Opposites Attract – How to Mix Up Your Style

If you are over 40, you were taught that to look fashionable you needed to match the style and color of your clothing and accessories. Fast forward to 2015, when that rule has been thrown totally out the window. Today it’s all about deliberately mixing things up,  so you don’t look so perfectly coordinated.

fashionandfrills, photographer: Stephanie Drenka

Yes, this new way of styling outfits can throw you off kilter if you are used to the old way, but it doesn’t have to. Taking the time to see things from a new angle can help breathe life into a humdrum wardrobe. No one understands this better than my friend, Image Consultant Sue Donnelly. Sue is a master at mixing things up in new and creative ways and brings us this guest post on what she calls, Fashion Polarity.

sue donnellyWelcome Sue! Please tell us more…

Sue: When we are choosing something to wear, we generally stick with we the tried and tested. Our decision might be based on color (light not dark), fabric (fluid rather than ‘stiff’), pattern (abstract not striped) and the overall impression (formal not casual). This is fine. It’s what we know. BUT it can get a bit boring at times.

So, how do you spice it up without losing your own sense of style and security? Here’s how. You add in its opposite!

florals and stripes
Opposites attract- stripes and florals


The concept of Polarity appears everywhere: yin/yang, light/dark, large/small, quiet/loud, love/hate – these are just a few examples

They might be construed as ‘clashing’ or fighting against one another. On the other hand, we could view them as two halves of a whole or two sides of the same coin, in which case they have the possibility to sit side by side to make a unique unit of balance.

The Scandinavians have this down to a fine art. They are mixing up proportions in such a way that this new styling has started to become mainstream. You would never have paired a wide legged pant with a square, boxy top. A tighter, more form fitting top would have been the norm. Thick soled sandals, such as Birkenstocks, would never have graced a knee length skirt or a midi dress, but now they look great. So, you see, mixing unlikely pairings can look amazing.

glam and sporty
Metallic glam, sporty stripes, and sexy leopard create interest.

So, instead of avoiding the opposite to your usual choice, see if you can bring some polarity into the mix. The benefit is the ability to open up and expand available options and bring more fun and versatility into your life. Everything is accessible if you so desire it to be. 

Some will work and some might not but it’s the sense of curiosity that counts. Not only is it fun but, apparently, it also keeps you young!!

Some ideas for you to try: 

  1. Mix two cliches together e.g. luxe and sportswear, vintage with modern, tailored with boho
  2. Mix opposite textures e.g. leather and silk, wool and lace, dense and sheer
  3. Add a denim jacket to a classic skirt or pant
  4. Balance a trendy piece with a traditional garment
  5. Wear a check shirt with a classic suit
  6. Team biker boots with a dress, high heels with shorts
  7. Try pattern with pattern, florals or checks with stripes, florals with florals
  8. Mix faux fur with jeans
  9. Wear bohemian chic with couture designer – perhaps just a watch or bag
  10. Team a shirt and a man’s tie with a skirt
  11. Clash colors worn together – wear cool with warm
  12. Mix horizontal and vertical stripes in the same outfit
  13. Decorate chiffon with metal chains
  14. Wear odd shoes, mismatched socks or a different earring in each ear
  15. Try high tops or trainers with a pencil skirt
  16. Wear blue mascara on top lashes and purple on the bottom

Deb: Thanks Sue for these fabulous suggestions. Ladies,  What do you think of the idea of fashion polarity? Have you tried it and how is it working out for you? Please send me a photo. I’d love to see a look you’ve created.

Sue Donnelly is a certified Image Consultant, who is launching a 21 day course in this topic called The Dressing Up Box. Visit Sue’s website to find out how she can help you style your Soul, Spirit and Silhouette.

Join the Conversation

10 thoughts on “Opposites Attract – How to Mix Up Your Style

  1. I love your suggestions, they are, as always, very helpful. I would really appreciate your recommendation for cowgirl boots. I am 47 years old and always liked cowgirl boots but never had the courage to wear them. Now , at this point in my life I have a craving for them. I don’t know if I am having a midlife crisis or something of that sort. All I can hope for is to hear from somebody who always knew about fashion as you do since I never was a fashionable person myself not even when I was young. Now I am becoming more conscious and have some common sense about fashion. I do not dress like a teenager or young adult, on the contrary, people always said that I like to dress to look older than I am. I am 5’7″, bust 34″B, Hip 38″, waist 28″. My face show the normal wrinkles for a late 30s or early 40s woman, in this sense I thanks my parents for their good genes. I have been lifting weight for about 5 years and I have very well defined muscles on my legs and arms, my belly show the famous 6 packs which really help a lot. Since people always pictured a 40 something woman as a person with a puffed belly, saggy gluteus, arms and legs and never remember that this type of body is hard to dress even for a 20 year old but the old one is always the one to be punished by the fashion industry and gurus. I am in no way planing to wear a cowgirl boot to go to restaurants or work. I just want to wear them to go to street festivals during the Fall or Ferias in Spring. Probably many people reading this will think that I am a nut because at this age I have not yet figured out to wear what I want and should not pay attention to what people think. My whole point is: i want to wear what I want but with class and the finesse appropriate for my age. By the way, the cowgirl boot I have is form Ariat tan color with some delicate stitches not the crazy flashy ones. I don’t want people looking at me as a hag. I hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you in advance.

    Sandra Picerno

      1. I wore dark grey cowboy boots for our family Christmas celebration today. I wore an above-the-knee flared light grey dress. I had planned to wear grey tights, but it was too hot. I had a long crystal necklace ending in a tassel and silver earrings. I loved the way I looked and was complimented by everyone. Nothing like a costume or a western outfit. I’m 65 years old.

  2. I agree with mixing it up but this is way over the top. No thanks, it looks like you really didn’t have anything to wear and threw some things together.

    1. Hi Ann,
      You raise an interesting point. How far is too far? I’m on the conservative side myself. I find that too much mixing makes one look confused, not chic. How does everyone else feel?

  3. I like the polarity idea. I tested an outfit this past spring…Black n white ankle pant w/a small vertical print and a red n white horizontal tiger stripe cardigan over a white cami…it worked…and I even got a compliment!!! Too bad I didn’t take a picture.

  4. Thanks for the tips! Now I see the yin and yang in this new dressing and it will be easier to do and to be more inventive.
    ,I don’t think I will take this that far,because I,myself, would easily feel chaotic ,but doing this in a more subtle way would suit me best.

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