Ways to Save a Failed Outfit

how to fix a bad outfit

It’s Monday morning. You roll out of bed, deeply grumpy, and slog through your morning ablutions in a haze. The outfit you assemble appears acceptable in your bedroom mirror, so you pack your lunch, lock the door, and make your way to the office. By 10:15 a.m., you’ve had a cup of coffee or two and are finally starting to perk up. You head to the restroom, glance at your reflection for the first time since you left the house, and BLEEEEAAARRRRGH! Who is that mismatched, dumpy-frumpy, stylistically impaired chick? Look at that ill-fitting blouse, those scandalously snug pants, that bizarre-ass necklace! How the HELL did this outfit pass muster?

On the disaster scale, this falls somewhere between cat barf on your favorite rug and forgetting your boyfriend’s niece’s name. It’s not much … but it’s not nothing. A failed outfit can completely ruin your day. Plus it creates a glorious little catch-22: Before you realized that your outfit had failed, no one even noticed what you were wearing. But once it dawns on you, the bonus self-consciousness you generate actually draws MORE attention to your fashion faux pas than before. Sweet.

Most of the things you can do to salvage an outfit involve being prepared for failure in advance, and I know that’s not always possible. But if you’ve ever had that horrifying 10:15 a.m. mirror encounter, you may see the value in planning ahead for your next dud outfit.

Change accessories

My failed outfits frequently stem from godawful accessorization. I’m still learning this delicate art, and sometimes I simply miss the mark. When I worked an office job, I kept an extra pair of simple silver-tone hoop earrings stashed in a desk drawer because I couldn’t think of a single outfit I owned that wouldn’t look passable with just those. When the mirror cried foul due to outlandish jewelry choices, I had a backup plan. You can also stash a neutral or multi-colored scarf, a simple chain necklace, or even a classic but seldom-worn pair of shoes in your car or office. Sometimes all it takes is an accessory swap to salvage a failed outfit.

Change your hair

Not possible for those of us sporting pixie cuts, but most others can adjust the ‘do at least slightly. If you’re not carrying a comb, ponytail holders, barrettes, and bobby pins in your makeup bag, take a quick trip to CVS and stock up. Again, outfit failure is often due to components not meshing, and that can include your hairstyle. If your head looks more boho than your getup, pin your hair back. If you look too severe in a bun, comb it out. Sometimes it’s not the clothes, it’s the styling. Be prepared to adjust your mane as needed.


Try REMOVING an item. If you’re wearing a blazer or cardi, your outfit might work better without it. Most layered looks can be easily cleaned up by chucking a single layer. Get rid of clunky necklaces or bracelets. Lose the busy, patterned tights and go with a bare leg. Taking one piece out of the outfit equation can make all the difference.

Last Resort: Mask

If you’re an office worker, you likely have to deal with temperature issues, and therefore may keep a shawl or wrap in your cube. Although your wrap may be a color that doesn’t match your failed outfit, if the situation is dire enough, you won’t care. Swaddle yourself up, and wait it out. Better luck tomorrow.

Now, if you’re concerned that your coworkers might hassle you for changing midday, just remember: They are far too busy thinking about themselves to pay you THAT much mind. And should someone go to the trouble of asking why you’ve changed, tell them you spilled coffee on yourself, or your necklace broke, or you’re cold, or hot. There are a thousand easy excuses that will shut up a nosy coworker.

Few outfits are disastrous enough to merit a lunchtime trip home, but many are unnerving enough to throw you off for an entire day. Keeping some simple supplies at hand can help you avoid total outfit failure and moderate the accompanying feelings of stylistic shame.

Originally posted 2008-08-11 05:54:00.

Next Post
Previous Post

8 Responses to “Ways to Save a Failed Outfit”

  1. Middle Aged woman

    This is an awesome idea. I am already thinking of what I can keep in my little classroom closet, AND prepping an extra shirt, tie and sweater for Husband to keep as well!

  2. Tiffany

    I am happy to report that Sal was clearly NOT referring to an actual personal experience in this post, as I just did reconnaissance and she looks just as gorgeous and fabulous as always.

  3. K.Line

    Ingenious post! I do the shawl, the accessory switchup and the simplify. Not that I ever need to, of course 🙂

  4. E

    Interesting how I needed some of this sage advice this morning…


  5. dreamecho

    awesome post! the best rebuttal to being asked why you’ve changed: “why have i changed? what i’m wondering is, why haven’t you changed?”

    p.s. i’m working on answering your question from a long, long time ago. i’m sorry it’s taking so long!

  6. Imelda Matt

    as for fella’s who dress in the dark extra pair of matching socks!

  7. drwende

    I applaud this post from the position of one who has, on occasion, stopped at the nearest mall to buy a new outfit midway through the day. Thank heavens for sales racks.

  8. enc

    All this is great advice, and there are things I hadn’t thought of. Well done.