The Subtle Insider’s Secret to Always Appearing in Style

By Sarah Jordan

It was just about a year ago when a knowledgeable friend filled me in on a “secret” in the fashion industry that would completely change the way I live my life. OK . . .so maybe that’s a bit overly dramatic. We’re talking about clothes here, not fostering world peace. However, this secret revolutionized the way I look and feel every day, and that certainly counts for something! This whispered bit of fashion intel – how anyone can look stylish and “pulled together” – is referred to by those in the know as the Three Piece Rule.

This style guideline dictates that you wear (you guessed it!) three visible articles of clothing/accessories in order to complete an outfit. Your pants/skirt and top count for two pieces. The critical third piece can be found in a matching or contrasting jacket or vest, an interesting belt, a “statement” necklace, hat, scarf, etc. I realize that the concept doesn’t sound exactly groundbreaking the first time considered, but let it sink in. Think about what you’ve worn for the past couple of days. Did you have a third piece? Did you feel like Ms. Frump? If your answer is along the lines of, “It’s Mrs. Frump to you!”, I’d bet you didn’t have a third piece.  If so, you simply missed an easy opportunity to convey to those around you the sense of style you already know you possess. Get ready though; life is about to change!

Let’s talk about incorporating this new insight into your lifestyle.  Start with jeans and a sweater, the building blocks of a decent outfit for a busy mom on the go, for casual Friday in the office, or for meeting the gals for Sunday brunch. By themselves, they don’t offend anyone and there’s nothing wrong with wearing them on their own. But by adding one simple piece, you absolutely shout . . . or maybe just slyly whisper, “Woot! Yes, I am someone with places to go and people to see.”

To quote legendary New York Times Fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham, “Fashion is the armor people use to survive the reality of everyday life.”  I love thinking of clothes this way, because regardless of what job we all have to do, we all start the day the same way, by picking out the ensemble that we want to be wearing during battle.


Don’t get me wrong! If you’re working in a lab developing a cure for cancer, I applaud you for being focused on something so important and amazing for mankind.  But don’t think I don’t see you rocking your lab coat as a third piece.

I’ll send you on your way, with the brilliant words from Owner and Stylist of Apple & Pear Wardrobe Design, Jennifer Mackey-Mary, “Adding a third piece is the easiest way to go from dressed to well-dressed”.

S.Jordan BioPic

Sarah Jordan is a Midwestern gal who now resides just outside the nation’s capital. A communications specialist and a mother of two, she stays up way too late reading books, blogs and ok, fine, watching bad TV. If you’re not too busy planning tomorrow’s outfit, read more of her stuff at