How to Build an Outfit

By Hannah ’22

The clothing that we wear is a form of self expression; therefore, it is important to put together an outfit that you are proud of to create confidence. However, building an outfit is not as easy as it looks. We’ve all had that moment where we think something is going to look good only to look and the mirror and see a whole different story. Most people probably think ‘where do I even start?’ 

There are three main categories to consider when choosing an outfit: shape, color, and pattern. Building a good outfit is all about creating BALANCE within these three categories. 

There will be two parts to this article. The first will be discussing and familiarizing you with the three basic categories and the rule of balance as stated before; the second part will start talking about how to apply these concepts to create a good outfit that you can wear. 

Part 1: Understanding Concepts

SHAPE & SILHOUETTE 

“You wear your clothes, your clothes do not wear you.”

This old saying is completely accurate. A good outfit makes you look good and creates a flattering shape. The first step to creating a good silhouette with your outfit is to analyze your body shape and pick features on your body that you really like. It could be your waist, legs, shoulders, collar bone or anything you are really proud of. From this, you can choose different pieces of clothing to emphasize a feature. 

The most basic silhouettes to start from are tight and baggy. A general principle for wearing baggy clothes is that you balance it out with another tight piece. For example, if you are wearing baggy pants, you can wear it with a tight shirt or tighten your waist with a belt and vice versa. 

Both outfits have baggier tops but handle the silhouette differently. The outfit on top has a baggier top that is balanced out by the tighter jeans and tall black boots. The outfit on the bottom balances the baggy top with a straight leg pair of pants that also defines the waist. 

Now, when you put together both elements of emphasizing features and the balance of shape, you have a flattering silhouette! Grace Kelly shows the perfect example of this in this outfit: 

First, she chooses to define her small waist using a thick belt and elongates her legs with a pair of high waisted straight-leg trousers. 

She also creates a flattering silhouette by balancing the baggy top with the tight belt and the straight-leg trousers. 

Of course, this is just a basic overview of silhouette. There are many other silhouettes that come with different styles that you can play around with. 


COLOR 

There really are no rules to what colors you can or cannot wear or match in an outfit. Generally the colors that go well with everything are white, black, and the blue of jeans. 

It is safer to pick colors that are closer together on the color wheel, or colors that are generally lighter or darker. For example, in the outfit on the right, both the white T-shirt and the purple pants are lighter colors. Paring the light white T-shirt with the light purple pants would be more appealing than a black T-shirt. 

Never be afraid to play around with bright colors! When you wear a bright color, it is safe to balance it out with a duller color like black or white. However, you can also pair two bright colors together. In the outfit below, the bright yellow and green work well together because they are closer colors on the color wheel.

Another option for color is putting together monochromatic outfits. They can make you look very put-together and seem like you put a large amount of effort into you outfit. Here are some examples: 

But in case you don’t have a full set of red in your closet, an easier approach to get that nice monochromatic look is to start with all white or black outfits. 

For all black or white outfits, you want to spice up the outfit by either creating a unique silhouette, like Audrey Hepburn does with the in the outfit on the bottom, or add a little contrasting color in one of the clothing items such as Kendall Jenner in the outfit on the top. 

If you want to try to match other colors, you can pair colors that are of similar shade but are not exactly identical. 

In the two outfit examples below, a different shade of each color is paired together to create well put together outfits. 

PATTERN

Patterns do not have to be crazy or colorful, they just have to maintain BALANCE. 

When balancing a pattern with a solid, in order for the outfit it match, find a solid that matches one of the colors on the pattern. 

In this outfit example above, the pattern is a simple black and grey striped shirt with a white collar. 

The white in the collar is repeated in the white socks + shoes and the white bag to complete the outfit. 

Here are some other more understated but equally as chic patterns that are paired with solid colors:

If you want to mix patterns together, make sure to find two patterns that share a common color. For example, in the outfit on the right, Ashley puts together two patterns: the red and black top over the leopard print that is also paired with black denim jeans. The black from the square-neck top, the leopard top, and the denim jeans ties the whole outfit together. 

Part 2: How to Start

THE FOUNDATION: BASICS

“The basics are like the building blocks to your wardrobe; you can’t get to the top of the fashion tower without having a solid foundation”

Ashley (Best Dressed)

Basics are a good starting point for building a good outfit. It is important to find a basic clothing item that fits well and one you are confident wearing. It is important to find a basic first so that you have many options to build onto the outfit. All good outfits are built from basics. 

Some good basics to invest in:

– White short sleeve top

– White long sleeve top

– Black short sleeve top

– Black long sleeve top

– Blue jeans

– Black jeans 

– Solid color skirts (could be of different materials)

– Mini length

– Midi length

– Casual dresses

Here is an example of a nice outfit made entirely out of basics: 

Basics are:

– White top

– Black belt 

– Blue jeans

– Black shoes/boots 

Why does this outfit work? 

– Because it has a good shape 

– Has matching colors 

– No pattern also works 

To get a more detailed understanding of how to create a good foundation using basics, visit article “Investing in Basics” by Cate.

PERSONAL STYLE

Finding basics that you like is only part of the quest to find your own style. Once you find your own style, it will become a lot easier to create silhouettes, colors, and patterns. 

Here are just a few different styles:

A way to try to find your own style is to pay more attention to what people wear on a daily basis, whether if it is just walking on the street, in school, or even watching the fashion in movies and reading magazines. From these observations, you can choose what you like and start wearing something similar. 


With all of this information in mind, you can have fun picking out your outfit for tomorrow!

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