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Style 101: This “Juxtaposition Trick” Will Change How You Get Dressed

We’re back with another Style 101 post! (It’s been quite the hiatus, because these posts take quite a bit of time to write and I haven’t exactly had a lot of that lately–damn you summer schedule! ?) 

If you’re new to the blog, Style 101 is a style advice column where I break down simple rules of getting dressed to help you find more inspiration and build a wardrobe that makes you love getting dressed every morning!

Today, I’m sharing a rule I’ve touched on briefly on the blog before in various posts, but it’s such a great rule that it’s finally getting the spotlight it deserves. I call it the “Juxtaposition rule” or “Juxtaposition trick.” 

It’s probably one of the most effective styling tricks you’ll ever learn, and it will totally transform how you put together your outfits. If you’re often stuck in a rut and never know how to piece together an interesting ensemble, this post is for you. 

What’s the Juxtaposition Rule? 

I honestly don’t know where I learned this, I think probably as a result of a LOT of trial and error over the years, slowly fine-tuning my personal style, but I decided to call this method “the juxtaposition rule.”  I’m sure there are plenty of people who call it other things, but the overall sentiment is the same across the board–it’s actually not a new idea–it’s a technique that all creatives have relied upon to create their works of art. 

Essentially, it’s the idea of mixing together differing styles to result in a visually interesting outfit. The kind of outfit that you can’t quite put your finger on why you like it so much–it’s by no means loud or over the top (granted, you’re welcome to make it that way, if that’s your thing) but when I do this–it’s classic, but with a twist.

So, for example, you may have a very feminine floral blouse that you would normally pair with something like white skinny jeans and heels. This is a no-brainer, right? It’s cute, classic, and easy. Three feminine pieces. But for a more interesting twist, pairing it with a more masculine boyfriend jean and sneakers could be more visually compelling.

Make sense?

Now that you get the concept, here are my favorite examples of “the Juxtaposition rule” that you can adopt and make all your own! 

Feminine + Masculine:

This is one I gravitate toward very often, and like the rest of the formulas I’ll get into later on in this post–it always works. Like anything in life, your outfit should have variety. A little dash of this and a little splash of that will always result in an outfit that is interesting and stylish, even if you swear you’re completely incapable of putting together a good outfit.

All you need to do is take something feminine, and combine it with something masculine. What do I mean by that? Here are some examples:

A crisp button down shirtdress (masculine) with a scarf in your hair (feminine)

Everlane Dress, Dana Rebecca Necklace, Madewell Tote

Everlane Dress, Similar Bandana, Dana Rebecca Necklace, Madewell Tote

This button down shirt is classic all on its own (giving me “Risky Business” vibes in a good way, no?) but it becomes more interesting when pairing it with a feminine element, like a scarf tied in your hair! You could also tie it around your neck, or pair it with your favorite heels for the same effect.

A ruffled top paired (feminine) with boyfriend jeans and oxfords (masculine)

Levi's 501 jeans, Everlane Oxfords 

Old Madewell top (sold out in this striped color but still available in black!), Levi’s 501 jeans, Everlane Oxfords (their loafers are also to die for), similar bandana 

Whenever I have an item that’s super girly, I love toning down the girly factor with something a bit more masculine–in this outfit, there are actually three items with a bit more masculinity– boyfriend jeans, oxfords, and a bandana!

A girly dress (feminine) paired with sneakers (masculine)

JOA Dress, Raffia Tote, Jack Purcell Sneakers

JOA Dress (on sale for $72!) c/o Shopbop, Raffia Tote, Jack Purcell Sneakers

I chose to style this dress with sneakers to give it more of a tomboy feel–it’s a no brainer to pair this with your favorite heeled sandals (it looks great with these cork Sam Edelman heels–they’re my favorite! Size 1/2 size down!) but a much more unexpected (and comfortable) combination is to pair this dress with crisp white sneakers. You’ll feel like an instant cool girl.

You catch my drift yet? So, next time you’re putting together an outfit, start with your main staple piece and ask–is this feminine, or masculine? Pair it with an element or two that is the opposite, and you’ll have a completely different outfit than the one you reach for 9 times out of 10.

Dressy + Casual:

Two other styles that typically get put in a box are dressy and casual. You typically view most items in your closet as one or the other, right? But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I find this particular combination works really well for work staples and allows you to be more creative in styling certain items outside of the office, too!

Just like what we went through above, you can take the same approach–here are some of my favorites: 

Boyfriend jeans (casual) and a striped tee (casual) with a crisp white button down (dressy) and sophisticated black pumps (dressy):

J.Crew Button Down, Everlane Boyfriend Jeans, Similar Striped Tee (mine’s old), Sam Edelman Pumps 

Those classic pumps you wear to the office? Try styling them with boyfriend jeans. A crisp white button down you always wear to meetings? It looks really cute layered over a striped tee! If you’re a classic J.Crew lover like me–you’re all over this outfit. If I still worked in advertising, I would 100% wear this in the office on a client meeting day.

A casual striped sweater with polished trousers and loafers

Everlane striped sweater and Everlane Japanese Go-Weave Easy Pants / Gucci Loafers / Madewell Tote 

Everlane striped sweater and Everlane Japanese Go-Weave Easy Pants–also come in black and navy! (both c/o), Gucci Loafers (but these dupes are on sale for $89!) Madewell Tote 

This is another really great “transition” outfit framework. It’s polished enough for work, but you still feel really cute and put together wearing out outside of work, too! This combination shows you how you can dress up what you previously thought was just a “casual sweater” and make it perfect for the office.

Blazer + Cropped Jeans + Booties

Leith faux wrap sweater

Similar sweater blazer here and here (mine’s old, but the amazing J.Crew one is back in stock! I like that one better ?), Leith faux wrap sweater (on sale, but almost sold out–I’d highly recommend Everlane’s selection of sweaters as well if you’re in the market!)

Another “dressy” office staple typically labeled as “for work only” is the blazer. Yes, of course, depending on the blazer, it can feel too business casual, but there are a lot of “middle of the road” blazers that can work for both. Look for something that isn’t “suit material” (too stuffy to wear with jeans)–pretty much everything else is fair game. To polish-up your outfits outside of the office, pair it with a sweater, cropped jeans, and booties!

Are you seeing a pattern here? Most of these outfit combos could also fit in the “masculine vs. feminine” category, or the “polished and edgy category”–it really doesn’t matter what you call them–you just want to be able to get the hang of identifying what pieces can be juxtaposed together for an interesting result!

Preppy + Modern:

I honestly never even considered this to be a real thing until becoming friends with Kelly. We often end up buying the same clothes but styling them completely different ways, so it’s always fun to compare! While she is classic preppy, I tend to combine my preppy pieces with more modern or minimalistic staples, and it works so well!

A preppy button down + classic ballet flats paired with edgier cropped raw-hemmed jeans

J.Crew Button Down, Everlane Kick Crop Jeans

J.Crew Button Down, Everlane Kick Crop Jeans (size down if in between) c/o, Everlane Day Heels (TTS but go up a 1/2 size if you’re in between) c/o also okay they have a tiny heel so I guess they’re not “ballet flats” but…they suffice in this case ? Similar trench on sale (mine’s old!) 

We both own this button-down from J.Crew and it’s one of our favorite wardrobe staples. The funny thing is that she styles it totally differently than me! She might wear it with dark skinny jeans and Tory Burch flats and look cute as a button, while I’d pair mine with something a bit more contrasting–like my Everlane raw-hem kick-crop jeans! For cooler days, this look looks amazing with a trench–this one is so classic, has a removable vest liner (which you can wear on its own too!) and it’s $112!

Camel sweater, cap-toe ballet flats with leather leggings:

Camel sweater, similar leather leggings, similar cap-toe flats, LV Speedy 25 bag

Camel sweater, similar leather leggings (on sale!) similar cap-toe flats, LV Speedy 25 bag (got mine off eBay years ago!)

Another combination you’d normally just put into the “preppy” category–a camel crewneck sweater and cap-toe flats. It’s a combination that feels very Jackie to me–and I love it–but throw leather leggings into the mix, and it takes on a whole new, modern feel!

Preppy slides, white skinnies and a striped tee with a suede moto jacket:

Madewell white skinnies, BlankNYC jacket, Sam Edelman slides, striped tee, Ray Bans 

Madewell white skinnies, BlankNYC jacket, Sam Edelman slides, Similar striped tee, Ray Bans 

When I showed up wearing these, Kelly laughed “THOSE ARE SO PREPPY!!!” and I was like, “really!? ?” She actually also owns this whole outfit–white skinnies, striped tee–the only difference here is that I styled it with a moto jacket for a modern, edgier twist! (Could this go into the polished and edgy category too? Of course!)

Polished + Edgy:

This is also a really easy combination to try out that will make you look instantly stylish! It’s very similar to the masculine and feminine rule–I like this combination because sometimes too many polished staples can come off as being too boring, one-note, or stuffy, but when you bring in an edgier element, it really creates a nice balance.

A feminine dress paired with a moto jacket

Sam Edelman Dress, BlankNYC jacket

Sam Edelman Dress, BlankNYC jacket, Similar booties 

This pretty midi dress is currently on-sale (fully stocked in all sizes!) and it’s the perfect dress for any occasion–even conservative enough for the office! To give it a bit more interest for a night out with friends or a date, I paired with an edgier moto jacket and a pair of booties, which gives it a completely different feel!

A chic, polished bow top mixed with edgy cutoffs 

Amanda Uprichard Top c/o Shopbop, Topshop shorts, Steve Madden sandals 

Amanda Uprichard Top c/o Shopbop, Topshop shorts (this wash is old), Steve Madden sandals 

I love how sweet and this bow top is, and the edgy cutoff jean shorts are a perfect foil! Read the full blog post on how I like to style jean shorts here!

Floral midi dress with a leather jacket:

Steve Madden Carrson heels

Similar slipdress, similar jacket, Steve Madden Carrson heels

You see this combination again with a polished slipdress paired with a leather jacket that has JUST the right amount of edge to contrast the sweetness of the dress.

Polished quilted jacket + ripped jeans:

Barbour Beadnell coat / Levi's jeans / Jack Purcell sneakers.  

Barbour Beadnell coat (quilted version is sold out everywhere right now, but will be back for fall–there are a few similar styles on sale right now at Nordstrom though!)  Similar sweater, Levi’s jeans (old, similar here, and here), Jack Purcell sneakers.  

Finally, a Barbour Beadnell jacket is just about as polished and classic as one can get. Had I worn regular dark skinny jeans here, it would’ve been a very classic look all around, but ripped jeans were a much better choice to give the outfit a lot more interest and prevent it from feeling overly preppy.

What do you think? Are you into the Juxtaposition Rule now too!? If you try out any of these combinations, I would love for you to post them on Instagram and tag me (or DM them to me!) @jesskeys_!