Q&A: How to Add Some Spice to a Closet full of Classics

May 20th, 2008

Q:  I’ve been reading your site forever and have come to a conclusion: My wardrobe is BORING. I thought I was going for the  "classic" look but I dress like a banker… and I’m not!  I have a lot of plain slacks that I  pair with plain "safe" sweaters. (The husband and I went dancing last night and I wore pinstripe slacks and a white sweater- yawn!)  What can I do to jazz me up a bit? I’d like to look a bit more flirty and feminine.

Here’s three easy ways to add some pizazz to your wardrobe and look more flirty and feminine:

Get Creative with Layering by Mixing Casual and Formal Pieces
Get Creative with Layering by Mixing Casual and Formal PiecesYou don’t have to pair casual tops with casual bottoms and formal tops with formal bottoms.  Part of the fun of creating an outfit is mixing and matching items that are casual and formal–and for that matter, cheap chic with more expensive pieces.

Take, for example, this casual black and white racerback knit top, whose All-American style would pair perfectly with a pair of dark blue jeans.  Nix the jeans, and instead pair it with a gorgeously elegant black skirt.  I love how the formality of the skirt elevates the look of the simple black and white striped top.

Play with Color

Play with ColorThe easiest way to add more pizazz to your plain tops and bottoms is to inject a shot of color into your wardrobe.  How do you do this?  (1) Figure out what colors look the best on you.  (You can do this in an afternoon at the mall by trying on lots of different colors and taking note of which ones make you look radiant–and which ones make you look washed out.)  (2) Expand your wardrobe to include the colors that look great on you. 

You don’t have to buy a bunch of color all at once.  Building a wardrobe is like breaking in a new pair of heels–it’s best done in small steps.  Add a few pieces a season, and your wardrobe will evolve with your ever changing sense of personal style.

If you’re hesitant about large splashes of color, you can try out color by layering it under more neutral colors, as seen in the outfit at right.

Anchor your Wardrobe with Statement Pieces
Cotton Cashmere Primrose CardiganStatement pieces are, by definition, meant to turn heads.  Maybe it’s your favorite slinky sweater, maybe it’s the dress that fits you to a T, maybe it’s your goes-with-everything satchel bag.  These are the pieces that you can always count on to anchor an outfit.  You only need a few of these statement pieces in your closet to start, but you can also never have enough of them. 

For your classic style, try classics-with-a-twist.  Instead of the plain white sweater, try one in bright yellow (which would be lovely with your menswear slacks).  Or instead of plain flat-front pants, try a pair of navy blue sailor pants (which would look great with your white sweaters).

Pictured: Outfits from Club Monaco Collection and Cotton Cashmere Primrose Cardigan | $98 at J Crew.

Have a great tip about adding pizazz to a classic wardrobe? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: How To,Q&A,Women,Women's,Women's

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KathrynGrace  |  May 20th, 2008 at 6:27 am

    This is a great article! I think many people stick with those “safe” combinations and aren’t sure how to branch out….myself included. Thanks!

  • 2. Trisha  |  May 20th, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Glad you found this article useful, Kathryn. I have to admit that I stick to “safe” combinations sometimes too, but all it takes is a little bit of effort and creativity to take a safe, classic outfit to the next level :)

  • 3. kristina  |  May 20th, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Love the ideas—thank you! As a mom of two little ones with a full-time job, I get stuck in a rut, too, but here are a few things I’ve been doing to jazz things up:
    1. accessories in bright colors are an easy way to inject interest into your existing wardrobe and can often work almost as a neutral. For example, I have a bright yellow leather handbag and it goes equally well with black, blue or brown-based outfits, yet makes them all pop. A pair of shiny bronze sandals dress up jeans, khakis, linen pants or an all-neutral outfit.
    2. In addition to mixing casual and formal, find a way to add a layer and make it brightly colored: a tomato red or acid green tank peeking out from under your safe neutrals wakes them up. Plus, it’s a way to a color that you can’t necessarily wear in big chunks.
    3. A scarf casually tossed around your neck is a great way to jazz something up when you don’t have time to think about it. And you don’t need as much jewelry, either!

  • 4. Mimi  |  May 20th, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Aha! Ok, I’m starting to get it now!. (I love how you offer practical advice, unlike the “weird” combos they show in the fashion magazines).
    I see how color can change the look. I reviewed my wardrobe and noticed I do have some colorful things– i just haven’t had the confidence to wear them (dressing to turn heads- yikes!)
    Mixing casual/formal sounds great. How about Prince of Wales check slacks with a cobalt blue t-shirt and a denim jacket? I can do that!
    Great advice. I’m excited to start playing with what I have, and to start adding some new things!

  • 5. Trisha  |  May 20th, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Kristina – great ideas! Thanks for sharing them with us. I especially like your suggestion about accessories in bright colors.

    Mimi – You’ve got it. You don’t have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe (or even much at all) in order to give a classic wardrobe a little spice. You can do a lot with what you’ve got! :)

  • 6. Jewel  |  June 19th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Great job!!!

  • 7. makayla johson  |  June 15th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    im sorry but your stuff is already thought of!!!!these are the same things i see in any store!!!!You really sould try something thats sooooo unthinkable!!!!NO HARD FEELINGS

  • 8. Jules O'hara  |  June 13th, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Great post. My fav statement piece=yellow leather handbag. Get’s ’em everytime!

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