The rule of three for stylish outfits

The rule of three is the concept that groupings of three are more aesthetically pleasing, humorous and effective than groups of other things. Think about it: everything works better in threes: home décor, slogans and catchphrases, design, landscaping. Oh, heck, there were even three little pigs! The rule of three is widely used in everything from art and photography to comedy and literature, but it’s an easy trick that also can be applied to your wardrobe to create chic and stylish outfits.

For composing stylish outfits, an outfit formula should consist of a basic piece, an interest piece, a third piece (also called a statement piece) and accessories.

A basic piece is something like a classic pair of jeans and neutral, simple tops. An interest piece is something that has detail but isn’t necessarily attention-grabbing, like stripes. The third piece is the hero of the outfit. This piece grabs attention, is unique and pulls in the focus. It’s usually the piece that would get complimented in an outfit. The third piece can be apparel or an accessory. Accessories are then added to complete the outfit or bring it together.

Does all of this seem overwhelming? We get it. Who has time to figure this all out every morning when you’re just hoping no one notices you’re on day three of dry shampoo? We promise it’s easy once you get the hang of it. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Outfit one

Basic piece: Jeans

Interest piece: Striped shirt

Third piece: Oversized sweater

The hero in this outfit is the cozy sweater. The striped shirt adds an interesting layer and contrasts nicely with the black jeans. Just add a cute pair of black booties and some chunky bracelets.

Outfit two

Basic piece: Olive blouse

Interest piece: Distressed jeans

Third piece: Faux fur vest

In this outfit, the button-up blouse is the basic neutral piece and the jeans are the interesting piece because the distressed legs add some small details. The showpiece is obviously the faux fur vest. We would leave the vest open to show off the buttons on the blouse and add a great pair of studded boots and a small, black crossbody purse worn over one shoulder.

Outfit three

Basic piece: Leggings

Interest piece: Sweatshirt

Third piece: Puffy vest

This same concept can apply to a sporty outfit as well. Here we took simple black leggings and topped it with a not-so-typical, heather gray sweatshirt with elbow patch details. While the vest isn’t really a huge statement piece, it speaks louder than the other two pieces, making it the hero of the outfit. This would also be an example of where your accessories could turn into the third piece. Try adding a pair of fun and bold sneakers. Top off the look with a bouncy ponytail, and you’re ready to hit the gym. Or the couch. We won’t judge.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that in 2017 helped improve the lives of more than 70,000 people across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. Goodwill NCW is one of four companies in the nation to be honored with a Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America, which recognizes our commitment to wellness in the workplace. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, a unique shopping experience at its Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at, a women’s apparel website, and It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *