This subtle switch makes all the difference.

By Samantha Sutton
Aug 26, 2020 @ 6:00 pm
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Raimonda Kulikauskiene/Getty Images

Every so often, I'll scroll through Instagram and spot an outfit so good it gives me goosebumps. It's creative, it's fun, it's on-trend, and yet somewhat unexpected — mostly because it follows one main style rule.

After revisiting some of my favorite looks, I realized that many fashion pros are fans of opposite-dressing. In other words, they take two pieces that seem as if they would never work together — for instance, a ruffled dress and thick, velcro sandal — and pair them together. These total opposites end up balancing each other out in a way that's pleasing to the eye, and definitely makes me think "Gah, I wish thought to do that."

In fact, last year, after I saw Katie Holmes wear a pair of joggers with a button-down, I couldn't stop thinking about it. For the next few months, I fully copied that formula, styling a collared shirt with my favorite track pants.

There are a ton of ways to follow the opposite-dressing rule, which will quickly transform your outfits and make them more interesting. Ahead, I've rounded up a few easy examples, but with a little experimenting, the possibilities are endless.

A Structured Shirt and Comfy Bottoms

Similar to the outfit I just mentioned, I love the look of a button-down and a casual pair of shorts. I wouldn't have thought these two items would work together — one is somewhat serious, while the other is more lax — but the end result is preppy and cool.

A Dress and Casual Footwear

Sure, fashion influencers have been into this athleisure combo for years, but it just proves how successful opposite-dressing can be. A chunky sandal or sneaker can turn even the sparkliest ruffled dress into a laid-back look.

A Suit and Boots

Heels aren't the only shoes that pair well with suits. Lace-up, lug sole boots can really spice up a structured ensemble and give it a rugged, more sporty twist.

A Dress Over Pants

Another way to follow the opposite-dressing rule is by playing around with layers. It's such a '00 move to layer a dress over pants, but with the right pieces — such as a wrap dress and jeans — it's less of a throwback and a bit more modern.

A Structured Outfit and a Cap

Accessories really do have the ability to make or break an outfit, and a few key extras can change its overall vibe. Between the jacket and the slacks, this look could easily be considered business attire. However, that baseball cap and sneakers really dress it down, making it weekend-ready.

Shorts and Boots

Another great idea is to combine staples from two different seasons. If the temperature isn't too hot, style your favorite shorts or mini dress with a pair of knee-high boots. You can even incorporate this trick in the middle of winter, too; Bermuda shorts and over-the-knee boots are a cute and warm way to make the most of your wardrobe.

A Blazer and Bike Shorts

A structured jacket has the ability to make any outfit more elevated, even if it's basically loungewear. Sneakers will ensure this combination works for a full day of activities, while heels will give it a fancier, date night feel.

A Suit and a Bralette

When in doubt, reach for something that might be considered stuffy and wear it with something sexy. There are multiple ways to wear a bralette, but pairing it with your workwear — like slacks or a full suit — will turn those pieces into off-duty staples.

Sweats and Heels

Good news for all the sweatsuits I've bought over the past few months: they'll look just as great with heeled slides and stilettos as they do with slippers.

A Sweatshirt and Structured Pants

The easy way to wear to sweatshirt is with equally comfy bottoms, such as matching pants or everyday jeans. Pairing it with slacks, however, is sure to make a statement, and combines the best of both worlds.