Kate Middleton's a Fan of This 10-Second Fashion Trick That Will Take Your Style to the Next Level

The third-piece rule is so easy to follow

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You know those women who are preternaturally stylish? Who concoct outfits that you’d never think of, always look put-together and do so so effortlessly that you can only assume they came out of the womb mixing polka dots with stripes and Zara with Gucci?  

Well, I know one of those women, so I had to ask her a few years back: What’s your secret? Aside from an innate sense of style, she introduced me to the third-piece rule. Here’s the deal: The idea is that every great ensemble has three main elements. If the basic necessities like your pants and a top qualify as the first and second element, the third element jazzes things up and makes the final look more interesting.

For example, if you’re wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, top it off with a blazer. A statement bag, show-stopping earrings or a belt also add the best kind of something something. Take Kate Middleton's outfit above. There would be nothing wrong with an all-pink suit, of course, but the addition of a statement belt in a contrasting color (in her case, white with pearl detailing) elevates the whole ensemble into ultra-stylish territory. Below, a few examples of the third-piece rule, plus some shopping suggestions should you get the urge to copy.

The 9 Best Fashion Tips We’ve Ever Heard

third piece fashion rule denim jacket
Edward Berthelot/getty images

1. Layer a Shorter Jacket Under a Longer One

OK, so this will only work in cooler temps, but still: Layering a shorter jacket underneath your trench (or any other long overcoat, really) is undeniably chic. A couple things to keep in mind here: Make sure the jacket you layer underneath has a slimmer profile, so as not to add excess bulk, and opt for jackets and coats in different colors to really lean into the contrast.

third piece rule handbag
Edward Berthelot/getty images

2. Add a Colorful Pop Via Your Handbag

Perhaps the easiest way to channel the third-piece rule is with a colorful handbag. Even the simplest of outfits can be taken to the next level with a clutch, crossbody or tote in a standout color or print. The beauty of this one is that as long as you switch up your bag, the people around you will be too busy swooning over your accessory to catch onto the fact that you've reworn the same base outfit dozens of times.

third piece rule silk scarf
Christian Vierig/getty images

3. Tie a Printed Silk Scarf Around Your Neck

I adore theses chic ladies' styles—and not just because I'd do just about anything for the Hermès Kelly on the right. They're inspiring me—and I hope they do you, too—to embrace the printed silk scarf. I love how elegant and sophisticated (yet still cool, thanks to the not-too-fussy way they're tied) a silk scarf fastened around the neck can look with a peacoat or ruffled blouse and trench. The colors and patterns are totally up to you, but I'd advise you keep the rest of your outfit neutral in tone to really let the scarf take center stage.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...