The Outfit Formula: Adding A Third Piece

Your outfit always needs a third piece according to the good ol’ third piece rule. Have you heard of it? I originally published this post on February 11, 2016 (!!!!!!), and felt like it needed a bit of updating. But I LOVE how this rule is still very much a thing 7 years later.

What Is The Third Piece Rule?

I know we’ve all been there: Standing in front of our closets, pulling out a top and bottom, getting dressed, and heading out. However, if you stop and think about adding a third piece, you can instantly take your outfit to another level. And I’m not even talking about a groundbreaking, deserves to go viral outfit. The third piece rule is just a way to simply elevate your outfit. We love following rules that don’t require too much effort around here;)

If you’ve ever worked at a retailer like Nordstrom or J.Crew, then you’re probably very familiar with this third piece rule. I had a college friend who worked at J.Crew, and she literally engrained this rule into my head. No I’m serious. It stuck with me TO. THIS. DAY. And as someone who runs hot, it took me a bit to embrace it. But now, I totally agree with it and it sounds lame, but I RARELY leave my apartment without a third piece. A third piece always adds a little oomph to your look. So yes, that’s probably how the girl at the grocery store looks so chic even in sweats. Let’s talk about how we can incorporate the third piece rule into our looks.

How To Follow The Third Piece Rule

What is considered a third piece?

Adding third pieces seems like a no brainer. UNLESS – you’re like me and you sweat a lot. And yeah, summer is also just hard in general for a third piece. But sometimes, they’re just very necessary. I consider a lot of pieces a third piece…EXCEPT shoes. Shoes are just outfit completers because you need them the second you step out the door LOL. With the third piece rule, the additional piece is an added detail that stands out to complete your look. So what types of pieces can we use?

  • Sweater – Layered over a tee or shirt, or draped over shoulders
  • Blazer – draped over shoulders
  • Belt – statement belt or one that will help create a visual break
  • Earrings – here’s where you can make a statement (and also pull your hair back when you’re on day 4;))
  • Scarf – check out some ways to style one here
  • Headband – a true no brainer
  • Necklace – layers or one statement piece

The Third Piece Rule Throughout The Year




Transitional Dressing Spring to Winter


Third Piece Rule: Layering

Still with me? I feel like because this is a longer post, it seems like the third piece rule is a complicated thing…but it’s not! To put it simply: The third piece adds the finishing touches to the outfit. It takes a rather ordinary (boring, lame, whatever you want to label it) outfit, and makes it look like there was some extra effort put in. But in a very je ne sais quoi kind of way. Following the third piece rule is a fool-proof formula that I’m actually tired of talking about. But it never disappoints.

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