for a work wear look.
What I think this outfit really lacks is a focal point.
The green top serves as the focal point because there’s nothing else to do the job, and I do like the balance of colors — the pine green top is pretty against the mocha-colored trousers, and the black jacket and black pumps bookend the look and keep it professional, but I think a piece of statement jewelry or a pretty printed neck scarf would take this work wear look to the next level.
I didn’t have anything that worked better than this delicate beaded necklace, and it’s better than nothing, but I’m aching to try this outfit again with a really great necklace or perhaps a silk neck scarf? This is a tough one because I wouldn’t want to interfere with the cowl neckline, but maybe something like this. What do y’all think???
pants // similar top // knit blazers // shoes // bag // necklace // earrings // photo credit: Alison Cornell
I hope that was helpful.
With a post like this, I could go on and on, analyzing outfits and showing before-and-after examples, but I will try to do some of that as I share spring outfits over the next few months!
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71 thoughts on “How to Create an Interesting Outfit”
Wow! This is great and so helpful! Thank you for all the information and ideas! 🙂
I only had time to skim this post before, but I came back to read it thoroughly. So interesting and so helpful! I have really started enjoying fashion and putting together outfits since finding you and now I have something concrete to think about as I’m figuring things out. I’d love to see a similar post this summer with examples. Thank you for this brilliant post!
What a great post! I love how you’ve broken it all down. I always describe the focal point as the “star”. Then the other pieces are its supporting actors, supporting the star. And like you described, jewelry/accessories can also create focal points as well. Perhaps the accessory focal point is a co-star!
I also love your thoughts about juxtaposition. I usually think of in terms of masculine/feminine or simply adding something unexpected. The green vest example is super…even though the deconstructed jeans are edgy, a riding boot would make the outfit read so preppy. (Makes me think of Princess Kate.)
LBNL, I wear long pendant necklaces with draped neck tops like your green one. I don’t feel like it takes away. A printed scarf with green, mocha and black would be fantastic!