outfit formula

10 Outfit Formulas To Create Fresh Statement Looks

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If you’re feeling stuck with your wardrobe and are looking for new ways to combine what’s in your closet, this post is for you! I’m about to share 10 outfit formulas that will mix up how you usually pair pieces together. Rest assured, we’re talking very wearable looks here, folks. And no, before you panic, I’m not going all Patricia Field on you. There will be no skirts-as-tops shenanigans here.  These are very wearable outfit formulas. 

In this space, I talk a lot about putting unexpected pieces together. Pairing unexpected pieces makes a statement and creates a stylish and interesting tension that keeps the eye moving around the outfit. The look has a little something extra and different to it.

But what does it mean to pair unexpected pieces together?

The formula is simple. Pair pieces with different vibes together. Put elevated pieces with casual pieces. If you have an elevated bottom, wear it with a casual top. And vice versa, wear an elevated blazer with casual bottoms. Wear a casual outfit with an elevated coat. Wear sporty sneakers with tailored, pleated pants.  

Look at its details to determine if a clothing item has a casual or elevated vibe. Consider the following elements:

  • Fabric: Fabric is the first clue as to whether a piece is casual or elevated. Cotton, denim, or knit jersey are casual fabrics. Silk, wool, or velvet are elevated fabrics.
  • Tailoring: The presence of collars on shirts and jackets or pleats on pants helps to make them elevated. But fabric makes a difference, too. 
  • Length: Long skirts and dresses are more formal than short skirts. Long pants and jeans feel more elevated than cropped pants and jeans.  
  • Fit: Relaxed and oversized sweaters, blazers, shirts, and pants often feel more casual. Body-hugging pieces may feel casual or elevated. Tight jeans feel casual, whereas a fitted pencil skirt feels elevated. 

To assist you in categorizing your wardrobe, consider the following features and examples of elevated and casual clothing pieces.

  • Elevated Bottoms: Focus on fabric quality and tailoring, such as a defined waistband and belt loops. Examples include wide-leg pleated trousers, leather pants, or a satin skirt.
  • Elevated Tops: Pieces with a collar are generally more formal, though the fabric also plays a significant role. Examples are a blazer, a button-down shirt, or a tweed jacket.
  • Casual Bottoms: Opt for simple fabrics, relaxed fits, or bottoms with an elastic or drawstring waistband. Examples are jeans, leggings, sweatpants, or shorts.
  • Casual Tops: Look for casual materials like cotton, fleece, or denim with straightforward construction. Examples include a t-shirt or graphic tee, a sweatshirt, or a shacket (shirt jacket).
  • Elevated Shoes: Typically, any shoes with a heel fit this category. Examples are heeled ankle boots, pumps, or sling-back heels.
  • Casual Shoes: These shoes are designed for leisure, comfort, or practicality. Examples include flip-flops, sneakers, or flat boots.
  • Elevated Coats: These often feature premium fabrics and are suitable for formal settings, usually longer in length. Examples are a wool overcoat, a trench coat, or a pea coat.
  • Casual Coats: Designed for comfortable, everyday wear using relaxed materials. Examples include a denim, leather, or puffer jacket.

This list isn’t exhaustive. And it’s usually not just one element that determines an item’s casualness or elevated nature. It’s a combination of factors.  Follow your gut and go with your intuition and instincts about a piece. 

Ready to dive in? 

Coming up, I’ll show you 10 outfit formulas. At the end of each outfit description, I’ll share an idea for how you can recreate the outfit.  Developing your style comes from developing your eye. To begin to hone your eye, pick one of these outfit formulas and try to recreate it with pieces you own. Play with different styles of jeans or shoes and see how it changes the look. When you pair something new together, it may feel like the wrong choice. Lean into that feeling, be creative, and see where it takes you.  

Ready to look at the outfit formulas? 

10 Formulas for Fresh Looks

1. Elevated pants + a casual top + casual shoes

Elevated pants + a casual top + casual shoes

Trench Coat | Shirt | Pants | Adidas | Hat | Bag

I did something that I didn’t think I would do. I ordered pleated pants. And I forgot how much I love the Diane Keaton menswear look! These are the softest and most comfortable pants ever. I love how tailored they are and how they add something extra to a look. The wide-leg, black, pleated pants are the elevated piece in this look. I’m combining them with a super soft and casual v-neck top with puffy sleeves, a timeless black trench coat that can be dressed up or down, casual black Adidas tennis shoes that bring the sporty vibe, and a sporty casual baseball cap. Then, I chose a casual, everyday soft tote bag to keep the look laid-back. 

To recreate this outfit: Look in your closet for elevated pants first and then pull pieces with a more casual vibe. I’m wearing a fitted shirt that you can tuck in, but you can also do a slouchy top or sweater as you’ll see in the next look. 

2. Elevated pants + a casual sweater + casual shoes

Elevated pants + a casual sweater + casual shoes

Similar Sweater | Tee | Pants | Similar Clogs | Bag

I’m starting again with these elevated and tailored black pleated pants. Then I’m layering a white crewneck tee under a relaxed-fit boxy black half-zip sweater. The white contrasts with the black, adding an extra dimension to the layering. The black half zip is a Sweaty Betty workout sweater with a nubby boucle texture. Since the fit is relaxed, I’m front-tucking the sweater to reveal this menswear-inspired black belt. The Birkenstock clogs are made of a heathered gray felt, which makes them feel even more laid-back. The black tote bag adds a casual feel. 

To recreate this outfit: Look in your closet for elevated pants first and then pull casual, relaxed-fit sweaters. My sweater doesn’t have an obvious sporty feel, but you can try workout wear like a crewneck pullover sweatshirt, a hooded zip-front sweatshirt, or a fleece or Sherpa pullover.

3. Elevated pants + a casual graphic t-shirt + casual sneakers

Elevated pants + a casual graphic t-shirt + casual sneakers

Tee | Sweater | Belt Bag | Pants | Adidas 

I’m pairing those black pants again with a casual graphic tee. This is a subtle graphic tee, but if you want to make more of a statement, try a band t-shirt. I’m wearing a cableknit v-neck cardigan sweater tossed over my shoulders for a laid-back feel. I can throw it on when I need it. I’d push up the sleeves and leave it unbuttoned or button it up. This brown belt bag adds a pop of color. The black Adidas gives a sporty vibe. 

To recreate this outfit: Look in your closet for elevated pants first and then pull a casual t-shirt in your favorite style. It could be a crewneck or a v-neck with or without a graphic image. Then look for a sweater. A cardigan will allow the graphic to be viewed when you have it on.  

Let’s look at an outfit with an elevated blazer and casual jeans.

4. Elevated blazer + casual jeans + casual shoes

Elevated blazer + casual jeans + casual shoes

Blazer | Similar Sweatshirt | Jeans | Loafers | Belt Bag

I adore this black velvet blazer that I picked up over the holidays. And it doesn’t have to go to the back of the closet until next Christmas. I’m pairing it with a gray sweatshirt and casual kick crop jeans. Wide-leg or boyfriend jeans with an even more relaxed feel would work here, too. Black patent leather loafers add a pop of shine, but sneakers would also be a great option. A brown belt bag adds a pop of color. 

To recreate this outfit: Look in your closet for an elevated blazer or any blazer you love. Try it with a sweatshirt and casual jeans. Experiment with different shoes like loafers or sneakers.

5. A casual sweater + casual jeans + elevated shoes

A casual sweater + casual jeans + elevated shoes

 Sweater | Jeans | Ankle Boots | Bag

When a casual black crewneck sweater and casual jeans are paired, my first instinct is to wear them with loafers, flat boots, or sneakers. Instead, I’m disrupting that instinct and choosing a statement boot that defines the whole look. These ankle boots scream confidence, and take this look from every day to a night out. You could elevate the look even more by adding a statement belt. The casual tote bag adds a laid-back vibe. 

To recreate this outfit: Pair a casual sweater and jeans and experiment with shoes you wouldn’t normally wear with them, like boots with heels or block-high-heel loafers or heels.

6. A casual sweater + casual jeans + casual shoes + a statement coat

A casual sweater + casual jeans + casual shoes + a statement coat

Similar Sweater | Jeans | Similar Clogs | Coat

Here, I’m pairing a casual outfit with an elevated statement coat for an intriguing combination. I’m going tone-on-tone with a gray sweater, wide-leg jeans, and Birkenstock clogs. When you look at this shoe choice, you may initially feel like they’re all wrong. They are too short, stubby, and round. They disappear under the hem of the jeans. But those attributes work here because they create the laid-back, not trying hard, casual vibe we’re going for. The expected coat here would be a puffer or quilted jacket or a long teddy coat. Adding this long statement coat you’d normally think to put over a dress or skirt makes you take a second look and adds intrigue.   

To recreate this outfit: Pair a relaxed sweater and jeans with Birkenstocks, Uggs, sneakers, flat boots, or another casual shoe. Then, add a long draping dress coat over top.

7. An elevated blouse + casual jeans + elevated shoes

An elevated blouse + casual jeans + elevated shoes

Blouse | Belt | Similar Jeans | Ankle Boots

I wore a similar outfit to brunch at a nice restaurant on New Year’s Eve. I’m pairing an elevated, elegant cream ruffleneck blouse with slouchy wide leg jeans. To elevate the look more, I’m adding an elevated black belt, black suede kitten-heel ankle boots, and a rectangular, very structured crossbody bag. My goal with this look was to be elevated enough to feel appropriate in a nice restaurant but warm and comfortable in my jeans. Any day of the week, I’d like to wear jeans, whether dressing up or dressing down. 

It’s a fun challenge to experiment with creating dressy jeans looks. I carried a sparkly bag during the holidays and wore sparkly shoes with jeans and a velvet blazer for an elevated look. 

To recreate this outfit: Pair a dressy blouse with casual long jeans and experiment with different elevated accessories like a fancy belt, bag, and shoes. 

8. A casual sweater + casual cropped jeans + elevated shoes 

A casual sweater + casual cropped jeans + elevated shoes 

Sweater Ankle Boots

I shared this look on Instagram the other day. I was playing around with unexpected ways to style a long sweater with wide-leg cropped jeans and threw on these boots. Your first expected choice of shoes here would probably be a boot or ankle boots. But adding a delicate heeled ankle boot is so unexpected. It’s sleek when the rest of the outfit is slouchy and relaxed. I choose a rectangular elevated crossbody bag to tie the boots into the look. The right angles give the bag structure, which makes it elevated. 

To recreate this outfit: Pair a long, relaxed-fit sweater with wide leg cropped jeans. Then experiment with shoes you wouldn’t normally wear with them, like boots with heels or block-high heel loafers or heels.

9. A casual sweatshirt + elevated skirt + casual shoes

A casual sweatshirt + elevated skirt + casual shoes

Sweatshirt | Flip-flops

A gray sweatshirt gives this elevated floral maxi skirt such a laid-back feel. Flip-flops are essential casual shoes. When you first see this skirt, you’d probably think it’s something you’d wear a fitted top with and heeled sandals. So choosing a slouchy gray sweatshirt and flip-flops with it is an unexpected choice that keeps the skirt from feeling too precious in pink. 

To recreate this outfit: Pair a long maxi skirt with a sweatshirt or casual sweater. Then, experiment with flat flip-flops, sandals, or ballet flats.

10. A casual jacket + an elevated maxi dress + elevated shoes

A casual jacket + an elevated maxi dress + elevated shoes

Jacket | Dress | Ankle Boots | Bag

I’m pairing an edgy casual black leather jacket with an elevated black floral maxi dress for this outfit. Any floral dress has a very feminine vibe. So pairing it with a black leather jacket gives this look an edge that makes it very interesting. The black suede kitten heel ankle boots with their pointy toe add to the edginess of the look. A casual, slouchy black tote bag has a laid-back feel. 

To recreate the essence of this outfit: Pair a leather piece with a floral piece. It could be a floral maxi dress or skirt with a leather jacket or leather pants or a skirt with a floral top. Notice how the leather adds some edge to the florals. 

How to pair unexpected pieces together

To create statement looks, sense the energetic vibes of a piece to see if it’s casual or elevated, and then pair opposites together. When you pair opposites together, they highlight the other piece’s essential nature even more. For example, you see the casualness of ripped jeans even more when paired with a refined blouse. Experiment and have fun trying new pieces together in a way that feels like you. 

10 outfit formulas for fresh statement looks

Hi, Friend. I'm Marya. I'm so glad you're here!

I’m here to help women feel good inside and out through approachable everyday style inspiration and encouragement for midlife. Once upon a time, I worked as a therapist and coach. Now, I’m a holistic style blogger studying style coaching! Be So You celebrates leaning into who we were meant to be! 

Read about my  journey to self-discovery at 40. Follow me on Instagram here and Pinterest here. Send me a quick question through my contact page here.  

Fit Note: I’m midsized at 5’6″, 160 pounds, with size 12 jeans.

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