How to Make Basic Outfits More Stylish and Less Like Uniforms

basic outfits more stylish

You pin endless outfits on Pinterest, you go shopping for new clothes, you read magazines, blah, blah, blah.  Yet, despite this, you still find yourself falling back on your tried and true basic outfits, so much so that you find yourself wearing them like uniforms.  Maybe you wear them so often that others have taken note of it and started to call you the “blank” lady.

While I was working on this post, this video showed up in my Facebook Feed. However, it wasn’t just the fact that this woman wears green exclusively as her style uniform that had me stop and watch it, it was because she lives in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens and I see her all the time.  In fact, that day I watched this I saw her in my health food store.

Really, how can you find fault with such a cute, bubbly and charming woman who has found what works for her?  Elizabeth Sweetheart (aka The Green Lady) is a 74 year old woman who isn’t hurting anyone wearing what she enjoys.

And can you really fault anyone for finding a uniform that works for them?  Between everything else most of us are juggling, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have something consistent to go to and wear.  However, unlike The Green Lady, it’s easy to get bored with the same thing over and over again.  And, despite having a uniform of basic outfits to fall back on, many of us do have a strong desire for something different.  This begs the question, is it possible to make the basic outfits you rely on more stylish and less like uniforms?  In today’s post I am going to give you some thoughts on this.

How to Make Basic Outfits More Stylish and Less Like Uniforms

#1- Let’s call it a look not a uniform

First of all, let’s abandon the word uniform.  It’s such a utilitarian word with a not-so-stylish connotation.  Instead, let’s call your trusted basic outfits your look.  Finding a look often happens when women are done chasing trends or have grown tired of constantly needing to feel up to date.  A look is an established style that embraces variety.   Imagine your look like the hub of the wheel and the variations of that look being the spokes, like offshoots but connected.  Seeing your uniform more as your established look offers you the opportunity beyond just looking one note.

Imagine you’re a jeans and a blazer type of gal.  When you see that as your uniform, you tend not to think outside the box and see one outfit as as your only option.  However, when you say, my look is more of a jeans and a blazer type of style, you’re essentially establishing that your style is rooted more in clean classics.  For dressier moments, you might choose a simple sheath and for work you might go for a classic pencil skirt and sweater.

Your uniform can be of great benefit in terms of giving you some direction of where you will feel most comfortable evolving your style next.  Just don’t call it a uniform.  It’s so uninspiring.

#2- Keep the base and add some variety

basic outfits

 

Let’s say your uniform for work is the classic pantsuit.  If you’re not creating some variety using this very classic and extremely versatile base then you are seriously missing out.  And this is why you’re bored.  You’re wearing the same thing the same way over and over again.  Snore.  Remember my reference to chicken outfits?  I have spoken about this many times on my blog.  Your uniform is the chicken, an important part of the recipe you’re creating.  However, by not doing anything to the chicken, it’s destined to fall flat and taste pretty bland.  The key way to break out of the uniform slump is to add different spices and flavors to your chicken.  See the looks above.

In both outfits I am using this very basic suit from Elie Tahari (link to jacket here and pants here).  On the left, I styled the suit pretty simply, using this grey top from Lafayette 148, a pair of black pumps from MICHAEL Michael Kors, a long double strand necklace from Ann Taylor and grey bag from Rebecca Minkoff.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this outfit.  However, imagine wearing this outfit the same way, over and over…and over again.  You’re bound to get bored, to feel uninspired and like you’re wearing a uniform.

Yet, on the right, using the same exact suit, I was able to create a whole new look by playing with color and pattern.  The green blouse under the suit is far less drab, the leopard d’orsay pumps add a trendy, yet chic, pop, plus I added a yellow bag from Coach and pair of fun earrings from Alexis Bittar.

This is why you don’t have to necessarily abandon your uniform, you just have to think about wearing it differently.  It’s kind of like putting strawberries on your cereal one morning and then bananas on it the next day.  Same look, only different.

#3- Use accessories to give your uniform a whole new purpose

basic outfits

Are you a sweater and jeans type of girl?  Do you wear this uniform endlessly until the first spring thaw?  You may be thinking, “Well, yes, but what are my alternatives?”  There is a bit of truth in that question.  How many casual varieties are there?  However, instead of looking at changing your uniform, look at changing what you wear with it.  This isn’t much different than my last tip.  However, beyond just changing up one look so it can look different for the one reason that you wear it, you can use this tip to take your uniform different places.

In the outfit above I do a total change-up just by changing the accessories.  If you want to keep with a uniform because it is easy, then invest in accessories.  On the left, I styled this grey v-neck sweater from J. Crew with boyfriend jeans from Banana Republic, added a pair of burgundy peep-toe booties from Nordstrom, a grey suede biker jacket from Reiss, a patterned scarf from Echo Design, a navy bag from Vince Camuto, earrings from Macy’s and bracelet from David Yurman.

On the right, the outfit is much more classic with these rust tassel flats from Sole Society, suede bag in tan, natural colored necklace from Kendra Scott and cuff bracelet from Gorjana.

If you change up your basic uniform not only will you feel less like you’re actually wearing a uniform but others will stop seeing what you wear as so repetitive.

#4- Branch Out with Color

basic outfits

This is not an argument against wearing black.  I know you are tired of me beating that drum, but, instead a plea to look beyond the fact that your only option is black.  Wear your black, yes, but also acknowledge that just about everything in the store comes in black along with a few other colors.  Most times women just ignore these additional colors and knee-jerkingly choose the black option for the sake of versatility.

Every pair of shoes you will consider will likely be offered in black.  I giggled a bit when I saw a woman in a shoe store trying on about 15 different styles of shoes, all in black.  It took everything in me not to walk up to her and simply suggest she would get more out of her shoes if she just considered the other colors the shoes came in.  If you like your look, but are feeling bored by it, just consider looking beyond buying what you love in black.

If you’re worried you just won’t get the same wear out of the more colorful options, take a look at the outfits above.  I chose the same sheath dress from Lands’ End.  On the left it is black and on the right it is in magenta.  How I styled both is exactly the same.  You have a stone necklace from BCBG Max Azaria, a teal bag from Kate Spade, gold cuff from Loren Olivia and these stunning pumps from J. Crew.

Now imagine, that same sheath dress in black just styled with black pumps and no accessories and that is how you wore it every time you put it on.  Talk about a uniform that is about as dull as a dial tone.  Thankfully, the different accessories add some excitement, but you can take it even further by actually considering styling yourself beyond the basic black, like I did with the magenta dress, and still get some variety out of it.

Basic outfits, established looks and even uniforms aren’t bad things.  They’re easy to wear and reliable.  It’s what you do with these pieces that will break you free from the shackles of repetitiveness.  So don’t forget to think beyond just wearing your basic outfits the same way each and every time  and you’ll be looking and feeling better in what you wear in no time.

  • tgchi13

    This post is perfection!

    • Thanks! You’re sweet! I am happy when posts resonate!

    • And how cute is the Green Lady? I see her all the time.

      • tgchi13

        I have no idea why she reminded me of my mom…maybe it was just the knowing what she wants to wear and it was often lime green !

  • Alicen

    I used to travel to NJ for work periodically and I would often see the Green Lady in the Newark airport, at least once a year. It’s a small world!
    Also – I LOVE this post! I don’t have the budget for a lot of clothes, and I’m trying to build on what I have but it is a slow process. In the meantime, it is cheap accessories and colourful shoes for me.

    • Wow, what a weird coincidence! I think it is sometimes good to be forced to make a small wardrobe work. It makes you realize that you don’t need a lot to get. Plus, it’s easier to build a better wardrobe when you have a small start.