Do not be intimidated by the title of this read. It may sound like it is a very technical piece, however in essence it is just paying due care and attention to all perspectives of your outfit. I find that it is actually one of the most important considerations in fashion, especially nowadays when we have a wide selection of varying styles and cuts that we tend to mix together in the struggle for individuality.
I refer, of course, to global outfit selection. After you mix together five, six, or seven different clothing items in order to create an outfit, does that combination actually produce a great silhouette? Have you covered all the angles of your outfit? What if you look great from the front but lack any sort of fashion sense from the back? This is what I will be discussing below, giving you some tips on how you can improve your general outfit tone and shape.
The Faux Pas
If you take a trip to your local shopping area and have a quick look around the shop window displays, you’ll find that different stores are targeting different audiences. Retailers offer a selection of different goods for all styles, personal tastes and trends. While we may have a preferred brand or store that we buy from regularly, we may also be tempted or actually purchase an item which is different to what we usually wear – this is a very good practice in order to broaden our outfit selection, but does this new piece compliment and coordinate with the other items in our wardrobe?
If the answer is a resounding NO, then we may end up creating an undesirable or uncomfortable looking silhouette that gives us a fashion-less image, even if the items we are wearing are perfect as individual pieces. It is the same principle often seen by those committing the too much colour mistake; items can look superb on the shelf of the store (and even when you try them on) but if they don’t fit in with your current wardrobe then they stick out like a sore thumb.
I’ve fallen into this trap myself with a past purchase of an over-sized jacket. The jacket looked (and is) SUPERB but it did not work with the majority of my wardrobe and the result was a top-heavy shape which looked out of proportion. I did not realise this immediately as I was infatuated by the beauty of the individual piece – but I am more careful nowadays as to what I combine and I hold the global silhouette in very high regard.
The Fix: The Three Golden Rules
I managed to identify three basic factors to keep in mind when looking at a global outfit.
1. All Angles
This refers to how the outfit looks from all sides, i.e. front, side and rear. Our mirror shows us mostly the front, but the world outside will see all of us from all angles. It is for this reason that we should take note of how we look in our outfits (and individual clothing items) from all sides. This should be done when buying new clothes, in order to make sure that each pieces flatters your body shape and creates the silhouette you require no matter what angle you view it at.
For example: When buying a new t-shirt or polo shirt it may look great from the front, but the back may rise slightly too high as your shoulders are broad and the cut therefore doesn’t suit your frame. It could lead to a sloppy effect where your clothes don’t look like they fit properly, even though from the front you could never tell the difference.
However, we can also take advantage of this way of thinking, as most males will not consider what an outfit looks like from behind. Purchasing pieces that have additional detailing on the back of the garments is one way of making your rear look just as good as the front. Why not look for patches, rear shoulder detailing or patterns that continue around the back of the item? Knitwear is perfect for this and right now there is great variety on the market due to the Heritage trend producing many items with elbow patches and patterns such as Fair Isle and Aztec becoming wardrobe staples.
Accessories such as backpacks are also worth consideration, as they are designed to be carried on your back and can again add interest or even reinforce the ‘look’ or style you are going for:
2. All Positions
A second aspect to take note of is how the outfit looks when sitting down. If we take a look at images of celebrities such as George Clooney, they look impeccable when sitting down and that’s because the overall fit of their items complements their shape. We spend a lot of time seated, both at the office, restaurants and cafes, so taking note of how an item looks when we are sitting is very important. Note that not all fabrics keep the same shape when our body is not standing completely straight.
However, we can again take this into account when creating an outfit. Certain items are hidden during your usual standing position, meaning you can make this work to your advantage by utilising statement pieces and accessories that are only shown in certain positions.
For example: Socks are usually only shown once you sit down and your trouser hem rises naturally (unless you purposely cuff your trousers). Take advantage of this by wearing a bold statement sock that shows a flash of flair and individuality but is not always on view to the world. This subtle statement produces much more of an impact, as the viewer is not expecting it. Sticking with the trouser hem scenario, it is the same when utilising smart boots such as brogues or Chelsea boots – standing up they just look like a great pair of smart shoes, but once you sit down it becomes apparent there is something more to them (and you).
Another thing to consider is what you wear on your wrist. Shirts, coats, knitwear or anything with a full sleeve will usually cover this part of your body but in certain positions and when you are completing certain activities, they suddenly become on show – the perfect excuse to wear some statement jewellery or a watch. Choose colour if you want to inject a shot of life, or simply a refined piece that emphasises you are an elegant gentleman:
3. All Times
The final, and probably the most important factor – how does our global outfit look six/seven hours after we put it on? We look great when we see ourselves in the mirror right? Take another look when you retire home after a long day and you are greeted by ‘The Grinch’ standing in your mirror. Granted the day wears off on us but if we choose the right outfit combination we should still be looking very much the same.
Key factors to consider here? Think about the cut of your pieces to start off with. That shirt might look impeccable when you have spent 10 minutes tucking it in and arranging it perfectly before you leave the house, but if it is slightly too short then it will start to rise and come untucked once you complete your regular daily activities. In the end it just looks sloppy and you would be better off spending time making sure that your clothes are a PERFECT fit when you are buying them.
Other considerations would be choosing clothing that is appropriate to the situation. Those linen trousers or blazer might look great when you first put them on but if you are going to be commuting or standing up/sitting down regularly then they will soon get creases. Probably best left to the garden parties in the summer. Likewise if you are going to be outside in the unpredictable weather, maybe it would be best to opt for materials or even colours that won’t be ruined by the rain. Alternatively, think in advance and be prepared with a MAN sized umbrella or a good quality piece of outerwear.
Finally, choose materials wisely. Bearing in mind the linen clothing example above, consider hard wearing and crease resistant clothing for your top layer. Premium materials like thick brushed cotton, wool, tweed, leather or denim will all hold their silhouette better than thinner alternatives, and can hide natural creases acquired naturally through a typical day:
With these three ‘rules’ in mind I feel that we can greatly improve our general outfit silhouette and enjoy an error free outfit selection.
Sample Outfits With Good Structure
Below are some outfit examples which combine to produce a well rounded body shape. While personally you may have a different opinion as to what works well or not, I feel that these outfits work within the above guidelines.
What To Avoid
The most important thing to keep in mind is uniformity. The final outfit needs to be an all rounder in terms of shape and proportion; scaling from really skinny jeans to a massive over-sized trench coat may work but only in rare circumstances. If over-sized coats are in fashion and you want to wear them go ahead, but try to complement the look with a straight fit or at least slim fit trousers to avoid creating a top-heavy look. The same framework should be applied the other way round as well – comfort fit trousers should not be paired with skin tight tops.
Keep moderation in mind, as it is the best way to avoid falling for these mistakes.
It is imperative to keep your body shape in mind when selecting items and pairing individual pieces together. Fashion ergonomics play a very important role in determining the overall shape of your outfit and your three dimensional silhouette. While it may come as second nature as to which items should be combined with others, it is important to keep the three rules above in mind in order to create a great look that works well in all scenarios.
Share your thoughts below and head over to the forums to discuss this topic. I will see you all next week with another article from the Common Mistakes series.