How to Put Together a Neutral Outfit That Isn’t Boring

Whelp! It’s back to life and back to reality . . . While it’s fun to get all fancy for a formal event, I’m always most comfortable in a sweater and jeans, which brings us to today’s post! Let’s talk about how to put together a neutral outfit that isn’t boring.


I love a good neutral outfit, but they can be rather bland unless you know a few tricks.

The key to putting together a neutral outfit that isn’t boring is to include a variety of patterns and textures.

I love the texture the garter stitching gives this link-stitch crewneck sweater from Everlane. That plus the tubular trim at the neckline, cuffs, and hem make an otherwise plain sweater an element of interest in this outfit.

How to Put Together a Neutral Outfit That Isn't Boring with Everlane's link-stitch crewneck sweater.

Since the sweater is cropped, I paired it with high-rise jeans — no one wants to see my muffin top! These jeans have a fun frayed step hem and a nice fading to the wash — two more points of interest.

I know some of you will say you hate the frayed step hem, and that’s okay! They’re a little funky, so if that isn’t your thing, a regular raw hem or even finished hem in a crop jean will work with this look.

For size reference, I have these jeans in the 29. If you decide to order, go with your usual, or size up if in between.

How to Put Together a Neutral Outfit That Isn't Boring with DL1961 x Marianna Hewitt Farrow Fray Step Hem Jeans and J.Crew Factory Zoe calf hair d'Orsay flats

Style Tip: Crop pants work best with this sweater because it’s on the shorter end of the spectrum, so that keeps the proportions of the outfit in balance. A longer sweater would visually cut me in half, but the shorter sweater helps keep that pleasing 1/3 to 2/3 body ratio.

That’s the other important thing to remember when putting together a neutral outfit that isn’t boring — fit and proportion always matter, but it’s even more obvious when they’re off in a simple outfit.

For years I’ve been thinking I’d write a post about this, and show you pictures to illustrate the rule of thirds as it applies to fashion, but I never seem to get around to it — probably because others have done a better job of it than I ever could. So if you’re not sure what I mean by the 1/3 to 2/3 body ratio (rule of thirds), check out this post.

How to Put Together a Neutral Outfit That Isn't Boring

For accessories, I wore silver ball stud earrings with a caviar texture, and I added a few neutral bracelets from Victoria Emerson Design.

This three wrap leather bracelet and the double wrap on tan leather are the perfect pairing and give this casual look a touch of glam.

I could have gone with a larger earring, but I think there’s something so sophisticated and understated about a simple stud — especially with a casual outfit. I think I’d prefer my larger pearls with this one tho.

Victoria Emerson Design wrap bracelets

Of course, the pièce de résistance in this neutral outfit is these calf hair d’Orsay flats.

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable these shoes are for the price, and I love the unusual pebble pattern as an alternative to the more common leopard or snake print. (They also come in leopard print, by the way.)

Brown is a big color trend this fall, so this is a nice way to participate without bringing it up near my face, as it’s not one of my more flattering colors. I also like how the dark brown shoes and my dark hair bookend the look with the lighter colors in between. I read an article about this years ago — hair color can actually play into your outfit choices too!

The calf hair shoe adds even more texture to this outfit, and the smooth leather of my handbag yet another.

J.Crew Factory Zoe calf hair d'Orsay flats

If I’m being picky, this sweater is a little bulky for my frame. I have square shoulders and a larger chest, so the bulky knit along with the drop shoulders and cropped length work together to add visual weight to an area where I don’t need it.

But this sweater is a great piece for someone who is smaller on top. The quality is fantastic, and it’s 100% cotton — I often get asked for sweaters with no wool in them. It runs TTS; I have the small, for reference.

Putting together a neutral outfit that isn’t boring really isn’t that hard. Just play around with different patterns and textures, and make sure the fit and proportion are on point.


Outfit Details:

sweater // jeans (option) // shoes // tote // earrings

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photos: Alison Cornell

Join the Conversation

38 thoughts on “How to Put Together a Neutral Outfit That Isn’t Boring

  1. Hi Jolene – the white sweater looks great – so fresh!  Thank you for mentioning the ‘1 third – 2 third’ rule.  I have never heard of that and have learned something very useful today!  Perhaps a post devoted to this would be really helpful to all your other ladies?  (Although maybe I am the only one unawares!) 🤭🥴
    Best wishes 

  2. The shoes are so cute, love them. You did ask what I would like to see so here goes……I would love to see a post on affordable trendy belts and hats.  Also a post on layering pieces. It’s that season when I am cold in the morning and put on an extra layer than want to take one off without messing up my hair or making my outfit look boring.  I would also love your thoughts on scarves and what you see in the stores and how to work them into multiple outfits. Thanks for asking and have a great day.

  3. I never heard of the 1/3-2/3 visual. Something else to remember as I try to get an outfit together haha! But the link you provided explains it well (I do best with visuals). I would love to see a post with tops for those of us who are larger on top. I am really a rectangle/square shape (long legs) since post menopause (and extra in the middle ugh!), but with a larger chest (thin arms). Any ideas on minimizing my chest and middle area would be great. Thanks.

  4. This is a great outfit and information on how to keep neutrals from being boring.  Jo-Lynne, when you see my post today, I would really appreciate your critiquing on the proportions.  I do have long legs and I am not short or long waisted, so I think I got it right.  I’m glad y’all did not lose power.  From what I’m hearing down here, there are all kinds of flight delays due to the weather up there.  It was 43 when I got up, which is awesome.  Enjoy your day!

  5. I know this has been styled off and on , I live in a small town with only a Walmart, it’s a good 45-60 minutes one way to go to any big store and that’s a Target or Cato. We have no Macy or Nordstrom to shop at and my size various so have to try on clothes tried ordering on line only to return what I ordered. Can you please show some neutral everyday wear from these stores keeping in mind I am in Florida 

  6. So glad you didn’t lose power! Those stormy nights can keep me awake listening to the wind howl. Dressing proportions are helpful: any more tips are welcome! A try on session at more affordable stores like Walmart, Target and Old Navy would be nice, since you asked for suggestions. Stay safe and dry today.

  7. Cute sweater. I find myself avoiding thicker sweaters though– they make me look thick! How about a Banana Republic try on sesh sometime?

  8. Great way to look put together while still casual, which is my everyday style also. I love the shoes and looked at them while at JCrew recently, they are flat, flat shoes and I cannot wear those with my high arches, except with an insert, and that wouldn’t work with this type of shoe. That’s okay, I can live vicariously through you, with your high heels (3inches is my max) and flats 😉.  I would love a Loft try-on. Thanks!

  9. I would love a post also on layering, especially with what to wear under a cardigan sweater.  I love cardigans this time of year but always strugggle with what to wear under to dress it up for work.  As others mentioned, Banana, WHBM, or Loft.  
    The flats from J Crew, are they true to size or did you size up?

  10. Great tips to remember. I love this outfit and find neutrals to be classy.
    We are getting really high winds and heavy rain today.. this storm is making its tracks .

  11. You are soo right about this crazy weather!  The wind & the rain still whipping here!  It feels like a tomato soup & grilled cheese for supper kinda night!  😋. You always manage to take a simple outfit & kick it up a notch, hence you being a fashion blogger, and me copying your outfits!!  The VE bracelet combo is perfect!  I look at them every time I see you style them, but haven’t bitten yet!  #ihavetoomuchofeverything. Enjoy your day out!

  12. I just bought that sweater from Everlane and I looove it. When I put it on, I couldn’t believe how silky it felt. Now it just has to get cold enough in Louisiana for me to wear it!

  13. My kind of outfit!  It’s very rainy and blustery here, on the other side of the country, too.  So, sweaters are the outfit of choice.  I love white with denim.  The shoes are such a fun touch!

  14. I have been obsessed lately with finding travel clothes for two big vacations next year. Found some cute stuff at J.Jill. So J.Jill and clothes for travel are my two suggestions.

  15. Really love that sweater! One way I’ve found to make a crewneck look better is to wear a 30” necklace with an amulet on it. It simulates a v-neck and can be more flattering if you’re bigger on top. 

  16. Cute shoes! Thanks for the reminder of rule of thirds. The link with pictures was helpful!  Would like hear more about hair color and outfit choices especially since I have decided to embrace my gray hair. 

  17. Wow so many good points!
    I love the jeans and all the extra 
    I would love to see your choices for 
    Winter ….
    Hats, boots…coats.
    Loved that post last year and was very
    Helpful in preparing for the cold.

  18. Jo-Lynne,
    No worries about styling new clothes for me. Frankly, I love it when you post what you are wearing for your bible study, lunch date etc. maybe challenge us to look in our closet and come up with an outfit. Or what small  item could we add to an outfit to make it more ‘fall 2019’. I would love it if you investigated thanksgiving outfits (color) for semi- casual (colored jeans) and maybe ideas for Black Friday shopping, lunch etc. even skin care now that the season is changing. I am in need of boots to wear to hockey games (heated arenas). Just sharing ideas with you. Stay warm, Deb

  19. I’ve been waffling over these shoes, but I finally ordered after seeing this post. Such a great outfit – thank you!

  20. Read the linked article on dressing for the 1/3 to 2/3 body ratio. Very interesting and helpful article-thanks for sharing!
    Here are my questions:
    How does the 1/3 to 2/3 rule work when adding a completer piece? If you have your top and bottom pieces in the correct proportion, won’t the completer piece disguise that?
    I am thinking specifically of the trend for long cardigans over tops/bottoms or dresses.
    Also curious about any length jacket, blazer, or cardigan.

    1. Usually you want to pay attention to the two base layers to get your ratio, and the completer piece frames it. The exception I guess is a shorter, more fitted jacket. Sometimes that can help disguise improper proportions beneath… if that makes sense.

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