Systems Check: How to Spot the Warning Signs of a Poor Outfit

Heading out to the office or lunch with friends? Avoid style pitfalls you can easily overlook. Check out the questions you need to ask yourself before you step out the door today.
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You're heading out. But before you step out the door, you take one last look in the mirror. What do you look out for? You look alright. But let's make sure. Let's see if we can do better and check in on a few signs that your outfit needs revision.

You can overlook these small mistakes because they look "okay." But really, they're signs of a bigger problem altogether. And let's be honest, you can do better than "okay."

So, let's spot the canary in the coalmine and fix things before it's too late.

Take a look at where your pants meet your shoes.

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It looks passable. But if your pants are pooling at your ankles, then your pants are too long. Also, the stacking fabric at your ankles makes your legs look shorter. And that's not a good look, especially if you have a shorter body type.

Read more about arming yourself with the perfect trousers: Trousers Every Man Should Own (And How they Need to Fit).

The length of your trousers is just one warning sign of a subpar outfit. It should get your wheels turning and make you think: What else doesn't fit right?

How long is your shirt?

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Just like pants, the length of your shirts can mess with your overall appearance. Too long, and you'll look short, too short, and you risk exposing your mid-drift like a 90s pop star.

Assess yourself in the mirror. How long is your shirt? Does it end at your hips? The top of your thighs? Your knees? Please don't tell us it goes down to your knees.

The sweet spot is about mid-fly. A shirt that's the right length helps create balance and ideal proportions. It's something that people often overlook, but it makes for a more elevated, less sloppy look if you pay attention.

Watch out for wrinkles.

Wrinkles are another obvious way to look sloppy. And if you notice them, then others will too. Wrinkles will show you in a negative light. You look disorganized and like someone who doesn't care. Get rid of those wrinkles by taking a few minutes to iron or steam your clothes before you wear them.

Evade wrinkles by taking better care of your clothes. Don't overcrowd your closet, and keep your drawers organized. Giving your clothes space for air to circulate allows their fibres to relax and reduce wrinkles.

Besides wrinkles, fit, and proportions, you need to check on the patterns and colours you wear if you want to create clean and elegant looks.

Count your patterns and colours.

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Don't get us wrong. Dressing is an art, and it's fun. But thinking about proportions and balance can help you create beauty out of chaos. And you can really create chaos when you use too many colours and patterns.

Avoid looking like a cartoon character and ask yourself, "Where do my eyes go when I look at my outfit?" If you find your eyes darting from one place to another, you have a problem: you're suffering from too many statement pieces.

Count how many patterned pieces you're wearing. How many bold colours do you have on? More than one, and it's too much. It's like trying to watch three television screens at once. It causes sensory overload. Keep it simple. Pick one statement piece and save the others for tomorrow.

When in doubt, use restraint, and keep things simple. But you don't want to make it too simple. Keep reading and make sure your outfit has an element that puts a smile on your face.

Have you taken care of the small details?

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A small detail can mean a lot. The length of your shirt, the way your trousers look, the colours and patterns you wear impact how you look—and how you feel.

Confidence comes from assembling an outfit that makes you look good. An essential part of putting together a smashing outfit is taking care of the details.

But details work both ways. Just as wrinkles and the wrong socks create a negative image, the correct details can elevate your outfit.

Some details are just for you and the select few who have a sharp eye. Whether or not others notice isn't the point. These details, although small, contribute to your outfit as a whole.

Intricacies like an understated pattern on your tie, a pressed Oxford shirt, and clean shoes denote care. It's these small details that make you look better than the guy next to you.

If there's one takeaway from our discussion today, it's this: dressing well takes intent. That's the best way to go from a clumsy, poorly assembled outfit into an elegant look that makes a lasting impression.

Always make the right impression and read up on more topics that raise your style above the other guys in the room in the Journal.

43 Style Pitfalls Every Modern Professional Must Avoid

Style pitfalls undermine interns and managers alike. They make you look sloppy, unprofessional, and unsophisticated.

Avoid common style mistakes and look sharp every time you walk into a room. Download the free eBook now.