Life

The Third Piece Rule: Decoded

Happy fall, y’all! As temperatures start to drop (or have already for you cooler-weather gals), it’s a great time to take a long, hard look at your wardrobe. I don’t know about you, but I used to constantly find myself gazing wistfully at my closet, wishing I had that one perfect whatever that would just pull everything together. Truthfully, sometimes I still do. But everything changed once I started working for Madewell a few years back. Right off the bat, associates are encouraged to dress by the “Third-Piece Rule,” a simple equation for styling outfits that are just a bit more elevated. Basically, your top and bottoms are pieces one and two. Then comes the fun. Just add something to jazz up your look: jewelry, a bandana, a jacket or cardigan, etc. It’s super easy and your outfits will go from meh to pulled together in no time!

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Let’s Break it Down

So what exactly constitutes a third piece? Literally anything that goes above and beyond your basic top-and-pants look. (Side note: shoes don’t count in this formula, but feel free to make them as much of a statement as you want. This is meant to be fun and encourage you to explore your personal style. You do you!).

One tried and true third-piece of mine is a bandana. Wear it around your neck, around your wrist, knotted on a beltloop, in your hair, or artfully tucked in a back pocket. The options are truly endless. Another great third-piece to try is a jacket. From leather to denim to bomber to sweater, there are so many types to choose from. Plus, they’re ridiculously easy to execute. Just throw on and go! For those of you in colder climates, a denim jacket also looks super cute layered under a wool coat (fourth-piece, anyone?).

Some Trusty Outfit Formulas

If you’re anything like me, you appreciate having some fail-safe outfits to choose from. Truth be told, I often get outfit inspiration from Madewell’s displays and mannequins, and I’m totally okay with that. Disclaimer: I’m a total denim-head, so pretty much all my formulas all include jeans! If you’re not into that, feel free to sub a skirt or pants for anywhere jeans are mentioned.

long sleeve thermal tee + button-front boyfriend jeans + cozy cardigan (bonus points if you add a wool fedora!)

silk cami + medium wash denim + leather jacket (+ silk bandana)

black and white striped tee + black skinnies + army jacket

LBD + oversized denim jacket + bandana (+ statement earrings!)

oversized sweater + dark wash skinnies + blanket scarf (+ another wool fedora. Can you tell I love them?)

A few more tips for pulling your look together

  • Always, always, ALWAYS tuck your shirt (if you can)! It doesn’t have to be a full tuck, although that’s mega-chic if you’re into it. The front-tuck, or French tuck, is my go-to. Simply tuck in the part of your shirt that hangs over the button of your jeans/pants. You’ll probably have to finesse it a little, but once you reach the sweet spot you’ll know – your waist will be accentuated a bit and you’ll just feel more put-together.
  • Knot your button-down! If you’re not feeling a French tuck, unbutton the last few buttons on your shirt and tie the two sides in a knot. This is beyond cute with high-rise jeans or pants.
  • When in doubt, add sunnies, a bag, and/or cute shoes to finish off the look!

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  • Make it your own! I love the third-piece rule because you can customize it to your personal preferences. I’m more minimalist, so I love that the third-piece rule gives me new ways to wear clothes that have been sitting in my closet for a while. That way, I don’t have to buy new things (or spend money I don’t have, amiright?). However, if you love fast fashion or have a more maximalist approach to dressing, you can totally make the third-piece rule work for you, too! Either way, I hope it helps you feel like the fantastic, well-dressed woman that you are!

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