The New New

Who says a tailored trouser has to be khaki and not chartreuse, or a structured bag can't be cloud-shaped? In The New New, we're looking at the many ways to have more fun with your clothing this fall.
By InStyle Staff
Sep 09, 2021 @ 9:00 am
Chaotic Fashion
Credit: Colette Aboussouan

You've Been Thinking About Investment Pieces All Wrong

Here, we make the case for splurges that bring a taste of chaos to your look, because we are so done with greige sweats. by Samantha Sutton

Have you ever had one of those days when you look into the depths of your closet and sigh? You've spent your hard-earned money on all this…stuff, and yet there's not a single thing you feel like wearing. While a variety of factors can contribute to this sense of style malaise, we've found a major one is this: We simply want to wear clothing that speaks to us, something fun that stands out or represents our current mood and maybe even boosts it. And if you've been adhering to the old fashion axiom that you should splurge on your most-worn basics, your closet is probably full of items that don't inspire any excitement at all.

This prompted us to rethink the 'rules' when it comes to investment pieces. We've always figured that if we were going to truly spend in the fashion category, a timeless classic — such as a tailored pair of trousers or a structured black purse — is the smarter choice. But who says a tailored trouser has to be khaki and not bright purple, or that the structured purse is a rectangle and not cloud-shaped?

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As we welcome back fall fashion, bidding our soggy summer adieu, we've been itching to inject our wardrobes with a bit more life, in the form of puff-sleeved dresses, printed designs, and quirky jewelry — and not just for special events. And now, we're passing that challenge on to you: What if you could choose a select few bold investment pieces and let them act as a capsule wardrobe of exciting favorites you can't wait to re-wear?

If you start with a voluminous yellow dress, fuzzy purple coat, or a multicolored striped sweater as the foundation of your look, it'll transform whatever you wear it with into something that feels unique. Put that way, it makes a lot more sense for the pricey pieces in your closet to be the stars of the show — and for those to be the items you've splurged on, because they're the ones that bring you joy.

Chaotic Fashion
Layer a poufy dress over faux leather pants and a mesh top for a playful look. Selkie dress. Acne Studios top. COS pants. Dr. Martens boots. HOBO bag. NOTTE earrings. | Credit: Colette Aboussouan

"I don't think there is a single thing in my wardrobe that isn't a statement piece," LA-based content creator Quigley Goode tells InStyle. The fashion influencer's elaborate outfits help her stand out and inspire on social media, where she's been known to pair shiny gowns with floral headpieces. "I usually start with one piece that I want to wear and build a look around it," she says. "Then, I will mix and match different items until the vibe is just right. I've based whole looks off of a pair of statement shoes or even a headband."

Goode says her personal taste is pretty much 'more is more' — which actually isn't a bad motto to stick with when shopping for the season ahead. Between three-piece sets, oversized knit or even micro button-up vests, and the rise of Y2K trends, now seems to be the time to pile on all the things, both new and old. A dress can have a second life by being layered over pants, and small but significant touches, whether that's a metallic jacket, a fuzzy hat, or bubble rings, have the ability to enhance an outfit, yet won't feel too over-the-top when balanced out with basics.

Chaotic Fashion
By opting for unique denim styles, bright colors, and quirky accessories, the classic jeans and a sweater look will feel fresh and fun. On Shreya: Emma Brewin hat. NOTTE earrings. FARM Rio sweater. Free People jeans. Dr. Martens shoes. On Gabrielle: NOTTE earrings. BONBONWHIMS rings. FARM Rio vest. Hanifa sweater. Tory Burch jeans. Dr. Martens boots. | Credit: Colette Aboussouan

"One misconception people have is that they will look too 'loud' by wearing chunky rings, but it's all about how you style," says Clare Ngai, founder of jewelry brand BONBONWHIMS, whose viral acrylic resin rings are beloved by icons like Olivia Rodrigo and Ariana Grande. "I actually think a neutral knit set paired with boots will look a lot more effortless and 'dressed down' with some statement rings versus piling on more gold jewelry."

Chaotic Fashion
Embrace your inner 'Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century' by styling a tight printed set with an oversized metallic jacket. A bright pair of gloves will take things up a notch on a chilly day. Hildur Yeoman top and bottom. Miscreants gloves. The Mighty Company jacket. NOTTE earrings. | Credit: Colette Aboussouan

Of course, while stepping out in a bedazzled something for your average day at the office or even a casual hang can feel intimidating at first, the key to making these items work for your everyday life is finding that happy medium. You can quickly dress down bold items by pairing them with jeans or sneakers, and sticking to a single color scheme can make things feel more subtle. By finding that balance, even those pieces you initially thought of as 'fancy' have the ability to become staples.

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"Pretty please invest in a statement dress," pleads fashion expert and stylist Cindy Conroy. "So often we think dresses should be reserved for formal events, but a fierce dress is worth every penny. You can wear it to work, out for dinner, or even to the farmer's market," she promises. "Let that baby out, because its versatility is unmatched."

Chaotic Fashion
Stick with a shiny theme throughout your look, then amp things up even more with a variety of statement-making extras. Emma Brewin hat. Miló Maria coat. Christian Siriano dress. NOTTE necklaces. Bea Bongiasca earrings. Larroude shoes. | Credit: Colette Aboussouan

According to Kimberly Gordon, the founder and designer of Selki — aka the brand behind the whimsical, organza puff-sleeve dresses you've seen all over Instagram — this applies to her designs, too.

"I always encourage people to try styling them with boots or Tevas, or with cool little jackets with big sleeves, capes or ponchos, and baseball hats," she tells InStyle. "A lot of people want to wear them with heels, obviously, but I recommend styling them down for more of a street style look. In that case, you can wear them every day — if you're ready to be noticed. That's the point of them. They're kind of punk in a sense, because they are just very much like, 'Look at me, because I deserve it.'"

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Still, purchasing these items with grand plans to wear them regularly, and then actually following through with those plans is easier said than done. For those committed to stepping out of their comfort zone and making statement dressing part of their everyday look, there are small ways to begin, says celebrity stylist Karla Welch, who not only dresses the likes of Sarah Paulson and Tracee Ellis Ross, but co-founded Wishi, an app that connects people to their own personal stylist for fashion advice.

"Pick one trend at a time and incorporate it little by little into your outfits," she says. "If it's the 'pop-of-color' trend, pick one color you love and start by buying a shoe, a bag, a hairpiece, etc. It feels like less of a hurdle if you start with small accessories and work your way up to making more daring clothing choices."

Chaotic Fashion
Add a bit of texture to your monochromatic look with a fuzzy coat, then slip on some printed boots to spice things up. Stand Studio coat. Self portrait sweater and skirt. Chelsea Paris boots. Min & Mon bag (seen in video). | Credit: Colette Aboussouan

Welch also has recommendations for the outfit-boosting items that are well worth the money. 

"If you live somewhere weather-appropriate, invest in an amazing coat because it will elevate any outfit." She also sings the praises of a pair of statement earrings and a top-handle tote. 

And of course, the number one trick when shopping for standout items? The reason we want them in the first place: Genuine love and excitement — regardless of what's 'in' or 'out.'

"If a bold top feels exciting to you, wear it," adds Conroy. "Look for basic and statement pieces that bring you joy. If it makes you smile, check. If it highlights your best features and makes you feel like a boss, double check. Do that, and like Waldo your personal style will emerge so bright that others can't help but notice."

Photographs by Colette Aboussouan, assisted by Bryan Sargent. Models: Gabrielle Richardson and Shreya Chaudhary of Muse Management. Style by Samantha Sutton. Hair Styling by Chika Nishiyama. Makeup by Ayaka Nihei using Anastasia Beverly Hills. Beauty Direction by Kayla Greaves. Art Direction and video by Jenna Brillhart. Creative direction and production by Kelly Chiello. Editorial direction by Laura Norkin.