Myth: Women need outfit formulas to follow like recipes.

Truth: Women need outfit formulas for inspiration.

Shortly before Pesach, I started a new series on my blog called “Anatomy of an Outfit.” I had put together a few outfits that I really loved and I wanted to share them so I wrote blog posts about them. I described each element of the outfit and how it worked. I’m still working on more of them because I’m finding some great outfits that deserve to be described that way. And every one of these “new” outfits came from my own wardrobe- I didn’t shop the stores or spend any extra money for them. 

Before and during Pesach, my daughter and I were going through my cookbooks to find interesting things for our Pesach menu. I love to cook but I rarely follow recipes exactly as written. Rather, I use the recipes for inspiration. And I realized that my “Anatomy of an Outfit” posts were much like that.

From me, you get the truth.

In each post, I describe each element of the outfit. Those are the ingredients. And I described how and why each element works, both by itself and with the other elements. That’s the recipe.

One thing they have in common: You don’t know if the results will work for you without trying. You might see a recipe in a cookbook that looks absolutely yummy, so you try it, but you find that the taste or texture just doesn’t appeal to you or to your family. At least you tried. Same with outfit formulas - you might try a formula that makes your friend look amazing only to find that it makes you look frumpy. At least you tried and now you know something that doesn’t work.

However, my outfit formulas are different from recipes in one crucial way.

One cookbook author said that “recipes are roadmaps, not immutable edicts.” And I agree. But one fictional TV chef (a cartoon one, no less) said that if you’re a beginner cook, you need to follow recipes as written. That’s how you learn which ingredients work well together and how to get what you want. Once you’ve gotten the basics, then you can start playing around and experimenting.

With clothes, it’s not like that. Even if you’ve never really shopped your wardrobe and put together outfits, you have to do exactly that. You need to play around and experiment. I can show you my outfit formulas and describe what goes with what, but it may not work for you for two reasons.

First, recipes for food are almost always based mostly on ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen or that are readily available in stores. With clothes, you may not have the specific outfit items in your wardrobe and you may not be able to find them in stores. When I post my outfit formulas, I’m using what I have in my wardrobe. Almost none of the items are brand new. Many of them are at least a few years old. The stores where I got them don’t carry most of them at this point.

Second, even if you could find the items, they might not be the right items for you. For example, I’m wearing a leopard print wrap blouse in one of these formulas, but maybe leopard print doesn’t flatter you and you would look better in a zebra stripe print. Or maybe you just don’t like animal prints all that much and would prefer a floral print. Or maybe you’re more of a minimalist and prefer solids.

A while back, I wrote about the importance of using your own gut feelings about what an outfit says about you. In one formula, I’m wearing a cardigan and shell with a dressy skirt and fancy wrap and earrings for a wedding. My gut says that it works (and I got tons of compliments, even at my cousin’s secular black-tie wedding). Your gut might tell you that the cardigan is just not dressy enough for a wedding. Context and appropriateness count, and if you don’t feel appropriately dressed for a certain situation, that discomfort will show.

Having said that, this is why I post my outfit formulas. I want my readers and clients to try. You can’t know if something will work or not if you don’t try. You might think that animal print is too wild for you, but you might be able to try it in a smaller dose, like in a scarf or shoes, and then try a top or skirt. You may think that black and navy don’t look right together, but have you tried a black top with a navy skirt (or vice versa)? When I wear a black t-shirt with a dark denim skirt, people think I’m dressed up to go someplace special.

Another important thing is that you work with what you have. It’s so important to get as much bang for your buck as you can out of your clothing items, and it’s so important to focus on versatility as opposed to just variety. Maybe you don’t have the specific outfit items that I have, but you do have your own items and you need to work with that. Even under normal circumstances, you must shop your own wardrobe and put together “new” outfits before you shop the stores.

An outfit formula will work for you if the following criteria are met:

The items and the overall outfit all make you appear taller, slimmer, healthy, and active.

The overall outfit makes you feel appropriately dressed for the situation in which you expect to wear it.

The items and overall outfit express good things that you like about who you are as a person.

If any one of these criteria are not met, the outfit doesn’t work. If it’s not appropriate for the situation that you expected, you may certainly consider it for other situations as long as the other criteria are met. But those are the questions you must ask yourself when you try clothing items and outfit formulas.

Once you do try new and different formulas, you may be pleasantly surprised to find how many “new” outfits you have that do work. And you’ll have a better idea of what to look for if you do need to shop stores.

Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment. My outfit here with the leopard print was put together on impulse and it inspired me to do the “Anatomy” series. You never know what you’ll find. Play around and have fun.

Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe organizer, personal shopper, jewelry designer, and fashion writer/blogger and speaker. She helps women look great while saving time, effort, and money, all within tznius guidelines, and she’ll add to that with custom-designed jewelry. Read more about her ideas on her blog- She also has a YouTube channel, “Look Your Best in Mitpachot,” where she does head-wrapping tutorials, and she is also available for private demonstrations. She can be reached at (718) 644-6135 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..