If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I have nothing to wear” whilst staring into a wardrobe full of clothing, you know the frustration of being in a style rut.
Our natural reaction is to buy more, but the real answer is in going back to basics. You may be surprised to learn that some of the most iconically stylish men and women actually wear the same basic items over and over again.
Just take a look at Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, Jackie Kennedy, Steve McQueen, James Dean, and Cary Grant. While heralded as titans of the fashion industry, these household names rarely deviated from their trademark look. Audrey Hepburn stuck to her black-on-black boatneck shirts and stovepipe slacks. Steve McQueen always wore slim khakis, a crewneck sweater, and a blazer on top. Imagine how easy it must’ve been for them to get dressed each morning. Which brings us back to the original point.
Why reinvent the wheel every day when you can get out the door looking just as good (if not better) in a tried-and-true ensemble? Not to mention, how you can save money on those clothes you never end up wearing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to wear the exact same items every single day. In basic terms, an outfit formula consists of wearing similar items in a similar way to create an overall cohesive daily style.
So, if you’re feeling uninspired by your current wardrobe, you might be ready to create your very own outfit formula. Here’s how.
1. Choose your basics
A major factor when developing your outfit formula or uniform is to choose your go-to basics. If you’re not sure what those are, ask yourself which items you wear the most during your week and which ones you’re the most comfortable in.
Forgo basing your formula on anything that is super trendy right now; items from fast fashion stores tend to become dated quickly and are difficult to match with other clothes. Pick items that are timeless and have been worn for many decades like button-down shirts, jeans, midi skirts, blazers, pencil skirts, turtlenecks, fitted t-shirts, slacks, A-line dresses, etc.
Which of these items do you gravitate toward or feel most confident in?
2. Pair them together
A good way to test out your outfit formula is to try out different variations for a couple weeks (or longer) before committing.
Maybe you love wearing the t-shirt + blazer + slacks combo, perhaps the midi skirt + turtleneck look, or the button down + jeans outfit? Try different combinations until you find a formula that feels natural to you.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and try a look you’ve never worn before. Look to the icons who came before you for inspiration!
3. Mix & match
Of course, you don’t have to stick to just one outfit combination all the time.
If your base outfit formula consists of slacks + shirt + blazer, try throwing a pair of jeans into the mix during your week. Instead of always wearing a blazer, wear a denim or leather jacket, too. By wearing items that are similar to your initial formula, you’ll still be sticking to the original look you’re most confident in and wear most often.
Also, when shopping, you’ll be able to identify a garment that is different in kind to your original formula items, but similar in essence and has the same practical function and appeal. That way, as you build your wardrobe over time, you’ll only purchase items you know you will wear.
4. Get creative with colors, patterns, & textures
Now you’re probably thinking, “Wow, this could get boring really fast.” But that’s where fun details come in.
For example, if you choose a formula that consists of button downs or form fitting t-shirts, don’t stick to plain and neutral colors all the time. Try stripes, florals, bright primary colors, and pastels! The same goes for fabrics. If you have items like blazers or pencil skirts in your formula, try tweed, plaid, gingham, velvet, corduroy and more.
The outfit formula of classic go-to items is simply the frame of your look, you get to interpret your style with as many unique details as you desire.
5. Add personal styling touches
This is how the style icons made their basic items look so distinct.
For example, trying cuffing your sleeves in different places along your arm until you find a spot that you like. Cuffing at the wrist, forearm, elbow, or upper arm may seem like minor changes, but it can completely transform the vibe of your outfit. The same goes for popping the collar of your jacket, cuffing your jeans, tucking in or tying the ends of your shirt, etc.
You can also add accessories that are unique to you, like a certain scarf style, a statement necklace, a belt, a pocket square, sunglasses, or type of shoe.
It’s in the little adjustments and additions that personalize your outfit formula and make it your own.