Styling Tips: How to Add an Element of Surprise to Your Outfit

I recently came across this look on Net-A-Porter and it made me pause. I had to think for a moment why it looks so chic. The strapless, corset style black top is almost out of place with the businesslike glen plaid suit. The top is very modern and can almost be considered an evening piece. But it is just that very reason why it works. It is subtle, but the strapless top lends an element of surprise to this outfit.

annine bing suit with black strapless top fountainof30


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Styling Tips: Mixing It Up

This got me to thinking about what designers and stylists do all the time. They mix pieces that are opposite in style, color or texture. It is the yin and yang of fashion. When mixing these elements, you may not think it will work, but it does. In fact, I think it is the key to styling, and it is really quite easy to do.

How to Add an Element of Surprise to Your Outfit

You can do this with pieces already in your closet or you can shop from the looks I created below. All you need is one “out of place” piece to create an outfit with an element of surprise.

Here are some examples. Some of these outfits make a big statement and some are rather subtle. You can decide which look works best for you. This styling trick is a simple way to show off your personal style.

Mixing Styles, Patterns, Textures and Colors

element of surprise satin embellished pumps with jeans fountainof30

Mix Casual With Formal

Wear a shiny silk shirt with casual white pants, a sequin handbag with a sundress or a dressy pair of heeled sandals with your everyday jeans.

In the look above, every piece is casual except for the blue embellished silk pumps. They are the unexpected piece that levels up an everyday outfit.

styling business with sporty fountainof30

Mix Conservative with Sporty

Wear a slick workout tank under a business suit, a white button down shirt with track pants, or an oversize jacket over your workout outfit.

Next time you go to the gym, wear an oversized jacket over your leggings, joggers and bra top. The structured jacket may seem out of place but it pulls the look together.

mixing floral orint with stripe pants fountainof30


Mix Prints and Patterns

Add an animal print, stripe, polka dot, floral or geometric patterned belt, bag or shoes to another pattern dress or jumpsuit. Or try a large pattern top with a smaller pattern pair of pants or skirt. The key to mixing prints is to find the same color in both prints, and to use different size prints in each piece.

In this look, the floral top is a larger print than the black pin stripe pants. Both piece include black which is why it works. I added a pop of color from the floral to bring the pieces together.


mix seaons summer dress with velvet belt fountainof30

Mix Seasons

Mix a faux fur bag, velvet sandals, or wool plaid belt in the middle of summer? Try any of these with a crisp white shirt-dress or a white t-shirt and faded jeans.

In the look above, the accessories all scream “summer” but the brown velvet belt is “fall-winter”. However, the plush belt makes the overall look more interesting.

Mix Unexpected Colors

mixing any tow colors styling tip fountainof30

Mix Any Two Colors

Wear one overall color and mix in one that “doesn’t match”. Pick a color (any color) for your base (top and pants, top and skirt or dress). Then see how a handbag, scarf or pair of shoes in any other color looks next to it. Almost anything goes when you only mix two colors. Try it and you will be amazed at how stylish this looks. 

In the image above I used one dress style that comes in a ton of colors and randomly styled them with 3 different colored handbags. They all work, although you may prefer one over the other.

Styling with The Element Of Surprise

Next time you put together an outfit, try adding one “out of place” or unexpected element. You may find you have a lot more to wear than you think simply by mixing up what you already own.

Carol Calacci

You may also like to read 5 of The Best Spring Dresses for Women Over 50: Splurge or Steal and New Color Trend To Try: Warm Neutrals With Pops of Bright Colors.

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