Fashion ergonomics: ensuring that clothes fit properly and do so in an efficient and effective manner. Not an official Oxford English Dictionary definition, but relevant none the less.
The act of creating an ergonomic outfit is no easy task. It needs to work on all levels, from every angle and no matter how many layers you add or remove – creating a multitude of looks all wrapped up in a single sartorial package.
Depth plays an important role in this ergonomic ideal. Think of it as a sequence of surprises – the closer you look, the more you see – a flash of colour, hint of pattern or an arresting texture.
A certain level of depth is inherent when you layer garments. The physical act of layering clothes will help build an outfit with unique contours that is full of movement. We have covered layering techniques extensively in recent FashionBeans articles, so there is little need to go over it again. But for those that are looking for a round-up, try these:
- Fashion Basics: Layering Introduction
- Fashion Basics: Mixing Textures
- Fashion Basics: Layering & Fabric Combinations
- A Guide To Summer Layering
- Transitioning Into Autumn In Style
Suffice to say that autumn/winter is the perfect time to experiment with outfit depth. The colder months bring with them rich, warm colours, soft, detailed textures and a renewed selection of intricate and inviting patterns.
So, without further ado, what are the main ways we can add depth to our looks?
Depth Through Texture
Texture is an important aspect of any great outfit, but it’s still overlooked by many seasoned sartorialists – even though poorly chosen textures have the power to ruin or undermine the aesthetics of an ensemble.
Ties are a great example of how much texture can affect the look and feel of an item. For instance, take two burgundy ties: exactly the same in every way, except one is made from shiny silk and the other matte wool.
The former would be perfect for the boardroom or a city wedding, combined with a sharply tailored suit and crisp white tie, but not so much for matching with your tweed blazer and jeans at the weekend. The latter, on the other hand, would perhaps look a little too casual for the boardroom or a wedding, but is ideal for combining with heritage-inspired tailoring or rugged, outdoorsy items on dress-down Friday.
Note how shiny (top) and textured (bottom) ties subtly communicate a very different message
Key Consideration: Knitwear
Remember that every single element of a man’s wardrobe is affected by texture: shoes, tees, trousers, accessories, bags, shirts – you name it – and the differences can be as subtle or overt as you wish them to be.
Yet one facet of your wardrobe that is perhaps influenced most by texture is knitwear – something you really need to be nailing come autumn.
Textural influences are wide ranging here. For instance, think about how the difference in weight (and therefore how an items hangs on your body) and weave (effects breathability) between cotton, wool and blended fabrics will alter the overall look and feel of an outfit, both in terms of comfort and aesthetics.
Consider the connotations and origins of cable/Aran and waffle knits – two popular styles that offer surprisingly different results. For example, your formal wear might look better with the clean lines of a waffle jumper layered underneath while your casual wardrobe might benefit from the bulk and relaxed nature of a cable/Aran knit.
The same advice applies to fine gauge and heavy gauge knitwear, respectively:
Texture once again is imperative within these type of ensembles, helping create a clear division between one item and the next when the tone or shade doesn’t change dramatically.
As a general rule when experimenting with texture, but particularly here, avoid too much of the same by introducing multiple fabrics of different weight and feel:
Depth Through Pattern
As with layering, patterns and prints will naturally add depth to an outfit. Choose the right one and you’ll find you keep discovering new details and colours on second or even third look.
So long as you remember to anchor them with neutral basics, printed garments that include two, three or even four colours – think classic paisley, floral, checks or polka dots – will help add interest, character and a touch of individuality to your wardrobe in an effortless way.
Patterned shirts and tees particularly come into their own when layering, offering a subtle point of interest when covered by a jumper, cardigan or jacket before becoming the centre piece of your look once the outer layer has been removed.
For example, an untucked, irregular polka dot shirt will look great under a simple grey sweat and bomber jacket, finished with some rolled, slim-fit denim and a pair of chunky brogues – each time you remove a layer you see more of the outfit and another detail or flash of the pattern is revealed.
Patterned Accessories & Detailing
Depth can be provided through patterned accessories as much as anything else. A bright pair of socks that only show when you sit down, a bold printed pocket square or a lightweight silk scarf; the possibilities are endless.
You can also look to build interest with slightly unorthodox details such as a patterned jacket lining, contrast hems or printed panels/inserts on footwear.
Depth Through Colour
To my mind, the colours of autumn/winter can’t be beaten. Rich, warm hues of orange, green, burgundy and mustard permeated by bold reds and vibrant purples can inject character and life into even the darkest of days. These bolder tones are often much more of a statement, so the depth will come from the way you frame them.
Once again, knitwear paves the way, providing a fantastic canvas for bright colours, with their texture creating a mattifying effect that helps control and reduce the hue’s impact.
Try framing a merino wool knit in this season’s biggest colour trend, burnt orange, with a white Oxford shirt (left untucked), grey flannel trousers (another key piece for AW14) and a navy pea coat for a look that straddles the smart-casual divide perfectly – equally at home in the pub on Sunday or a restaurant on Friday night.
Another easy way of introducing these rich hues into your ensembles is by layering a coloured shirt, polo or tee below a neutral, textured jacket. For instance, a burgundy shirt would look superb under a grey tweed blazer, as would a mustard tee under a black leather bomber – the outerwear serving to neutralise the effect of the coloured items while introducing a textural element to the look:
Jewellery, belts, watch straps and bags work really well in big block-colours as they lack the flamboyance of other accessories like silk scarves and pocket squares. They are more functional and can bring a real punch to your look if chosen correctly.
When considering colour, think about the rest of your wardrobe and avoid clashes by choosing an accent hue you don’t already use regularly (green, burgundy and orange work particularly well in navy and grey dominated wardrobes).
The Devil Is In The Detail
When all is said and done, even the smallest touches – things that are so automatic they don’t even register – can influence the depth of your look. For example, consider these minor alterations next time you are getting ready:
- Shirt tucked or un-tucked?
- Shirt buttoned all the way up or left undone?
- Tie or tieless?
- Sleeves rolled/pushed up (shirts/knits/tees)?
- Trousers rolled or purposely cropped?
- Textured/printed/coloured socks or sockless?
Depth is an extremely important consideration when it comes to pulling together stylish looks that can adapt to any scenario. An outfit should work at every level, as you add or remove layers during the day – after all, what use is an ensemble that only truly works in one specific configuration?
This sense of depth can be achieved in a variety of ways, from subtle texture differentials to making more of a statement with bold coloured or printed pieces. Try experimenting with new combinations and find out what works for you and your own individual style.
But now it’s time for your say – how do you add depth to your look? Do you prefer to mix textures, colours or prints? Perhaps you like to include one of each?
Let us know in the comments section below…