Must-Do Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe

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A Mix and Match Wardrobe has a lot of benefits, including time and money savings. Here are some tips to help you mix and match your wardrobe so that you look and feel great every day.

blue blouse and jeans on hangers with a necklace over top.

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I am the last one to claim Fashionista status. In high school and college, my favorite “outfit” was sweats and a t-shirt, my hair pulled back in a scrunchy. For awhile, that worked as my mom outfit.

But then it didn’t.

My body changed shape, and frumpiness took over. Thankfully, I finally realized that I needed to stop using my lack of natural giftedness as an excuse to be frumpy.

I wanted to look pulled together in such a way that I felt confident leaving my cave and mingling with the real world.

Oh sure, for years I tried to get with the trends and be fashionable. I’d spend money on clothes and then a few months later, still feel like I didn’t have anything to wear.

What I realized was that my methods weren’t sustainable. I worked on outfits instead of building a mix and match wardrobe.

Previously I didn’t understand how to put outfits together. I didn’t understand how to layer different pieces. I didn’t truly know how to work a mix and match wardrobe.

Research of the Frumpy Mom

I started thinking about having a wardrobe where everything went with everything else. You’ve probably heard about that theory before. The idea of being able to wear everything in my closet sounded really appealing.

Making the jump from theory to practice, however, can be challenging! After much trial and error, here are my tips for a mix and match wardrobe.

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe | Life as Mom

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe

1. Understand some basic outfit formulas.

If you spend some time on Pinterest or do a google search for women’s fashion, you’ll likely find some basic outfit formulas that you’re drawn to naturally.

Consider these examples:

  • cardigan, tank top, skinny jeans, long necklace, slip-ons
  • utility jacket, sweater, scarf, dark jeans, booties
  • denim jacket, solid top, corduroy, neck scarf, flats

These are basic outfit templates that you can insert your favorite pieces. This “women’s fashion casual” search will show you exactly what I’m talking about.

Which combinations do you like? Make a note of this. These are your “meal plans” for clothes.

2. Shop your closet.

Few of us have the budget to allow us a complete closet makeover in one go. It’s just not realistic. But, chances are, even at your frumpiest, you’ve had pieces in your closet that folks regularly complement you on and make you feel good. These are the pieces to focus on!

Consider the outfit formulas that appeal to you. What pieces in your closet already fit these formulas? I’m pretty sure you can put some great outfits together just by shopping your closet.

Who knew you already had a mix and match wardrobe?

3. Keep only pieces you love.

It doesn’t really matter that others complement you on a sweater if YOU don’t love it or if it’s too tight or uncomfortable to wear for more than a few hours. Do yourself a favor and keep only clothes that you love.

Additionally, only BUY clothes that you really and truly love.

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe | Life as Mom

4. Remember that layering pieces and shoes matter.

When I first started to fight the frump, one of the biggest realizations that I came to was that shoes and “toppers” made a huge difference to the look of the outfit. HUGE!

Shoes can be pricey. That first season that I focused on my wardrobe, I spent a good $100 on shoes alone. But that investment has proved sound.

Trust me when I say that shoes can make or break an outfit.

Likewise, top layers such as jackets and scarves can make a huge impact on your final look. Over the last year and a half, I’ve added the following “toppers” to my wardrobe:

  • long cardigans
  • lightweight kimono
  • utility jacket
  • bomber jacket
  • denim jacket
  • insulated winter coat
  • trench coat
  • rain coat

These offer not only proper weather coverage, but also a little bit of interest and contrast to my mix and match wardrobe.

5. Upgrade your mix and match wardrobe over time.

Be patient with yourself as you build a core, mix and match wardrobe that you love. At the beginning, I was basically starting from scratch. I didn’t have many shoes (maybe two pairs that weren’t sneakers?) or much variety in my wardrobe.

I’ll confess, when I first started my frump fight, I went out to buy as many basics as I possibly could. What I’ve now realized is that some of those pieces break rule number 3. I don’t love them. Now, I’m taking my time to find the exact white t-shirt that I absolutely LOVE instead of grabbing one off the Old Navy rack just because I wanted one.

Slowly but surely, I’m upgrading pieces in my closet so that I absolutely love EVERYTHING in my mix and match wardrobe.

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe | Life as Mom

6. Don’t be afraid to get help.

One of the biggest breakthroughs I had where fashion is concerned is to get help, specifically fashion advice from a professional. For the last year and a half, I’ve done the GYPO Style Challenges which have TRANSFORMED my closet and made getting dressed really and truly fun.

In fact, these past six weeks when I’ve had physical therapy two days a week, it hasn’t been worth it to get dressed in real clothes since I’m getting all sweaty. I relish the days when I get to get dressed because clothes are finally fun!

I’m super excited to tell you about my friend Alison’s newest Big Book of Outfit Formulas. This book is a TREASURE TROVE. It is seriously AMAZING.

Inside this download are 5 mix and match wardrobe shopping lists: one for closet staples as well as one for each of the 4 seasons.

Not only that, but there are 100s of outfit formulas, basically what I was talking about in point #1 to help you shop your closet, save money, dress quickly, and LOOK FABULOUSLY.

This book is one of my new favorite things! I’m having so much fun comparing my closet contents with her suggestions and upgrading my Mix and Match Wardrobe. So much fun!

A seasonal style challenge runs about $39/season. ThisΒ Big Book of Outfit FormulasΒ is currently available for $29 and covers FOUR SEASONS! It’s an absolute steal for the great advice and awesome visuals you get.

This is basically the go-to Mix and Match Wardrobe resource. I’ve been consulting it almost every day to get fresh inspiration and to plan some new spring purchases.

Buy the book here:

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe | Life as Mom

Do YOU have a Mix and Match Wardrobe?

What are YOUR tips for us?

Originally published August 22, 2011. Updated February 14, 2018.

Tips for a Mix and Match Wardrobe | Life as Mom

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  1. awesome, I love the lime green… also a bit of a maths geek, you have 45 combos of just top, pants and sweaters! Haven’t got as far as scarves and dresses but if just changing scarf counts as different outfit combo , you’re on your way to 200 options! Great Ideas, I’m going to go purge my wardrobe….happy scrimping πŸ™‚ x

  2. I have always tended to stick to mostly neutrals with some blue & green added. Living in Africa has taught me to add lots of color to my wardrobe- that is lots of color for someone like me. I’m still way behind when compared to my African friends. Now I try to have some basic pieces that I know are comfortable and I feel confident wearing them. I try to find a balance of having things that are so comfortable that I’m not adjusting them or noticing them all day, and things that minimize body flaws and look nice. When buying new things, I’ve learned to try them on first. That cuts down on ordering on-line unless it’s a brand & size that I know will work. I know that you can return things on-line or to a store, but I never do. When I try on clothes, I also do a few little exercises in the dressing room (arm circles, squats) so that I get an idea of how they fit. I take comfortable clothes seriously.

  3. I WISH I could go minimalistic when it comes to my wardrobe. I have a large walk in closet STUFFED with clothes and even when I try to purge…..doesn’t make much of a dent. However, between my fashion retail job, my home daycare job, my being mom, my ever up and down 2 sizes, & my love of fashion …only owning 3 pairs of anything IS NOT a possibility. I buy clothes because I feel good in them, which then adds an emotional attachment. ..which makes our hard to toss. ..any tips?

    1. I think it depends on you and what you want. There’s no law that says you should be a minimalist. If you have the money and storage for your clothes and your shopping and fashion interests aren’t hurting your relationships, I don’t know that you need to change. However, if there’s stuff you know you’ll never wear, there are probably people who could benefit from your donating them.

  4. I loved your post, and think it is a wonderful Idea. I am sick of the clothes in my closet,
    and buy most of mine from thrift stores also. ( I am trying to lose weight also). I am going to try the 1 year approach too! Thank you.

  5. I loved your post, and think it is a wonderful Idea. I am sick of the clothes in my closet,
    and buy most of mine from thrift stores also. ( I am trying to lose weight also). I am going to try the i year approach too! Thank you.

    1. I signed in through my twitter account, so I didn’t feel like I was sharing too much that way.

  6. I found something pretty easy and amazing – just go to The Loft outlet stores and buy your wardrobe there – the accessories go with the outfits (use the mannequins as a guide). The clothes are made to fit real life women and it is one store – in and out and the shopping is done. I got a coupon and discount and I will not shop at another store. No need! But I would love a personal shopper and a personal decorator.

  7. After many years of neglect, I’m trying to get to a place where I’m comfortable with myself again. I’m starting small with eyebrow tweezing and shaving my legs once-a-week(I seriously hope I’m not the only one who struggles with that). I’ve cut back on my portions and am trying to make better choices. My wardrobe is basic. I mostly wear dark-colored, plain t-shirts that can easily be worn with a skirt or a pair of jeans. Bottoms are dark jeans and khaki shorts, pants. Shoes are 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair brown sandals, 1 pair black flip flops, and 1 pair black heels and black boots that make me feel great. Then I have a full-length khaki skirt and one capri-length black skirt. 1 camel colored cardigan and that completes my wardrobe. Also, all my jewelry is silver. To dress up, I wear a dark tshirt, dark jeans or skirt depending on occasion , silver necklace and boots or heels. Around the house, its a tshirt, shorts and a ponytail. Shoes are slipped on before walking out the door and taken off when we come back inside.

    I know I have lots of room for improvement, but I’m taking babysteps. Next on my list is to start painting my nails. Then make-up. GASP!

  8. I really need to try this. I seriously hate getting dressed! I was pregnant last fall and have lost all the baby weight, so this is probably the perfect time to do something like this!

  9. I LOVE fashion. I never thought I would (or could!) live on a minimal wardrobe. But due to various factors (watching my budget, weight loss, change in school/work plans), I have been wearing a very minimal wardrobe for a couple of years now. One pair of “good” jeans (plus a few more pairs for cleaning and only wearing around the house). One pair of shorts. A few skirts. A half-dozen shirts. One sweater. A few pairs of shoes. I realized that, like your clothes, my wardrobe fell around a few colors (blue denim, black, and various shades of deep pink). It definitely makes getting dressed in the morning much easier! I accessorize with earrings, necklaces, scarves, and headbands, and I’m not sure anyone notices that I wear a very limited supply of clothes. Besides, as long as I’m clean and presentable, does it matter if I wear the same thing every other day? I admit I’m getting bored with my limited collection, but while it lasts, I’m saving money, cutting back on consumerism, and minimizing my daily decision-making. For now, it works!

  10. Last fall I did a huge wardrobe overhaul and it reminded me I actually do pretty well on the fashionista front (relatively speaking, ha ha) *when I put in the effort*. It’s so easy in our Lives As Mom to get into the jeans/yoga pants/T-shirt rut, isn’t it? Not that those things are bad, of course. But I know I got in the habit of not bothering to pull myself together.

    For me living in a cooler climate makes it so easy. A cute coat or jacket and scarf make me feel so put together. Even if I am wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt. πŸ™‚

  11. My closet needs a huge purging. Usually I give the clothes I no longer want to my youngest sister. She’s 12 years younger than me and she loves getting some new to her pieces.

    I love pinterest for fashion ideas. I just get so frustrated when I see something I love, click and find it’s no longer available. It’s a lot easier for me to see what I like when it’s put together in outfit form like on those pins than in is to figure it out in store. I often get lost.

    Limited is a pricier store, I usually only shop when there’s a great coupon or sale going on, but they are super helpful there and will look through their “look book” of outfits with me so I can show them what I like/don’t like and then help me put outfits together. I love having a few really great outfits over a closet full of stuff I think is just okay.

  12. I am officially inspired. : )

    Wow. You have done great!

    And I thought I was pairing down, you have me beat by far, this is so good that you are posting this, I will show my grown daughters too, they will love it and be inspired as well I’m sure.

    1. Well, just know that I do have some winter clothes — and some “play clothes” for cleaning, cooking, and doing messy things. This isn’t all I own, but it’s the workable set for this season. πŸ˜‰

  13. I’ve always struggled with coming up with “fashionable” outfits. I have ideas, but they each seemed lacking somehow. Like you, it wasn’t until I found Pinterest and started looking at some of the style boards that I realized that the accessories are truly what “makes” the outfit. It takes me from frumpy to (not fabulous) but well-put together and not ashamed of myself when I walk out the door.

    Anyway, I’m trying..

  14. I’ve really struggled in this area, especially since money is so tight. But God recently showed me that the reason I don’t take the time and effort in looking put together was because I didn’t value myself enough to care.
    I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem, and having three back-to-back pregnancies and gaining weight each time just made me feel even worse. I had to get a new outlook. If God thinks I’m of enough value that He keeps forgiving me, teaching me, and loving me, then I’m of enough value to spend a little bit of budgeted money here and there to look at least put together, and hopefully pretty.

    As if to bring the point home for me, I know God gave me a pair of shoes this weekend. We were in Target and were checking for any clearanced out shoes for the children. There were none, but as we were leaving the aisle I saw a pair of the cutest brown flats- the ones that are so popular right now- with the cutest “bow” near the toes. I just loved them, but they weren’t my size. So we walked down another aisle, and there sitting on the shelf, seperated from all the others, was a pair of the clearanced brown flats for $4- and in my size. I put them on, and I felt “cute” for the first time in six years. I actually cried.
    God cares so much for us, if we’ll just grasp a hold of that vision. He loves it when we appreciate ourselves for the wonderful creation we are, and looking put together is one fruit of really valuing ourselves. I believe He even smiles when His daughters get a little giddy over clearanced brown flats.

  15. I am in the same exact spot!! Except you are about 3 steps ahead of me. I LOVE the clothes you have picked to mix and match. Black is my absolute favorite color to mix and match. At this point, I am taking some tips from you and I may just have to consider you a fashionista!!

    Keep up the good work!!

  16. Arg. My wardrobe is a constant source of frustration. Rationally, I know that I have a ton of clothes. But I never really feel like it. I feel like I’m wearing the same stuff all the time. Accessories are a great idea — my problem is that I have an infant and a toddler. Accessories get chewed on, played with, pulled on, and generally destroyed!

    1. I have a section of “play clothes” and a section of “don’t muck on me” clothes. πŸ˜‰ The ones pictured are the latter.

  17. Oh, I’m always wishing I were more put together, fashion wise. I still have some stuff I wore in high school – and I hate it!! I’m just never confident enough in what I try on to spend that sort of money. And I can never quite find what I want a the thrift stores. I’m petite and indecisive. :p

    But my BIGGEST problem is that for the past 3 years I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding. :p And good maternity and especially nursing clothes are hard to find – and expensive when you do!

    My husband forced me to buy a new maternity dress yesterday for my shower coming up this weekend. πŸ™‚ But I only had TWO choices that didn’t look horrible on me. Such is the life, right? :p

    1. I don’t know that I would call the pregnancies/nursing seasons “problems” but they do present fashion challenges. Glad to hear that hubs encouraged you to buy something new. πŸ˜‰

    1. Great minds, eh? I like what you pulled together. And am interested in the push for skirts on that website you mentioned. Hmm….

  18. I think your wardrobe looks fantastic. I also try to buy basics that mix and match as much as possible. Having scarfs or other accessories is the key to jazz up a plain black tee and jeans. Go girl!