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Fashion Challenge: Combine Contrasting Styles in One Outfit


Contrasting senses of style as seen on celebs

Admit it: when attempting to describe a person’s style, catch-all words like “preppy,” “girly,” “goth,” “sporty,” probably pop into your head first, right? I know it’s easy to categorize clothing into neat little boxes, high school-style, but where’s the fun in that?

Let’s face it: The idea that we should each pick one “style” and stick with it is both outdated and boring. So this week’s challenge dares you to combine two distinct styles to create a new look. Though this can be tricky to get the hang of at first, the following tips will help you pull it off in a way that makes you look fashion-forward yet effortless.

Ready to take the challenge? Read on to get inspired, and make sure to send us your outfit photos (details at the end of the post) so we can see the results!

Tips & Tricks for Mixing Styles in an Outfit

  • Be unexpected. This point of this challenge is to do something out of the norm. If you combine two styles that are similar (such as girly and glam), the purpose of the challenge is defeated.
  • Look for contrast. Courtney Love did it in the ’90s by pairing lacy slip dresses with tough biker boots and leather jackets. Go for extremes; try wearing a geeky graphic tee with a floral skirt and heels, or a pair of thick-framed non-prescription glasses with a polished polo.
  • Experiment with price ranges. “High-Low” fashion, turned into an art form by style bloggers and celebs alike, is both wildly popular and essential for girls on a budget. There’s something very “street-chic” about pairing a designer dress you saved for months to buy with a pair of cloth mary-janes purchased in Chinatown.
  • Mix it up by occasion. Rock a glittery pair of stilettos with a basic t-shirt, or a fancy dress with a more casual pair of shoes if you’re feeling daring!
  • Wear with confidence. You may run into individuals who don’t yet understand the idea of fashion freedom. If you receive any irritated stares from disgruntled individuals for pairing a punky studded belt with a pair of rope sandals, know that you look great because you’re doing something different.
  • Remember, it’s a CHALLENGE! If you feel a bit out of your comfort zone, pat yourself on the back for daring to try something new and broadening your wardrobe horizons! :)

Outfit Ideas

1. Good Girl Gone Bad

Good girl gone bad outfit

Dress, Shoes, Cuff, Headband

Rocker-chic accessories can give a girly dress a real kick! Start with a feminine frock–I like this one for its muted tone and bow decoration! Slick your hair back with a frilly headband to continue with the girly look. Next, to mix in some edge, throw on a pair of tough-gal stilettos and a studded cuff for an outfit that would make Leighton Meester proud!

2. Bohemian Prep-sody

Preppy hippie outfit

Polo, Jeans, Belt, Shoes, Bracelet, Earrings

Usually pair your polo shirts with freshly-ironed khakis? Break the mold and rock a proper polo with a pair of ripped-up jeans–skinny or boyfriend cuts look great, but stick with flared jeans for the most “boho-chic” look. A D-ring ribbon belt will contrast nicely with a pair of rope sandals, as will a pair of pearl studs with a woven bracelet.

3. You Say Goodbye, I Say “High-Low”

Mixing high and low fashion

Shirt, Shorts, Shoes, Sunglasses, Watch, Purse

If you’re like me, you’re probably put off when people pitch “high-low” fashion as a novel idea–after all, pairing a basic t-shirt with your designer jeans is a no-brainer! However, you would be surprised to know how many people actually don’t think its okay to pair their expensive watch or purse with a regular casual outfit.

This idea, obviously, is silly–if you have a piece you’re proud of, you should feel free to wear it with anything! Not only will your item’s “cost per wear” decrease, but it’ll add style to otherwise-bland outfits.

To mimic Corey Kennedy’s high-low look, start with a white v-neck and jean shorts, which are a little more practical than her overalls. Next, add some cloth mary-janes: I found my favorite pair at Urban Outfitters! Next, use this neutral base as a canvas for standout accessories, like a great pair of sunglasses and a classic watch. I love this timepiece by Michael Kors–menswear-inspired watches are very on-trend at the moment! Most of us won’t be able to afford a Chanel purse like Corey’s for many, many years, so swap it out for your favorite leather bag!

CF Reader Looks

Here are some looks sent in by CF readers! If you want to see your look featured here, read the instructions below for sending in your outfit photos!

Sandra – University of Bonne – Cologne, Germany

A college fashionista from the University of Bonne in Germany

“I decided to dress down my black night-on-the-town little dress with a mixture of earthy colors to create a boho-chic look. This outfit consists of my fave nude gladiators, a short sleeved olive cardigan, a cool straw hat (from the men’s department, they are cheaper) and not forgetting lots of bracelets and a big chunky ring. I think this outfit is perfect for a day of shopping with the girls or lunch with the girls.”

Rocked the Challenge? Send in Photos to be Featured Here!

Now that you’re inspired, we want you to take the challenge and send us photos of your challenge outfit! Be an inspiration to other CF readers (and get a little taste of fame) by sending us your pics!

To see your challenge photos featured here (along with a blurb about you and a link to your blog, if you have one), take some pics of you rocking contrasting styles, and attach them to an email to fashionchallenge AT with your name, school, blog link, and a description of what you’re wearing. (See examples here and here!)

Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

What do you think?

Will you be trying this challenge, or do you think its a major fashion don’t? Do you already mix styles? How do you feel about “hihg-low” fashion? What challenges would you like to see in the future? Sound off in the comments!!

Posted on on August 18, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , ,

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20 Responses to “Fashion Challenge: Combine Contrasting Styles in One Outfit”

  1. 1
    August 18th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Love this! If you haven’t read the book Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style, there’s a section in the back where it mixes & matches different styles, very inspirational!

  2. 2
    August 18th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I’m always changing it up (and can’t really stick to one style… too many nice clothes!) and the outfits really inspire me :)
    Adoring the last one!

  3. 3
    August 18th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Great article! Combining different styles is my favorite way to dress. It’s that little unexpected element which really makes an outfit stand out.

  4. 4
    August 18th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Great post! I love this idea. I’m trying to dilute my super-girly wardrobe with boho and menswear-inspired pieces!

    xoxo Hannah

  5. 5
    August 18th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I hate how the dress with the bow && the skirt with the bow are not from stores in the US! It would be better if the clothing could be found in stores in the states. But otherwise, I LOVE the outfit ideas!

  6. 6
    August 18th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    This is definitely me. I find it kinda funny cause I mix up my styles all the time so I never thought it was unusual!!
    I’m definitely one part girly, one part rock chick. That’s always been my style.
    Today for example I’m wearing Chanel esque black and white ballet pumps and a quilted bag with skinny cigarette trousers with an oversized 80s style tshirt and leather jacket.
    I love the sound of the graphic tee with a floral skirt. Totally my style.
    Fab post :]]


  7. 7
    August 18th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Really love the last outfit!

  8. 8
    August 18th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    This challenge is great! I love trying to mix up my wardrobe in the last couple weeks before classes start again — it lets you give outfits a worry-free trial run! That idea of mixing girly and geek really inspired me for a day look, and I like the idea of preppy and boho. (I’m seeing debutante-esque white sundress with distressed brown leather accessories.)

  9. 9
    August 18th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    i love this post….one of my favs
    i always like having contrast in my outfits…pair something femining like lace n butch it up with motorcycle boots and leather jackets
    u guys have talked mentioned contrast in some posts before
    but thanx fr making a whole post fr it

  10. 10
    August 18th, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    I do the “good girl gone bad” and the “bohemian prep” all the time. I will pair motorcycle boots or anything studded with a cute dress. I mix the bohemian and prep for work all the time! It is comfortable and keeps me cool while working in a fast paced retail position.
    Definitely one of my favorite posts!

  11. 11
    August 19th, 2010 at 12:52 am

    i love mixing styles! my fav is the last outfit!

  12. 12
    August 19th, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I really like the girly/geek combo. I just think that the boho/preppy combo is sort of how real preppy people dress. Maybe not the typical rich ones, but I’m from a rural area and a lot of people dress like that.

    Other than that the High-Low idea is so interesting!

  13. 13
    August 19th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Hm, I don’t really like this, but I’ll try it.
    It just seems to me, that having one style is OK, but then you can make it original by adding something to it, not mix it with another.

  14. 14
    August 19th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    all the outfits are great, but i like the last outfit the best!:)definately trying this challenge!

  15. 15
    August 20th, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Wow , i love mixing styles!
    the 3rd one is awesome, high-low.. i’v worn something like that to a mall one time, only thing is i carried a big purse and wore heels.. looked great!
    umm.. to all my fellow CF readers..
    in case ur interested.. i was goin thru a fashion site n came across the “Clinique Fresh Faces Tour”
    Thought some of you might be interested in it :) here’s the link :-

  16. 16
    December 4th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Very cool idea. A lot of creative people already do this. It’s easy to change the look of very basic clothes simply by changing the accessories. Granted, some styles are hard to combine, but I’m sure someone’s found a way to make even the most highly contrasting styles work together.

    I tend to like several different styles, so I’m constantly. Mixing neutrals is great, and mixing colors with neutrals is wonderful, too. looking at my clothes (currently fifteen pieces by choice) and sorting them into outfits. The individual pieces are widly different, yet theymostly work with each other.

    One of the more unique things I’ve seen was a kimono with glow in the dark electrical tape on it. Now that’s contrast!

  17. 17
    June 12th, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I love mixing boho items of clothing with rock chick clothes to make me stand out. For instance, I would wear a white blouse with a pair of ripped jeans.

  18. 18
    June 13th, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I honestly don’t care for Miley Cyrus at all, but I love her outfit up at the top. So pretty!
    As for the post, I like the idea! I’m kind of stuck in a rut at the moment, and this has given me some food for thought! =D

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