Preparation is the key to success. We hear this all the time, in fact, I tell you at least once an article, but that’s because it’s true. Preparation really IS the key to success and it applies to almost every aspect of your life. For example, I have signed up to a mentoring program in which I will be the sole organiser of repeated, hour long sessions with fifteen first year students. I am, quite frankly, bricking it. But I know that if I plan it properly, then it won’t be completely awful.
Despite the difference in context, this principle applies just as much to our wardrobes, outfits and style as it does to my managing to keep fifteen first year students entertained and engaged for an hour. At any time of year, a poorly planned outfit will stick out like a sore thumb; it will look ill prepared, terribly executed and most definitely won’t be an accurate depiction of your undoubtedly fantastic styling abilities.
Good preparation can not only mean the difference between looking like a berk and looking mighty fine, but also whether you are too hot or cold, whether you stay dry or get soaked through or whether you have everything you will need for the day (planning your outfit doesn’t just mean your clothes).
A bit of careful thought before the event can save you time and, most importantly, will make you feel more confident in what you are wearing. It also gives you the opportunity to picture looks in your mind, improving your outfit creation and making sure you make the absolute most of your wardrobe.
So what should we be thinking about whilst planning our outfits?
Wearing the right clothes is the single most important part of planning your outfit. You can probably cope with a forgotten phone or missing change, a book to read on the train or your mid morning snack, but mess up with your clothes and your day will probably be ruined.
Here are things I always like to bear in mind whilst preparing my own outfits in advance:
Take a good hard look at the weather forecast. I check it obsessively, but if you have a good idea of what is going on around you then you can adjust your outfit accordingly; wear your leather boots rather than those suede loafers, think about adding another layer for the morning and evening (you can always take it off).
Also think carefully about your area in particular. Living in Brighton means that the centre of town will almost certainly be windier than it is around my house, and up at uni it will be both windier and colder because it’s on top of a hill.
These small changes can mean the difference between an outfit that keeps you warm and one that is wholly inadequate, so bear them in mind.
This applies much more now that we are entering the autumn/winter season but it is still relevant at other times of the year. Proper layering will keep you much warmer than just throwing your winter jacket over the top – by wearing lots of thinner layers you have more flexibility with what you can take off or put back on, which in turn makes you much better prepared for fluctuations in temperature.
For some fantastic tips, check out Matt Allinson’s excellent guides to layering.
There probably isn’t anything worse than turning up at your destination woefully under or over dressed, it marks you out as someone that either doesn’t care or clearly hasn’t understood the situation – definitely something to be avoided.
This is a topic I have covered a few times in recent articles (check out my guide to looking good in an upmarket bar or on a first date) and I’ll take this opportunity to stress it once again; you need to think very carefully about where you are going, what you are doing and how appropriate your clothes will be, it IS possible to dress very well and still come across as a bit of a tosser.
This is closely linked to appropriacy but I think it is useful to identify it as an individual consideration. You need to make sure you dress for what you are doing.
You’re leather soled brogues might not be the best footwear for a wander in the country and your wellies might not be the most appropriate shoes for a coffee in town (unless it’s snowing). Remembering these basic details will give your outfit a real edge and ensure that you don’t find yourself wearing something that doesn’t fit the situation.
This final point is in fact a culmination of all of the above, so it really is worth bearing it all in mind.
Fairly self explanatory really, think carefully about the fabrics you are wearing: a lightweight cotton chino won’t hold up to the cold as well as a full on cord or wool trouser and a cotton knit will retain much less warmth than something in lambswool.
With the concepts of good layering, weather consciousness and appropriacy being the driving forces in this article, I felt it would be a good idea to identify some items that could potentially help you cover all three in a classic, timeless and stylish way.
Adaptable pieces of clothing should be seen as the building blocks of any successful modern wardrobe, providing you with the versatility that allows you to create multiple looks no matter what the season or occasion. (Not to mention this approach will save you money in the long run.)
As previously mentioned, planning your outfit doesn’t just mean organising your clothes. Your bag is an extension of your look – it can become an important part of the outfit as a whole and has the added benefit of being able to hold things you might need during the day.
I have previously discussed the basic elements of any successful man’s bag, but there are certain things that could be seen as more situation appropriate; an extra layer should you be staying out until the evening, a hip flask for those chilly walks (even better if you are pottering around the country) or gloves/scarf/hat if it becomes colder during the day. These are things that forward planning will mean you are never without.
However, as much as you want to be prepared, you don’t want to be overloaded. Lugging around a bag of things that you probably aren’t going to need could prove to be very tiresome and is equally unnecessary. Aside from the basics that inhabit your bag on a permanent basis, chop and change its contents based on what you really need, and feel confident in the knowledge that you have everything you require to look good and be prepared for any situation that arises.
I for one find it really helpful to visualise outfits before I wear them; it gives me more confidence in what I’m wearing because I know it worked in my mind. It has also improved my styling and pushed me to try new combinations, making use of items that I previously hadn’t thought to put together. The additional benefit being that it has made me get the best out of my whole wardrobe, rather than sticking to the same old looks every time I leave the house.
But just because I find it useful, it doesn’t mean that we all agree – so what do you think?
Let me know in the comments below…