outfit formulas

The Four Outfit Formulas I Swear By

Outfit formulas: I love ’em. I live by them, in fact.

If you scroll back through the outfits archive on this blog, for instance, you’ll probably notice two things. Actually, make that three things:

01. I wear a lot of green. A LOT of green.

02. I always have my head turned to one side, which I’ve just realised looks really weird when you look at all of the photos at the same time. I do it because 9 out of 10 times when we take photos outdoors, Terry is behind the camera, yelling, “LOOK TOWARDS THE SUN, IDIOT!” (Er, it’s not that he wants to blind me, you understand: it’s just that when you look AWAY from the sun in a photo, half your face ends up being in shadow, which looks even worse than rigidly staring off to one side all the time. I DO have another side to my face, I promise…)

03. Almost everything I wear fits into one of the following outfit formulas:

Outfit Formula # 1 : The full skirt and fitted top 

Outfit formulas: full skirt and fitted top

full polka dot skirt with green fitted top

full white skirt with gold top

stripe midi skirt with navy fitted top

This is one of my favourite looks, as if you couldn’t tell: it’s just really easy to wear, it works with my figure, and because of the endless different prints and colours you can mix and match, there’s no end of different ways to wear it, either. I mean, you’re not going to get a radically different look every time, obviously, but then again, if that’s what you were looking for, you probably wouldn’t be reading a post about outfit formulas right now, would you? Exactly.

I most often gravitate towards skirts and tops when I’m using this formula, purely because they’re a little bit more versatile, but it works just as well with a dress in the same shape – which I’ll sometimes later a sweater or cardigan over, if I DO want to mix it up a bit.

Outfit Formula # 2: Jeans, breton and blazer

outfit formula: jeans, flats, breton and blazer

casual outfit formula: jeans, breton and blazer

casual outfit formula: white jeans with navy blazer

Although I wear this “formula” aaaalll the damn time, I actually don’t have too many photos of the resulting outfits, mostly because they’re the ones I tend not to bother blogging about. Well, there’s only so many times you can see me in jeans and a stripe top, isn’t there? (Absolutely NO limit to the amount of times you can see me in a full skirt and fitted top, though, apparently. Sorry about that.) As outfit formulas go, this is probably the one I fall back on most often: it tends to be my “I have absolutely no idea what to wear today: ooh! I know! How about jeans and a stripe top!” option. Yeah. So, basically any day I DON’T post an outfit photo either here or on Instagram, this is what I’ll be wearing. Almost exactly.

Outfit Formula # 3: Pencil dress and heels

bodycon dress with high heels

mint green wiggle dress with high heels

mint green wiggle dress with high heels

Some days I wake up and I don’t want to wear either jeans OR a full skirt. It doesn’t happen often, granted, but on the rare occasions when the first two outfit formulas have failed me, I go for this one, instead: some kind of pencil/wiggle dress, with either court shoes or tall boots. This formula inevitably ends up being a more dressy option than some, so it’s one I tend to reserve for eveningwear or other times when I want to look like I’ve made a bit more effort than usual. And sometimes, of course, I just wear it for the sheer hell of it: YOLO. Or something.

And finally…

Outfit Formula # 4: Capri pants and cropped cardigan

outfit formula: capri pants and camisole

capri pants and black heels

I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t find any photos of this last formula AT ALL: which is actually quite surprising, because it’s another one I wear all the time. It’s my “I’m going out somewhere and I don’t want to look too dressed-up, but I also don’t want to look too casual option”, and the photo above is the closest I could get to showing you it in action, so to speak. It’s one of those looks that can be easily dressed up or down depending on how you style it: with my hair down, and a cardigan over the top, the outfit above would look a little more causal than it does here, for instance, and switching the heels for flats would make it more causal still. (Unfortunately, doing that would also make my legs look about two inches long, unfortunately, so I don’t do it often, but sometimes needs must…)

Aaaand, those are my most-used outfit formulas!

That’s not to say I don’t ever stray from these, of course. I mean, sometimes I’ll go wild and wear heels rather than flats with my jeans, or switch the full skirt for a pencil skirt: those are some kerrazy times, let me tell you. Trying different things is all part of the fun of fashion, and personal style is something that evolves naturally over time, even if you don’t really intend it to, so it’s always good to be open to new things. With that said, I firmly believe there’s a lot to be said for the formula: having a few tried and tested outfit formulas ready to go, for every occasion, just makes life a whole lot simpler, and it’s also a good way to define your person style – which is why I’ll probably keep on wearing these ones: for now, at least.

What are your favourite outfit formulas?

four outfit formulas that never fail

Related: Capsule wardrobes and style essentials | Maternity essentials

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  • Myra


    Great formulas for choosing outfits. These suit you so well. I love all of these, but love the pale green pencil dress most.

    October 17, 2016
  • I’d agree that these are what I picture when I think of “Amber’s outfits” – plus they’re always green. Ha! No shame, I love green too. For the office at this time of year my formula is pencil skirt plus blazer and inevitably a statement necklace or a longer sleeved dress with heels. We have no air-con so I tend to get a bit warm hence no tights, not a lot of layering. Also means that in summer I’m all over the shop and there is no formula just whatever will keep me cool!

    October 17, 2016
  • Selina


    I’m all about the knee length circle skirts and dresses. I only really feel comfortable in pencil skirts if it’s in a jersey or woollen dress so that doesn’t happen as much. Patterned tights are essential. I like boot cut and mum jeans and neutral patterned trousers. I’m all about the warm colours, red, yellow and orange and polka dots and florals feature heavily. I’ve now got a bunch of striped tops which is new for me and a colourful or patterned jacket or kimono completes my look. Flat ankle boots are the shoe I wear the most

    October 17, 2016
  • I’m a sucker for outfit formulas too! Definitely do the full skirt/fitted top and the pencil skirt or dress with heels pretty regularly when it’s a little warmer, and you can never beat the classic jeans/cami/blazer (though I don’t think I make it look quite as chic as you!) but my Winter go to outfits are a tea dress with tights and boots and a leather jacket, or more recently a-line mini’s with the same combo! Once I find a look I like I can’t help but want to buy it in ALL THE COLOURS so I don’t have much choice really!

    October 17, 2016
  • Rhonda


    This post popped up on a newsfeed, and I realize I tend to think in outfit formulas. 🙂 I love your full skirts + fitted tops. And blazers! My Go To outfit formulas include: jeans/pants + tank top and lightweight cardigan sweater, or cropped jeans/pants and a lightweight, long-sleeve sweater (with tank top underneath). I almost always have a cardigan, even in hot weather since I tend to get cold in air-conditioning. I also love a simple short dress w/cowboy boots.

    October 18, 2016
  • Also, I’m glad for the education that those shirts are called bretons.

    October 18, 2016
  • D. Johnson


    Living in a sometimes bitterly cold climate (Maine, USA), my fashion choices are dictated by the weather. I have seen chic women in Portland wearing skirts and heels in winter and I just wonder “How do they navigate the slush puddles and the snow banks? ” My wardrobe formula relies upon layers as it becomes extremely hot in my car, VERY cold outside, then warm in the stores & restaurants. I have a couple of thick, fuzzy, flannel shirts which each match nicely with about 8 turtlenecks. And I have 4 sweaters which do the same. It is jeans, a couple of which are flannel lined, and khakis which I wear tights under. The colors are both dark and light so that changes up the look of an outfit. I wish I could be chic Ike you so thank you for the photos and videos.

    October 18, 2016
  • Lori L.


    I love all of your outfits. The full stripped skirt is a favorite. I teach kindergarten, so what I wear each day is dictated by my job. I have to be able to sit on the floor at any given moment. I love cropped pants (ankle length, as I’m only 5’4) which are regular length on me, and a fitted shirt, or a dress. I like mostly solid colors. I’m on my feet almost all day, so it’s flats most days for me. On the weekends, I love distressed boyfriend jeans, a stripped top or a polo and Superga sneakers.

    October 18, 2016
  • I think you have the right idea – of having more than one fashion uniform! I live in black tights and cosy jumpers so its more of a style rut than a formula to be honest. But I think I am going to try out a little more variety – that should help.

    October 19, 2016
  • I love wearing full skirts, they always look so classy and timeless x

    Ellé | http://www.ellesimpson.co.uk

    October 20, 2016
  • Your outfit kits, so to speak, make the task of getting ready in the morning easier. But what is even more interesting about your article is that I can see that you clearly understand how to take advantage of your physique and choose quite decent combinations! Well, you do look great. What I am learning here is that one should know what piece of clothing works well with what, but one should also get to know what works on one’s body. Working for an events promotion company in London where fashion events are a large category for us; I get to see and meet a lot of well-dressed people. I think your combinations and your look will be an inspiration to a lot of them!

    October 20, 2016
  • Kait


    Wonderful idea for a post, especially with the popularity of capsule wardrobes! I love your style and how pulled together and glamourous your looks are! Personally, I always like full skirt+top+blazer+ballet flats, blazer+cute top+jeans+high heeled ankle boots+great dangly earrings, and dress+cropped cardigan, pretty consistently for the past 15 years. It simplifies shopping for sure.

    October 22, 2016
  • Absolutely loving your style! I use many of these formulas too but I don’t often wear a full skirt; you pull it off so well I’m inspired to give them a try!
    Sophie x

    December 4, 2016
  • I love these outfit formulas, I tend to stick to a few key combinations too!

    Rosie | wearsrosie.com

    December 2, 2017
  • Tracy D


    I love your formulas. You look amazing and classic. Thank you for sharing.

    June 23, 2018
  • carrie


    love the jeans+breton+blazer look and the cropped jeans+top+heels look – exactly my style!
    I liked the stripy dress you bought in Primark – must have a look in there more often,
    I am on a tight budget and was wondering if you had any tips on how to look smart/polished both for work (i work in an office) and weekends (filled with trips to the pub with my other half and afternoons out with friends) – any advice you can give would be gratefully received.

    November 11, 2018