For people who don't live and breathe fashion, getting dressed is about finding items that "go" together. It's choosing the pants that "match" with a top, and the jacket that "fits" with the shirt. Instead of putting things together that look similar, how about you make combos based on differences; each item's particulars complement the other item's peculiarities, and it's this juxtaposition that makes for a much more interesting, robust outfit. If you want a cheat sheet to get you started down the path of The Clash, or just need a reminder that you've got it down, here's our guide to the 10 fashion contrasts that always make sense.
Dresses and Boots: The age-old trick to making a party dress look less prissy is to wear it with an ankle boot that's got some heft. You can go with a heel or without, but as long as it's a shoe that you can stomp in without fear of breaking an ankle, it works. Your best choice is black ankle boots. No matter what the length, fanciness, or color of the dress, a black bootie will match it.
Neutrals and Neons: Neutrals are basically non-colors: tan, brown, gray, white, black. And, neons hit you over the head with their vibrancy. When worn together, both complement the other and the finished ensemble is better than before.
The best option to match is to go for a lighter-hued neutral and a neon in the same warm or cool color family. For instance, a warm-toned camel coat goes great with electric orange or hot pink blouse. A soft gray pair of trousers makes a fuchsia and blue top shine.
Femme tops and Tomboy bottoms: A pretty, feminine top looks great with a pretty, feminine bottom, but you will create a more compelling look if you wear it with a pair of menswear-inspired trousers. To get the appearance of flirty meets boyishly cute, go more fancy on top and casual on bottom. Your feminine top should be party-appropriate, and your bottoms should be on the slouchier side (think loose-fit trousers, sweat-pant cuts, and boyfriend jeans).
Denim and Heels: Denim is the ultimate workhorse item, and even though you probably wear your jeans constantly, you're likely doing it without much thought. Make your denim pants look deliberate by swapping your sneakers for a pair of heels. Your shoes will pop and your pants will just look better. Get the perfect effect by ensuring your sassy blue jeans are cropped so there's at least an inch between the hem and the top of your shoe.
Knits and Leather: Every toughie needs a softie at its side, and leather only looks cooler when worn with a thick knit. Pair your leather jackets, pants, and skirts with a chunky, oversized sweater. Leather might feel like a tomboy staple, but matched with a thick, substantial knit, it is an effortless look. Keep your leathers and sweaters in a neutral color palette; grays, tans, blacks, and whites will always be classic.