The Three Outfit Rule Will Make You a Way Smarter Shopper

And help streamline your closet

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three outfit rule for shopping UNI
Abby Hepworth for PureWow

You may assume that, as a fashion editor, my closet is beautifully organized, filled with gorgeous clothing and accessories I wear all the time. In reality, it is an overstuffed hodge-podge of well-worn favorites, statement pieces I’ve worn once (maybe twice) and trends that came and went faster than I had time to style them. But for 2024, I’ve committed to rediscovering my personal style and overhauling my wardrobe to truly make the most of every single piece. A major part of that overhaul has been sticking to the Three Outfit Rule of shopping and I’ve got to say, it’s had a major impact on my spending habits.

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What is the Three Outfit Rule? The rule dictates that you should not purchase any new item—blouse, handbag, shoes, jacket, jeans, etc.—unless you can think of three different ways to wear it using other pieces you already own. That last part is incredibly important, and is what consistently tripped me up when I first starting abiding by the Three Outfit Rule. Of course I could think of three cool outfits to go with that pink stripe button-up shirt…if I also bought a cute gray miniskirt, indigo wash jeans or a matching pink sweater vest. But the key here is to really make the most of the clothing, shoes and accessories you already own by finding new ways to combine them.

three outfit shopping rule lois
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Take, for example, influencer Lois Opoku’s blue sandals pictured above. Strappy, denim Chanel sandals with a chunky sole may not seem like an obvious pick for some, but Opoku has found at least three ways to incorporate them into her everyday wardrobe, making them well worth the investment. You may find you already practice the Three Outfit Rule when eyeing high-end pieces. How many times will I wear these Carrie Bradshaw-approved Manolo heels, really? Is the viral Bottega Venetta “Jodie” bag truly worth the splurge? But it is just as applicable for basics as well.

three outfit shopping rule Masha Sedgwick
Jeremy Moeller; Gerald Matzka/Getty Images

The ideal wear-everywhere blazer should be just the right neutral hue, a Goldilocks-level of oversized (enough to fit comfortably over sweaters but not so large that it swallows your figure) and a good weight to wear all year round. That’s a lot to ask of one garment, but if you manage to find one, like fashion influencer and podcaster Masha Sedgwick in her Envelope 1976 number above, you’ve now got yourself an eternally chic, go-to topper that goes with everything. That’s not to say you can’t own multiple blazers (or T-shirts or pairs of jeans) in multiple colors or styles, but if you’re following the Three Outfit Rule then all of those blazers should be as versatile as Sedgwick’s.

Are there any exceptions to the rule? In my experience, there are actually very few exceptions to be made. Special occasion shoes and clutches should work with multiple wedding guest dresses. That beach cover-up you’ve had your eye on? It should look cute with more than just the matching bikini.

For me, following the Three Outfit Rule has really helped curtail my spending and I find I’m a lot more thoughtful about what pieces I am adding to my shopping cart. Even better, I’m getting much more creative with how I put together outfits, finding pieces in my closet that go together way better than I would have guessed. Who knew following fashion rules could be so fun?



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...

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