I finally watched a few episodes of Emily in Paris the other night. Being me, of course, I was more interested in Patricia Field’s costume design than the actual plot…

I could not have been more fascinated with the difference in how the American character — Emily — dressed compared to how the French characters, but mostly her boss, Sylvie, dressed. Both were absolutely stunning. The main difference: Sylvie dressed largely the same every day in a very well-fitting, lovely, expensive-looking (note: we don’t even know the label or price tag!) suit. Emily, on the other hand, dressed entirely differently head to toe, looked stunning, exciting, inspiring, but — is this attainable to someone like you and me?? And yet we all yearn for it, right?

I have good news for you: I’ve developed what I call the formula. Keep reading.

It’s actually really simple: when I spend my money on something pricey, I try to choose an item that I’ll get a lot of wear out of — also known as a good return on my investment. This used to mean I owned a lot of black clothes.

“Find Something You Love and Wear It… Again and Again and Again. It saves time, money, mindshare and the environment” — Arianna Huffington

Then one day I noticed Arianna Huffington’s quote, and something just clicked. It changed everything for me. Let me explain.

The idea that the only way to have a diverse wardrobe and always something different and interesting to wear is to own every garment in one color: black, is a myth. Even if all I do is expand my idea of what a “neutral” or “classic” color is from black, gray, beige, and navy to include classics like metallics, and animal patterns like leopard, snake, or zebra prints, my options for mixing and extending the wearing potential of a special buy increase exponentially.

Reading Arianna Huffington’s quote and article, though, I realized that I didn’t just want to find a few more opportunities to wear that special dress every now and then. I wanted to make that one standout dress that I loved so much the main player of my wardrobe. I set out to create options for wearing my investment piece over and over again without necessarily looking the same way every day. And I made sure to create outfits I wouldn’t have to fuss over every morning, because who has time for that, right?

As I started thinking about how to pull this off I decided to challenge myself to see how many outfits I could create with classic items I already had in my closet. I was amazed at how many options I could come up with, and I decided to create a guide I could share. Another surprising insight I gained was how much this one bold dress elevated the otherwise rather subdued staples — it was almost as if they received a new life just by being paired with something new and in some cases unexpected.

Let me show you what I am talking about through some examples:

The updated classic option: The trusted trench coat allows the dress to remain center stage while the shiny patent silver pumps provide a modern take while still remaining in the background — at least to some extent.

Trench coat: Burberry, Pumps: J.Crew, Silk slip dress throughout story: DAGMAR SPICHALE
Trench coat: Burberry, Pumps: J.Crew, Silk slip dress throughout story: DAGMAR SPICHALE

The groovy option: Pairing a standout dress with snakeskin booties (or other animal print footwear) might not appear to be for the faint of heart, but once you try it you will see how much FUN it is! Compliments at every turn guaranteed (and no kidding about that)!

Leather jacket: Isabel Marant, Booties: J.Crew
Leather jacket: Isabel Marant, Booties: J.Crew

The comfy option: A friend recently mentioned that she doesn’t dress up anymore because she moved to the country. This instantly brought the image of a cherished dress with wellies to mind. On a warmer day, I love the idea of just a thin turtleneck underneath the slip, though this combination would work just as beautifully with a parka or chunky cardigan on top.

Turtleneck: J.Crew, Rain boots: Burberry
Turtleneck: J.Crew, Rain boots: Burberry

It is my hope that I was able to make you curious and inspire you to try some combinations of your own. The only guideline you need to remember is this: Don’t be intimidated by bold color or an attention-grabbing print. More likely than not they are easier to wear than you think. Take these suggestions as a starting point and try out some combinations of your own with items you already have in your closet. There are only two possibilities: they’ll either work, or they won’t, but you won’t find out unless you give it a try. Most importantly: Have fun! That’s what we all need more of anyway, right?