The versatility of clothes

In English you can say about a  piece of clothing that it is “versatile”.

Which is a practical word we do not have a translation for in French. Therefore I used your word in the french translation of this post ^^

A versatile piece of clothing:

  • can be combined with many clothes
  • can be intrinsically styled in different manners
  • can be used in different contexts (events, seasons…)

The more of these characteristics a piece of clothing has the most versatile it is,

On the opposite of the scale, there are the “one use clothes” which can only be worn with a single combination, which you cannot style in different manners and which are restricted to one kind of context.

Why focus on versatile clothes? Because they enable us to get a lot of wears and outfits from a few clothes only. The more versatile the clothes in your closet are, the less you can own to create many styles.

Therefore it is interesting to acknowledge whether a piece of clothing is versatile before you buy it in order not to fill your closet with only one use pieces.

I/Clothes you can combine to many others

A/ Basics

As their name implies they are the base of the wardrobe.

Like the pasta in your cupboard, they go with pretty much anything, waiting to be seasoned with fun accessories.

They have neutral shapes and colors making them easy to pair.

Therefore they are super versatile.

B/ Clothes that combine well with your own wardrobe

To each one their style and what will be a staple in your wardrobe won’t be in your neighbor’s.

For instance, I have a friend who dresses in a palette of soft greens, lilacs and orange. For her, anything in those shades will be super easy to combine whereas it may feel tricky for others.

Think of what you already have and how your new purchase will combine with it.

Some people like to work their wardrobe as a color palette. That’s a good trick to have everything matching but it is complicated as it means you have to start from scratch or already have intuitively done so.

Therefore, my advice is to have the basics to combine with the more “crazy” stuff you buy in order to never get stuck in not being able to wear something.

Side tip: get more creative by training your eye to color and style in order to create more combinations out of what you already own and therefore boosting the versatility of your clothes.

II/ Intrinsic styling 

Meaning all the different manners you can style a piece of clothing.

Opened, closed or half closed…

Examples: shirts, vests, anything with zips or buttons

Tucked in or worn outside

Example: any loose top, shirt, sweater

Belted or not (and where you place the belt)

Example: dresses, loose tops, jackets or shirts

If you can layer on top or underneath it (or both!)

Example: a shirt whose collar can be seen under a jumper, a turtleneck you can wear under a dress, etc…

III/ Can be worn in many contexts

The most versatile clothes are the ones you can style up or down in any season like jeans or a white shirt.

The bigger the piece, the less versatile it is. That’s why most dresses cannot be styled in tons of different manners.

In order to have your big pieces that are versatile, choose them in a neutral color and cut so the accessories can shine.

Finally, clothes that are designed for the peak of summer or winter get less used if you live in a temperate climate, so try not to pile them up in your closet.

Voilà! And you? Do you think of the versatility of a piece in regards to your lifestyle and closet before you purchase it? 

To know more, check out my new book! (with proper English corrected by a proper English person)

17 Responses to “The versatility of clothes”
  1. MABdePARIS says:

    Bonjour, Aloïs

    Je vous trouve en grande forme pour la rentrée: vos comparaisons mode/cuisine sont … savoureuses et parlantes.

    J’ai beaucoup pratiqué la versabilité ou polyvalence des différentes pièces dans une autre vie où je voyageais vraiment beaucoup pour des raisons professionnelles: il fallait assurer à la fois rendez-vous professionnels très normés et soirées plutôt prestigieuses, le tout pour plusieurs jours avec une valise taille moyenne à laquelle il fallait rajouter ordinateur et dossiers.
    Donc des “sous-couches” (pantalons mais surtout robes) plutôt basiques de coupe et couleur avec des vestes plus remarquables, et surtout bijoux et pochettes bien évidentes en soirée. Finalement je préferais souvent la robe parce qu’il suffit de changer de collant (texturé ou coloré en journée, ulta-fin pour le soir) pour varier complétement le rendu.

    Je garde un peu ces réflexes dans l’évaluation d’un vêtement à l’achat … mais en plus détendue!!!

    • Aloïs Guinut says:

      Oh je suis contente que vous appréciiez mes comparaisons!
      Vos idées valises sont super.
      Et oui, ce sont des méthodes, mais pas besoin de trop se mettre la pression non plus

  2. Lise says:

    Yes, valuable information. I have only recently, in the last couple of years, found out how helpful to buy items mostly in a limited colour palette so that everything can be worn with everything else – it is so freeing! I love it. Interestingly where I live on the Black Sea it is mostly really cold or really hot and humid, so the clothes you may consider for all year around (like blazers, and long sleeve shirts, etc) do not get that much wear – only for a short while in late spring and early autumn.

  3. Pascale says:

    Juste d un point de vue linguistique, “polyvalent” ne serait il pas approprié ?

  4. Juhi says:

    Yes to versatile clothes; to me this means more separates than dresses, and making sure to limit myself with seasonal outfit formulas so that they go together. For example, last fall/winter I mostly had two blueprints – oversized sweater with slim pants, or blouse and longish open blazer/cardigan with slim pants. I wore these with a pair of ankle boots, belt, and bulky scarf/coat when needed. Color/print in my blouses and sweaters is where I had a lot of fun.

    You make a good point about limiting clothes for extreme summer and winter weather and having more year-round pieces.

  5. Jeannine520 says:

    Yes, for most pieces I consider the versatility when deciding whether or not to buy. Especially if something is very expensive I usually want it to be a basic, important piece. Where i’m completely inflexible is with color. I will only buy clothing in my favorite to wear colors in order to keep my wardrobe easy and flexible. I find I’m much more lenient with shoes. For some reason if a pair of $1200 shoes is completely NOT versatile it will not stop me from purchasing them. I happen to be in the camp that wants the “flash” in the outfit to be with shoes and other accessories but for trousers, sweaters, shirts, versatility is a huge driving force in making the purchase.

    • Aloïs Guinut says:

      It makes sense to have rather basic outfits with statement shoes! That’s cohesive.
      You do not have to overthink and your wardrobe will function well together

  6. Marji says:

    Bonjour Aloïs,

    merci pour cet article.

    J’ai bien aimé le conseil dans votre nouveau livre “est-ce que je vais le porter 30 fois”?

    C’est plus facile pour moi que d’imaginer immédiatement plein de tenues dans le magasin.

    • Aloïs Guinut says:

      Haha oui parfois je donne plusieurs méthodes pour un résultat similaire.
      Mais finalement quand vous vous imaginez le porter 30 fois vous imaginez des tenues et des situations non?

      • Marji says:

        Oui c’est vrai. J’imagine quand même des tenues.

        Pour le moment je ne prends pas beaucoup de risques car mes “bas” sont tous en denim ou bien alors blancs ou blanc cassé.(bon le blanc est très risqué mais il s’agit d’une prise de risque sur un autre plan haha).

        Ainsi je peux les marier à des “hauts” plutôt colorés sans risquer de mariages malheureux.

        Même avec cette prise de risque minimale je récolte des compliments car chaque habit a été soigneusement choisi (avec votre aide!).

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