Whenever I would go clothes shopping before I had taught myself about style, I was always trying to put together a great outfit. The items I would buy would look fairly well together, but they didn’t match with anything else I had in my closet. I never bothered to think about the clothes I already had.  So unless I paired my new items with incompatible clothes (which I did WAY too often) I would have only added 1 new outfit to my collection.  Obviously this was a very ineffective way of building a wardrobe.Now I know a way to make sure every single piece of clothing you add to your wardrobe will give you a myriad of new looks to create. All you need to do is build a wardrobe that is versatile.  Today I will use a bit of simple math to show you just how much more variety you’ll get from creating such a wardrobe. You won’t believe how fast your amount of options can increase.

How to Create a Versatile Wardrobe

A versatile wardrobe is filled with clothes that have a lot of compatibility. You can mix and match your clothes to create a lot of different looks. The easiest way to do this is by investing in very basic items. Solid items in neutral colors can be worn with almost anything, so that’s a good place to start. Think: White, grey, black, brown and navy. Keep everything simple, and start adding more colorful items later. I’ll show you why.The Math

For the sake of this article, let’s assume outfits are made up of 4 categories of clothing:

  • Shoes
  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Jackets

Let´s also assume you already own 2 pieces for each of these categories that are all completely compatible with each other. Look at the image below.


These 8 items give you a total of 16 outfit options.  Now let’s add a black shirt to your collection.

That’s another 8 options added with only a single purchase.  Your amount of options grows exponentially as you add more versatile items to each of the categories.  Let me show you by adding a beige pair of pants to your wardrobe.

See? Before we grew your amount of options with 8, but now you have 12 more outfit choices on your hand. And that’s just by buying a single pair of pants.  This increment keeps growing every time you add versatile items to your wardrobe.  So what about items that aren’t as compatible as the examples shown so far.

The Math for Less Versatile Items

At some point you’re going to want to add some eye-catchers to your wardrobe. You don’t want to constantly walk around like you belong in a black and white movie. So let’s see how this works when you add some more colorful items. You colid do well with a couple more shirts in your wardrobe, so let’s add 4 in different colors and patterns.

Boom! You’ve added 48 choices with only 4 purchases.  Now, let’s add 2 colorful new chinos to your wardrobe. Unfortunately, they don’t match well with 3 of the new shirts you’ve bought. No worries though.

You see? You still managed to create 32 new options for yourself. That’s the beauty of a versatile wardrobe. You always have plenty of clothes to wear with your less versatile ones.  The beauty is that your versatile items will always make sure you have plenty of clothes to wear with your less versatile ones.  For those keeping count, the total amount of your outfit options is now at 116 with only 16 clothes in your wardrobe.  Awesome, isn't it?


To bring the point home, by investing in versatility, you will be able to create a myriad of different looks with each item you add to your wardrobe. Of course, for the sake of this article we've assumed maximum compatibility for a lot of the clothes, and in real life this may not be as cut and dry. This doesn't make the argument less valid. The more versatile items you have, the more your options will increase and the fewer clothes you will need. Have you ever considered before how the items in your closet work together? If not, now would be a great time to start.

Robert van Tongeren has spent the last few years teaching himself to dress better, and now he wants to help guys do the same. His site 

Restart Your Style is dedicated to help style novices get started rebuilding their wardrobe. You can connect with him on Twitter.