What to begin with when you create an outfit?

As I was proceeding to her closet editing, a client asked me what I begun with when I composed an outfit.

Something I had never wondered about.

Yet, thinking about it I realized there where two ways I would compose an outfit.

During a closet editing I browse the whole closet of my client before selecting the most neutral clothes for her to put on out of it.

Usually a pair of good fitting jeans along with a black, grey or white top such as a T-shirt, a shirt or a sweater.

From here, I begin accessorizing.

This would be the “neutral canvas” technic.

After we are done with all the ways we could style the jeans, I check out each item in my client’s closet and find how to combine them. This would be the “statement piece” technic.

Both technics being just equally good.

(there is no “I begin with the top or with the bottom answer, you can do whatever you like).

1/ Start with a neutral canvas

Aka, the technic I use in the first part of the closet editing and the technic minimalist bloggers use.

A/ Find your basics

In this option, you will buse a base of neutral clothes to build your outfits.

This is why it is absolutely crucial to own good basics in your wardrobe.

Often, the neutrals is what are missing in my client’s closet.
It would be like cooking with all the seasonings but missing the rice. Complicated to assemble wouldn’t it?

You shall also own the good ingredients.

A neutral piece of clothing shall have:

  • an easy to wear well fitting shape
  • a neutral color (black, greys, whites, beige, navy blue)

B/ Level up your basics

a. Cleverly do full on basics

First, I want to remind you that, if your basics have outstanding cut and fabric, you may as well just wear, well only basics, and have a stunning outfit (oui oui oui).

That is what most minimalist wardrobe instabloggers do.

My best tricks to succeed in that task:

  • Mix the different (neutral) colors
  • Mix the different textures
  • Style the clothes to make them your own (lift up collar, roll sleeves, etc)

As it could be a standalone topic I will post another article on it solely shortly.

Patricia, brilliantly showing you how to

Or find inspiration looking at Death by elocution, the final boss of the basics game

b. Accessorize your basics

Add interesting jewels, shoes, bag or makeup (alone or alltogether), and already you have improved style.
Yesterday my personal shopping client bought a pearl drop earring… but in a form of a solo earcuff (to diiiie for). Which made her basic outfit turn instantly arty.

Streetstyled pretty woman, upgrading her well assembled basic outfit with a red statement bag

Accidental icon, making jeans converses and a T not so boring adding a print along with dramatic earrings and sunglasses.

2/ Start with a statement piece

If you are working with a statement piece, start with it. All of your look will revolve around it.

Therefore you first shall identify the characteristics of the piece.

Aka, what makes is unique and exciting about it.

In terms of shape: it is super skinny, super short, super baggy, super voluminous?

In terms of style: is it baroque, retro, futurist, arty, extra dressy?

In terms of color: you know it

A single piece can gather several eccentric features.

a. Balance in the opposite direction of the statement piece

This technic is the most widely used.
It permits wearing extreme pieces it everyday situation.

Assuming you do not get to go to a rock concert or the MET Gala on a daily basis,  with this trick, you still get to wear a studded biker jacket or bejeweled shoes sometimes.

Here is how it works. First define what the pieces most extreme feature is and go the opposite way.
Sometimes, it can be a piece of clothing that has been sleeping in your closet for year because it is too “something”. Find the something. Match with opposite.


Too short > Too revealing, too sexy > wear baggy, wear flat, wear casual

= A mini leather skirt with sneakers and an oversize sweater

Too baggy > Therefore not flattering > wear skin tight, reveal skin other places

= overlong overlarge pants with a skin tight turtleneck tucked in

Too retro > Too ladylike, to old > wear boyish, wear fashionable

= a chanel tweed jacket with worn out jeans

Too arty > too crazy, too eccentric > wear basic, wear understated

= A multicolored dress with a beige trench coat and black booties

Too dressy > too much for the occasion > wear casual, wear simple

= A velvet cami top with black cigarette pants and black pumps

Too bright > too noticeable > wear neutrals, wear subdued shades

= a bright orange sweater with a white shirt and washed of blue jeans

Minimal boyish look in neutral shades + Multicolored bright eccentric scarf

Note that this technic may result in making the outfit look either understated, which would be the parisian take on it, that I used the examples above  (cf name of my blog) OR busier if you mix two strong looking influences together.

Baroque ultrarefined blouse + casual jeans

b. Encourage the natural inclination of the statement piece

When the piece has a strong identity, mixing it with pieces that share the same style is also an excellent solution.

This works easily in terms of style, less in terms of shapes.

In terms of colors and patterns I recommend you to go check my articles on the topic.

French sexy retro summer dress + french sexy retro summer shoes by Jeanne Damas of course

Bourgeois preppyness all over

Minimal clothes + minimal shoes: simple

Ladylike everything from earrings to toenails

Voilà! I hope this may help you assembling clothes that you are struggling to use.

For more mix and match tips, I recommend you my book. Signed copy with your name available here, and regular copies at your local bookstore or by online retailers (Amazon and co). 

Cover collage: a belle inconnue and an accidental icon

16 Responses to “What to begin with when you create an outfit?”
  1. Marji says:

    Bonjour Aloïs,

    est-ce qu’un basique se définit uniquement par sa couleur (neutre) ou aussi par sa fonction?
    Si un vêtement est coloré il ne peut plus être un basique et rentre donc dans la catégorie pièce forte?

    • Aloïs Guinut says:

      Pour moi oui: car un pantalon rouge, même si de forme basique, n’ira pas avec “tout”.
      Alors que le même pantalon en noir ira, à peu près, avec tout

  2. Brigitte says:

    Encore un super article, qui va nous faciliter nos ” habillages ” du matin. On se posera moins de questions sur la façon d’assembler nos vêtements. Mille fois merci

  3. Ilma says:

    Thank you for sharing all this! C’est magnifique! Ilma

  4. Lana says:

    I love your post – you put in writing things that I was doing subconsciously ( with various degree of success ). My basic colors are soft grey, navy blue and white. I’m another pale person with ashy tones in my hair. I guess I should look for your book for more great advice.

  5. Paula says:

    I’m fashion dysfunctional. You say start with good basics and basic colors but what if the basic colors are not your best colors.

    Years ago (on a far off planet) I had my “colors done” and it was ascertained that I am an Autumn. Now maybe you think that is rubbish but when you are fashion dysfunctional you carry those swatches around like a bible.

    Thanks for any input you can provide.

    • Aloïs Guinut says:

      Everyone has their own basic colors. But I have trouble imagining someone who would look awful in black or white for instance.
      Sometimes I have clients with very pale skin who I recommend switching black for navy blue when it comes to large pieces. But navy blue also is a neutral

  6. Elissa says:

    Thank you for the post! I have never consciously thought about this so very interested to read your analysis. And I very much enjoyed your book

  7. MABdePARIS says:

    Précis, inspirant.. comme toujours. Merci.

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