Fashion is all about wearing “unstructured structure” at the moment. This often means adding structure to an ensemble that is made up of predominantly unstructured pieces. There are many ways to add structure to an outfit. Some are obvious, like adding a structured item to the mix, but others are more subtle. The method you choose can make all the difference. 

In case you are wondering what I mean by “structure”, let me elaborate on that a little. To me, structure is about two main things. First, it is about revealing the details of your physical structure, like the definition of your waist or the shape of your shoulders. And second, it is about accentuating those details. Like the sharp shoulder seam that accentuates the corner of your shoulder, or the panels on a jacket that draw attention to your hourglass shape. Structured items are normally tailored and often detailed. 

Here are seven ways to add structure to an outfit. You can use them in combination or on their own. 

  1. Add a structured jacket to an unstructured top, bottom or dress: It’s amazing how an outer tailored topper reins in the volume of the bottom layers underneath. 
  2. Add a structured dress or separates under OPEN unstructured toppers: This method does the opposite thereby creating visual structure on the inside of the volume as opposed to reining in excess fabric from the outside. 
  3. Scrunch the sleeves: A bare forearm can instantly add a tailored element to both a casual or dressy ensemble because showcasing skin creates structure. 
  4. Tuck or semi-tuck the top: That way we show a little, or a lot of waist definition depending on the style of the top. Tucking or semi-tucking relaxed tops shows some waist definition, while tucking formfitting tops creates stronger waist definition. 
  5. Wear banded tops: The band of a top hints at a waistline on the hip and does wonders when you’re wearing unstructured pieces both on the top and bottom. 
  6. Wear a belt: A belt can rein in the volume in a dramatic way when worn on the natural waist. But it can also create subtle structure by being worn lower on the hip with a loose top. 
  7. Wear tailored footwear: By tailored footwear, I mean sleek styles that fit closely on the foot and leg, be it a sandal, loafer, pump, bootie or knee-high boot. Refined footwear is especially tailored and does a great job of adding structure to an outfit. 

There are street style examples on my pinterest board that illustrate these concepts well. For example, this oversized pullover is both semi-tucked and layered with a tailored jacket to add structure. The banded bottom on the relaxed sweater in this outfit creates the hint of a waist amidst skirt and top volume. The scrunched sleeves in this formal evening outfit and this casual daytime outfit add effective structure by showcasing skin. The skin revealing tailored footwear creates subtle structure for this voluminous outfit, while the pumps and bare ankles do the same for this full skirt and roomy top ensemble. And lastly, a little midriff skin that showcases the waistline creates subtle structure under an oversized bomber worn with wide trousers. 

So when you’re battling with an outfit that looks and feels too unstructured, try one or a combination of the seven approaches above. A little structure can go a long way.