Just as there are one million ways to make a sandwich, there are one million ways to make an outfit. This contributes to what I call "outfit overwhelm". It's that feeling of dread some women experience when looking at their closet full of clothes and finding nothing to wear. Fortunately, outfit formulas can make life easier. An outfit formula is similar to a recipe. We all know sandwiches usually contain two slices of bread and something in the middle. An outfit formula requires a top, bottom, and shoes. Take this concept a step further and prepare your outfits for the whole week ahead. I recommend doing this on Sundays. This level of wardrobe preparation will save you so much time, energy, and frustration. Over time, successfully implementing outfit formulas will help you craft a signature style.
Outfit Formula #1
Sleeveless Dress + Nude Shoes + Bold Earrings
Without even trying, you probably already have several "outfit formulas" in the mix. Look back through photos to see what you've been wearing recently. One of my go-to looks is a sleeveless dress, nude shoes, and bold earrings. You can make it as basic as "sleeveless dress" or as specific as "jewel-toned, solid color sleeveless dress".
Outfit Formula #2
Peplum Top + Skinny Jeans + Heels
Another one of my personal favorites, especially for photos and/or not shaving your legs is a peplum top + skinny jeans + heels. Again you can make this as specific as "light wash skinny jeans and patterned peplum top" or as broad as "skinny jeans and peplum top".
Outfit Formula #3
Button Down Shirt + Jeans + Heels
For my personal styling clients who have casual work environments, this is one of my favorite outfit formulas. I also recommend keeping a pair of sneakers in your car or tote bag. That way, if you need to take the kids to the park, a friend wants to go for a walk, or you must stop by the grocery store on your way home, you can be more comfortable. Wear a pair of stud or simple hoop earrings to keep it professional.
Outfit Formula #4
Blazer + Tank + Printed Shorts + Heels
For those of you with killer legs, this outfit formula is a surefire win. You can remove the blazer if you're making this a casual summer day or keep it on if you want to be dressy with your girls for a lunch date. Of course, the heels can also be swapped for sandals.
Outfit Formula #5
Blazer + Tank + Ankle Pants + Statement Necklace + Pointy Toe Shoes
Though I personally feel naked without them, not everyone can or wants to wear earrings. Statement necklaces are a great way to add personality to an otherwise boring, corporate work look. Of course, if you're in a creative environment you can make this look even more fun by wearing a printed blazer or a brightly colored heel.
Outfit Formula #6
Scarf + T-Shirt + Boyfriend Jeans
For weekend wardrobes and transitional weather, try adding a cute little scarf to basic jeans and tee ensemble. This accessory always gives personality and "put-togetherness". As a bonus, you will be warm if you walk into an overly air-conditioned environment.
Outfit Formula #7
Utility Jacket + Basic Top + Jeans + Sneakers
Wearing a utility jacket completes your outfit and helps prevent sunburn. I am basically a vampire living near the beach, so I get a sunburn if my shoulders are exposed for more than 10 minutes. If you don't have a utility jacket, this outfit formula also works well with chambray button-downs.
Outfit Formula #8
Pencil Skirt + Pumps + Shell + Tweed Jacket
Work separates can be so versatile. I love pairing tweed jackets with pencil skirts and skinny jeans. A tweed jacket typically has a boxy shape, so it is important to pair it with something more streamlined on the bottom.
Do you have any favorite outfit formulas? Let me know here in the comments, or over on Instagram.
Note: all images credit via Jaquelyn Wahidi's personal collection and/or Google Image Search.
Did you know that you only have nine seconds to make a good first impression? Within nine seconds of seeing you, a person will decide if you're trustworthy, approachable, or intelligent. I don't tell you this to make you anxious. I want to empower you. Before you even say a word, you can send a message to your audience. This is especially important for those of you who may be giving presentations, promoting your projects on television, or delivering a TED talk. What you wear matters. I'm here to help you create an image that enhances your message rather than distract from it. Read on below for my practical advice when dressing for your next media appearance.
Research the Background
My note when outlining this blog said "Don't be a floating head!" This sums up my first suggestion well. Research the background. Are you going on a morning talk show where the background is all blue? Are you giving a speech in front of a black background? In either of those cases, you need to wear something that stands out from the background to avoid looking like a floating head on camera. An ensemble that is white, red, or yellow would work well in both of those instances.
Consider Your Audience
When you do a media appearance, or give a presentation, who is the primary audience? Are talking to kids? corporate clients? moms? teens? You want to wear something that communicates relatability while simultaneously positioning yourself as an expert. For example, if you're a creative speaking to room full of corporate clients, this might mean wearing something like a colorful dress, statement earrings, nude heels, and a cropped blazer. The colorful outfit expresses your artistic nature, while the blazer lends authority to your look.
Do a Flash Test
Whether it's a stage, a YouTube set, or a television studio, bright lights can make otherwise fine tops transparent. Do a flash test with your phone (and a trusted friend) to see how sheer your tops and bottom might be under harsh studio lighting. Unfortunately, wearing proper undergarments doesn't solve this problem. You need an outfit that is undoubtedly opaque.
Fit and Flatter Your Body
Always remember that no one can see the size on your tag. We all look better, slimmer, healthier, and happier in clothing that actually fits. Don't squeeze into a too-small size or hide yourself in a tent. If you can't breathe, or you could fit a whole other person in there, it's not the right outfit for you. If you want to take things a step further, visit my post on how to look thinner with clothes.
Don't Distract from Your Message
If you're speaking to a room full of business leaders about how to maximize profitability and all anyone wants to talk about afterwards is where you got your shoes, that can be a problem. When you consider your audience, your message, and your desired outcome, and align your outward presentation to match your intentions, you can avoid these distractions.
Outsource the Process
The most successful people in the world are great outsourcers. If shopping and getting dressed are not tasks you enjoy, consider hiring help. A personal stylist can help you create outfits with confidence. If you're in San Diego, I offer photo shoot styling, which is perfect for clients who need help getting dressed for a media appearance. Of course, I also offer virtual styling for clients outside of San Diego. Visit the Work With Me page to learn more.
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you need to lose 10 lbs by tomorrow? I know I have! Whether you have an important presentation at work, a television appearance, or a wedding to attend, I can teach you how to fake a slimmer figure through the magic of fashion.
Loft Lacy V-Neck Flare Dress, $89.50, Available in Plus Sizes Here
#1 Vamp it up in V-Necks
Classic v necklines are universally flattering. The space at the top elongates the body, creating a taller (and therefore slimmer) appearance. The flash of skin also brings the eye up to one's face and away from any bulges below.
Linea Paolo Payton Pointy Toe Pump, $129.95
#2 Wear Low Vamp Heels
The vamp of a shoe is where the top of the shoe ends on your foot. A lower vamp that exposes more foot area gives the illusion that your legs are longer. A thin heel adds height. Of course, not everyone can or chooses to wear heels. In this case, a flat with a low vamp and pointed toe will do.
#3 Sport a Monochromatic Outfit
Similar to my first two suggestions, a monochromatic look creates a taller silhouette. A monochromatic look doesn't have to be the same exact color from head to toe. Hues and tones that are similar work just as well. It is important that your shoes match the tone of your pants (or legs if wearing a skirt) to create an effective monochromatic look.
City Chic Mia Wrap Dress, $99
#4 Define Your Waist
This tip may go against your instincts when you're feeling a little fluffier than usual. In my experience, most women run to leggings and flowy tops in an attempt to "hide" any problem areas. Do not do this. Any hint of shape is lost and you end up looking larger than you really are. A top or dress with a defined waist will show off the smallest part of you, giving you a leaner appearance. The top does not have to be tight, but it needs to have a shape. Adding a blazer with a nipped in waist also creates a slimming effect.
Xscape Plus Embellished Scallop Hem Dress, $198
#5 Enjoy Scallop Hems
Scallop hemlines on dresses, shorts, and skirts can be extremely flattering. Since the wave-like pattern flows more softly than a straight line, it doesn't break up the body quite as much.
Nic and Zoe Wonderstretch Pants, $128, Available in Plus Here
#6 Find Full Length Pants
While ankle and capri pants are all the rage (and sometimes all you can find), you are essentially giving up that height below the ankle when you wear them. Pants and jeans that go all the way down to the ankle are more flattering. If you are petite like me, you can save a trip to the tailor by purchasing the cropped or ankle version of straight size pants. They will be full length on us.
Lush Knit Maxi Dress, $38.90
#7 Embrace a Maxi Dress
If you're tall enough (5'6" or above), a maxi dress can be a wonderful, slimming garment. Keep in mind you want a dress with a shape that is more like a column than a tent. If you're wearing a maxi skirt, follow the monochromatic rule and pair the skirt with something of a similar hue on top.
AG Farrah High Rise Skinny Jeans, $178
#8 Make that Denim High Rise
I'm a huge fan of high rise jeans. The higher, the better. They lock in my tummy and when they inevitably slide down during the day, I'm not exposing anything. For the most flattering jeans, go for a plain, dark wash. Avoid whiskering, flap pockets, or embellishments.
Loft Dangle Charm Pendant, $39.50
#9 Rock a Heavy Pendant Necklace
Long pendant necklaces serve two purposes. Like many other suggestions on this list, the long line of the necklace elongates the lines of the body. Additionally, a heavy necklace will indent lightweight fabric, which can be especially useful when wearing a loose top, as it creates shape.
Vince Camuto Herringbone Muses Top, $66.33
#10 Play with Patterns and Prints
This tip is especially useful if you are hiding lumps and bumps in the tummy and back areas. Prints and patterns confuse the eye, so the focus is off those trouble areas and on to a pretty face, long legs, or whichever area you choose to highlight.
If you're overwhelmed with an onslaught of information and don't know where to start, or you don't have the time to track down the most flattering clothing, I am here for you! I offer one on one personal styling services in San Diego and virtual services everywhere. Click here to learn more.
I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I take the stress out of getting dressed. I'm a personal fashion stylist in San Diego. I help women organize their closets, define their style, and shop with intention. My blog features practical style advice for women everywhere. Addicted to blazers since 2004.