Juxtaposition, It Takes Your Outfit Up a Notch

I’ve been meaning to write this post about the rule of juxtaposition for quite some time. But this trick is very visual and I got totally in my own head and was worried about how it would come across in a more word-heavy space.

And then, as always happens, my lovely clients showed me the light. In the last few weeks, the juxtaposition trick has come up frequently.  I’ve been talking about this rule as a way to transform how you think when putting outfits together. Yes, for me it’s an art, almost intuitive really. When I look at someone and what’s in their closet (or at a store) I kind of just know what will work. Now my major caveat is that I am not the fairy gd mother from Cinderella and I can not just wave my wand and make it happen. There is definitely trial and error that is an inherent part of the process. But all in all, for me it’s a pretty intuitive journey.

However, when I’m working with clients or writing a blog, I try to take 3 steps back and think about the what’s and the why’s. This allows me to better explain it in non-fashion nerd terms, for all to (hopefully) understand.

Juxtaposition – It’s a Fashion “Rule”

I know how much you all love style rules (and if I’m being honest, so do I). I don’t love them in the oppressive, ‘these are rules and this is proper and you can’t express yourself, you must conform,’ kind of way. Rather I like rules because they provide a framework. Then within those guidelines, you can decide what part(s) work for you. If you like rules too, be sure to check out the third piece rule and the fashion rule of one.

Okay, enough about my philosophy on rules, and let’s get to the actual juxtaposition rule, or maybe it is better described as a trick. The juxtaposition trick is one that, in the simplest of terms, helps you take your outfits up a notch. 

This is a particularly good rule if you’re not a big accessories person. Often we rely on accessories to spice up outfits. However, if you’re anti-accessories, then it becomes more challenging to add interest to your look.

Well, that’s where the juxtaposition rule (or trick) comes into play.

Opposites Attract

The basis of this fashion trick is formed around the idea that opposites attract, bringing out the best in each other. No this is not relationship advice (although funny enough, I believe it’s true in relationships as well). Pairing items together that are technically opposing creates a tension that elevates the outfit as a whole.

I’ve written before about how wearing too many items from the same era or trend can look like a costume (remember the Mrs. Roper example from a few weeks ago?). Or if you wear cowboy boots and a fringed suede jacket, it looks more like you’re going to the ranch rather than out to dinner. 

But if you wear the same cowboy boots with a feminine floral dress, it can feel unexpected and cool. It adds interest to your outfit and takes it to a new level – THAT is the juxtaposition trick. Pairing a ladylike dress with a more rugged or masculine shoe creates the pull of the juxtaposition and immediately provides a visual attraction to the outfit.

I can safely say that implementing this styling trick will completely change the way you look at putting together your outfits and therefore get dressed every morning. As with any artform (because styling is an art), it’s the push and pull of opposites that make it more compelling.

How to Up-Level Your Outfits with the Juxtaposition Rule.

There are three juxtaposition combinations that are easy to implement and provide the outfit allure. I used various celebrity street style links, mostly from Pinterest to illustrate. AND, if you’re a Pinterest person, be sure to follow me there too

Masculine + Feminine

Do you know the whole sundress with sneakers look? THAT is masculine/feminine juxtaposition. Yes, it’s expected to wear a dress with heels or a sandal. And it looks good. But combining a feminine dress with a masculine shoe makes the outfit compelling – when you see it you think hmmmm. That’s different, but it works…

Similar Outfit:

Similar Outfit:

Dressy + Casual

This combo allows you to get more mileage from your work or dressier items by merging them with your more casual stuff. AND it up-levels your whole look. Think about pairing a blazer (dressy) with jeans and sneakers (casual). Or jeans and a t-shirt (casual) with heels and statement jewelry (dressy). See where I’m going with this… Opposites attract.

Similar Outfit:

Similar Outfit:

Classy + Edgy

This is somewhat similar to the feminine + masculine combo. Sometimes classy items can feel stuffy or boring and adding a pinch of edge can bring it all together. Personally, I utilize this combo a lot, usually in my third piece (remember that rule?). When wearing a dress, even a cocktail dress, I’ll add a leather jacket. It provides warmth AND a pop of edge to make the whole outfit come together. 

Similar Outfit:

Similar Outfit:

Next time you’re trying to decide what to wear, think about the juxtaposition rule! As I mentioned above, this is a very visual subject. Are there other opposites that you wear together that I missed? Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of shorts with boots (on the cool Instagram girls). It’s a relatively new trend, but it employs the same juxtaposition principle Summer (shorts) + Winter (boots) = DOPE A$$ OUTFIT!

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Photo: Becky Cormell


Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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