Follow College Fashion on Twitter!

4 Easy Steps to Upgrading a Very Basic Outfit


I don’t know about you guys, but my exam period is going to hit soon and it is going to hit hard. And I also know that when exams hit, looking wonderful will be the last thing on my mind. So, in preparation, I’ve put together a short, fail-proof guide to upgrading even the simplest outfit.

You know that we love our basics here at CF. But the question is, how do you wear these plain items without looking plain yourself? We’ve covered parts of this topic before (from accessorizing 101 to our secrets to making any outfit amazing) but I am going to provide a personal example this time.

1. Choose the Basics

This step if very important, because it obviously dictates the way your final outfit will look. I cannot overstate how crucial it is to choose basic pieces that are high quality and fit well. It is okay to take out more money out of your pockets for one white t-shirt because in the long run, it will be worth it, I promise.

Outfit upgrade 1

For instance, here I chose my favorite pair of jeans (which are super comfortable and go with everything) and a simple v-neck sweater, since it is quite cold outside. This is my sleek, blank canvas.

2. Add One Layer

Winter is the perfect season for layering, but sometimes I want to keep it a bit simple, so the key is to start with just one layer. At first, I considered adding a sweater vest but I soon changed my mind: the vest was grey so I decided to keep my fashion resolution and use some color – I put on a bright jacket instead.

Outfit upgrade 2

Now when I said color, I mean color! The jacket is a beautiful, vibrant yellow-green (the photo really does not do it justice), able to brighten up any day, but why stop there? Next, I thought I’d pair it with another strong color (see step four) just to fight against the terrible weather outside.

3. Choose the Shoes

Now, I have to admit – this is actually the first step I take, because in my opinion, the shoes you are wearing dictate your outfit’s style direction. At this point, you can decide how casual your outfit is really going to be: combat boots, sneakers, pumps, high-heeled shoes – your choice will change everything. I opted for a slightly-more-than-casual pair of black boots. They have just the right amount of dressiness yet are also extremely comfortable!

4. Accessorize!

This is otherwise known as adding the finishing touch. These small details add charm and can make a huge difference! My strategy involves creating a silhouette that is bulkier on top but still balanced.

Of course, once I got started, I ended up wearing more layers than I’d originally planned to, but that is part of my aesthetic. As you can see, I wrapped a big, blue scarf around my neck but I also decided to wear a t-shirt underneath my long-sleeve shirt, which peeks out just enough to add another splash of color that matches the scarf.

Outfit upgrade 3

As you can see, I am also wearing long socks which have a double purpose: they keep me warm and they provide the balance this final outfit needed. If the jeans weren’t that skinny or were a darker color, I would have skipped the socks.

I kept the jewelry, as well as the makeup, to a minimum: one blue cocktail ring and a watch, BB cream, mascara and that’s it!

The final step for me was to throw on a heavy coat for when I’m outdoors, since the temperatures are rather low here, but you can, of course, adapt to your own climate.

And now, a short recap:

  1. The base of your outfit is important! Choose wisely.
  2. Start with one layer – either on top or underneath – and continue from there.
  3. Scarves are our favorite winter accessories for a reason. They spice up any look!
  4. It’s OK to let your shoes dictate the outfit! In fact, this is one of my fashion strategies.
  5. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!

What do you think?

Was this guide easy to follow? Did you learn anything new? What are your outfit formulas for busy days? Tell me by leaving a comment. If you have other ideas, I’d be thrilled to hear them!

Posted on on January 24, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

31 Responses to “4 Easy Steps to Upgrading a Very Basic Outfit”

  1. 1
    January 24th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I love this post, I appreciate that you used yourself as an example and put together an outfit that is realistic for the college setting.

  2. 2
    January 24th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I love this! I always layer camis under shirts, but haven’t considered using other t-shirts. I’ll have to give it a try now!
    And, btw, your desk area decor is adorable :)

  3. 3
    January 24th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This is a fantastic idea!! Love how you went from a simple outfit to something colorful and fun with lots of layers for winter! Definitely do this kind of post again and again!

  4. 4
    January 24th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Love this post! Thank you so much for putting it together. The final outfit is so adorable!

  5. 5
    January 24th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    i love this. i always find myself buying basics for versatility. but then my outfits just look… basic. thank you!!

  6. 6
    January 24th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    This is honestly the best post I’ve seen on this site!! I love how you use yourself to demonstrate each step and the fact that you’ve actually used steps. Also, I really love how this is quite basic – not really on trend like peplums and stuff which I can’t wear. URGH seriously – thank you!

  7. 7
    January 24th, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    OK love this I always wonder where to go after getting another layer on <3

  8. 8
    January 24th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Love this! In college its very importent to start from basics and work your way until you reach your desired ensemble :)

  9. 9
    January 24th, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Perfect! Do this over and over – I’ll definatly use this during the winter!

  10. 10
    January 24th, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I love how you broke this down. Makes it feel so much simpler.

  11. 11
    January 24th, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Really awesome! You make great style look effortless :)

  12. 12
    January 24th, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    PS I love your jacket!!

  13. 13
    January 24th, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Great post! Would you consider doing a similar post for warm weather, where we cannot depend as much on layers ?

  14. 14
    January 24th, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Awesome post! It’d be awesome to see more like this :)

  15. 15
    January 24th, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    I think I am in the minority, but I feel like a lot of people just follow the same routine when they get dressed, and I get bored. Fashion should be a creative adventure, not a formula!

  16. 16
    January 25th, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Yes, I agree with the other comments: it’s great to see you using yourself to demonstrate the outfit, and I love the use of basics. One of the best posts I’ve seen on the site! Please do more like this!

  17. 17
    January 25th, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I agree with Kristin.

  18. 18
    January 25th, 2013 at 8:17 am

    This post is one of my favorites so far! I love it! The outfit changes so much from the first pic to the last, it’s fantastic! Please keep doing posts like this

  19. 19
    January 25th, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Aaaw thank you very much for your awesome comments!

    reb: hmm, a similar post for warm weather is a tricky challenge, I have to say.
    I am going to do some brainstorming but most probably I will do one in the future!

    Kristin and Elena: I know what you mean and I do have to say I agree with you, too. However you need to realize that not everyone is able to spontaneously choose an outfit that goes well together and looks good. Imagine this: when having to give a speech, some people can talk without any preparation or difficulties in front of a crowd whereas others need to plan, make a structure, rehearse. I like to improvise, but I wrote this article focusing specifically on those girls who don’t :)

  20. 20
    January 25th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts! So awesome! And like other posters have said, I haven’t considered wearing shirts under sweaters so they stick out on the *bottom* – I have a couple sweaters I’ve been stumped with how to style and now you’ve given me some awesome ideas!
    But I do have a question: how would you style that yellow jacket differently? I’m afraid to buy such standout pieces because I feel like there’s really not much I could do differently with it, and so I wouldn’t be able to wear it often.
    Thanks again!

  21. 21
    January 25th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I think this is my favorite post ever! It would be awesome if this could become a regular column…like every week you could show us how you created one outfit from the basics on up. Plus it would be neat because we would be able to see the same pieces styled different ways!

  22. 22
    January 25th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Lauren: The only “scary” thing about the jacket is its color, so the trick is to treat it like a neutral. Just imagine it’s black and then it would be perfectly acceptable to pair it with a pair of red pants. Of course, it does take a certain amount of confidence to pull that off, but I don’t think that’s something the beautiful CF readers are lacking!

  23. 23
    January 25th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    This is the best post ever!! I’m clueless when it comes to putting outfits together.

    Thank you for this awesome post! Please do more!

  24. 24
    January 25th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I’m so impressed with this post! I think my favorite part of the outfit was the scarf, but the boots and the jacket were really amazing too…I can’t wait to read more from you!(:

  25. 25
    January 25th, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    How about the basic dress-and-cardigan combo, like if you’re going to an internship where you have to look more professional? Do you think a two-fer or a single-color dress would be more versatile? Solid color or print? Thanks!

  26. 26
    January 26th, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Erin: I personally prefer a single-colour or print dress for work because not many two-fers divide at the right point for my waist. Maria’s tips are really good as well because from there, you pick a layer (eg. colourful cardigan or jacket), choose your shoes, and accessorise from there.

  27. 27
    January 27th, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Erin: for an internship you want to look professional but that doesn’t mean that color becomes a no-no. I would say a dress in a bold color is completely appropriate as long as you keep the rest of the outfit muted. Combine it with pastels or neutrals (like beige, black, brown or navy), use delicate accessories and always choose your shoes carefully. Of course, some place are more liberal, but for work, I would advise to stick with the classics and don’t combine more than two strong colors.

  28. 28
    January 27th, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Please do more of these- this is a great post topic. I think a lot of girls invest in basics and then end up not knowing what to do with them (myself included). Great work. :)

  29. 29
    January 28th, 2013 at 1:10 am

    This post was really helpful. One thing I’m terrible about is investing in basics and then forgetting to accessorize. I loved that you didn’t use polyvore for this- you actually showed how you dressed yourself. Makes is to much easier to visualize.

  30. 30
    January 29th, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    RC and Maria, thanks a lot for the tips! Sorry it took me so long to check back, I’ve been studying for some pretty big exams! I will try pairing a neutral with a bolder color for balance. It’s hard when the weather is still cold, but I’ve resolved to start wearing brighter colors this spring — I usually dress either fairly monochrome or mixed neutrals, so I’m working on branching out. I would like to try some cute prints as well, although they seem more casual-Friday type wear. Floral prints, in particular, tend to look a bit Laura Ingalls on me…

Links to This Article

Leave a Reply


* Comment Rules: CF is a positive place and our comments section is no different. Constructive criticism is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your comment. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name and do not put your website in the comment text, as both come off like spam. For more info, see our Comment Policy. Have fun & thanks for adding to the conversation!


* Want a custom avatar to show up next to your comments? Sign up for a free Gravatar.