It’s a universal conundrum: You want to look stylish and put-together. But you don’t want to spend more than 10 minutes figuring out your outfit. What to do? Try outfit sandwiching.
“It’s basically a style hack to make getting dressed easier,” says Heather Pollard, a stylist and founder of The Swanky Boho. “It’s a way to streamline your outfit — an easy formula to follow that makes you look put together.”
And that formula works just like it sounds: as you choose your outfit, think: bread on bottom, filling in the middle and bread on top.
“You’ve got two elements going on that relate to elements of design,” Pollard says. “That could be color, proportion, pattern or texture. You take one of those elements and repeat it on top and bottom. Then you contrast it in the middle.”
The easiest way to follow the sandwich dressing rule is with the element of color. Don’t stray beyond your chosen two colors, and balance them so the outfit looks cohesive.
“You might pair a toffee-colored tank top with a different color pant, and then toffee-colored shoes,” says Hallie Abrams, a stylist and founder of The Wardrobe Consultant.
In the outfit pictured below, the model’s racerback tank and Birkenstock sandals work as the bread, while the utility pants fill in the middle with a different color. Even when she adds the blazer (which matches the pants), her look will be cohesive.
Another option is to start with a solid color dress, which grounds the outfit. Then add another color through accessories like a necklace, purse, scarf or shoes. In the photo below, the model pulls together a simple mini dress with black platform heels and a black handbag.
Buy the Out From Under ’90s Tank Top Mini Dress at Urban Outfitters for $29; the Melissa Party Platform Heel at Urban Outfitters for $139 and the UO Lizzie Mini Duffle Bag at Urban Outfitters for $39 (currently on sale for $29).
“A belt is another way to do a sort of reverse sandwich,” Abrams says. “If you’re wearing a column of color, you’ll wear a belt of a different color in the middle.” She adds that this works well for people who tend to gravitate toward neutral colors. It’s a way to add interest without being overwhelmed — it’s merely a pop of color.
“Sandwich dressing is very often for those who are a little pattern-averse, too,” Abrams says. You might use patterns or prints as the glue of an outfit, but surround it with two solids that match one of its colors.
The model below has paired a floral patterned skirt with a fitted T-shirt, which is the neutral eggshell color of the skirt’s flowers. The matching neutral sandals work with the shirt to ground the skirt and bring the outfit together.
Buy the Reformation Arie Silk Skirt at Shopbop for $198; the LNA Fitted Rib Crew Tee at Shopbop for $75 (currently on sale for $45) and the Schutz Mindy Pin Heels at Shopbop for $148 (currently on sale for $103.60).
“If you want to take the sandwich rule to the next level, you can use it to plan multiple outfits for one day,” Pollard says. If you are going to work and then out on a date, she says, plan your base colors to make switching outfits easy. “Say you wear a black blazer, skinny black pants and a bright blue cami under the jacket,” she says. “For your date, keep the cami but ditch the jacket and trade out the pants for a short black skirt.”
The model below might be dressed for a casual Friday at work. But if she was heading out for a date later, she could keep the pretty pink blouse and pink sandals but swap out the jeans for a solid skirt in a different color, or a patterned skirt that includes some pink.
Buy this Dobby Top at JustFab (price varies based on membership but is $8.74 for VIP members); these Reagan High Rise Wide Leg Button Jeans for $11.74 (for VIP members) and this Lana Espadrille Sandal at JustFab for $8.74 (for VIP members).
You can also use the outfit sandwich rule to play with proportion. “So, maybe you would pair a big-volume, fuzzy sweater with platform sandals or thick-soled Converse sneakers,” Pollard says. “Then, add skinny jeans or a pencil skirt in the middle.” In that case, two of your elements are out of proportion, while the other is not.
The model below has one oversized element, and the other two are not. She’s wearing a long, draping sweater blazer, but she’s paired it with a fitted tank and slim shorts.
Buy the Juliette Collarless Sweater-Blazer at J Crew for $158; the High-rise Suit Short at J Crew for $118 and the FormKnit High-Neck Cutaway Tank Top at J Crew for $39.50 (currently on sale for $19.99).
Sandwich dressing is also a great way to incorporate the latest trends. For example, Abrams says, right now a lot of people are carrying crocheted raffia bags or sandals. “So you could wear a brightly-colored, printed cotton dress, then add a raffia sandal and a matching woven raffia bag,” she says. In this example, you are grounding a print with two solid-colored accessories. And you are sandwiching with texture as well.
The model below is already wearing two woven elements —a crocheted top and skirt — so adding woven sandals would be overkill. But if she was wearing the crocheted top with a cotton skirt, a nice raffia sandal would balance out the textures beautifully.
As is, she is already pulling off a sandwich outfit — just with color (black hat and black shoes with off-white in the middle).
Buy the Crochet Mini Skirt at Gap for $29.99; the Crochet Tank Top at Gap for $39; the Nylon Bucket Hat at Gap for $29.95 (currently on sale for $14) and the Strappy Lace-Up Sandals at Gap for $44.95.