If you’re not familiar with column dressing, it is a way of putting outfits together where you layer a topper piece, like jacket or cardigan, in a contrasting shade over a monochromatic base.  The column comes from the head-to-toe appearance of the use of one color as the foundation.  This style of dressing is very popular among women for its ease, modern and streamlined look and for the slimness created through the use of one color.

However, on the flip side, if all you do everyday is throw cardigans and jackets over monochromatic bases, column dressing can get very monotonous and formulaic. This is not to say the look is bad, it’s actually quite pretty, not to mention, great for business trips.  Yet, too much of anything can get tiring and can sometimes look a little flat and one dimensional.

Today’s post is not an attempt to sway you from column dressing, if that’s your thing.  These  are tips on how you can spruce up and add more flavor to these very dependable outfits so that you can still keep the ease of dressing this way while also making it interesting and more inspired.

Below are five column outfits that I have shown both accessorized and unaccessorized, to illustrate that you don’t have to abandon column dressing, or add too much more effort, to make these outfits pop.

Column Dressing: How to Add Excitment

Outfit #1

Column dressing

A black column base is probably most common starting points for most outfits like this.  How much easier can it get than wearing all black with a little pop thrown over it, like I did with this drapey cardigan from Modcloth?  With such a basic foundation, it doesn’t matter what you throw over it, it will work.

However, if you look at the unaccessorized outfit on the left, that is styled with a pair of black leggings from Alice + Olivia, a pair of black Aerosoles riding boots and a cowl neck top from Lord & Taylor, while a woman could leave the house just like this and look great, after too many wears this outfit could potentially start to feel a bit lackluster.

In this outfit on the right, the ease of this outfit was not lost at all.  It’s the same base, only I added some accessories to enhance the look– a pair of black earrings from Macy’s, a bib necklace from Nordstrom, that picks up all the colors of the outfit, a black leather and gold bangle from Banana Republic and leopard print handbag from Nine West.

Outfit #2

column dressing

Navy is another common base color for a column outfit. This look is comprised of a pair of blue Stuart Weiztman suede booties, a pair of navy Reiss pants and a navy cap sleeve tank.  Over it I used a turquoise velvet jacket from Boden.

While the outfit in navy and turquoise is great with these two colors mixed, it can still be taken a step further.  In this outfit on the right, I added a printed scarf from Kate Spade that not only picks up the colors in the outfit, but adds some more color.  What this scarf enables is the ability to bring in additional colors.  The wow factor is created simply with a pink handbag and multi-colored earrings from Max & Chloe.  Even if the handbag and scarf is removed, these colorful earrings enhance this basic outfit.

 Outfit #3

column dressing

In this column outfit consisting of burgundy pants from J. Crew, a burgundy top, burgundy suede boots and cobalt cardigan, a scarf, like this one from Nordstrom, is, again, used to add some interest to the outfit while also adding some more color.  Finishing the outfit, I used this pair of light pink Marc Jacobs earrings and a light blue bag.  Now, instead of flat, with these tonal touches the outfit has more dimension and interest.

Outfit #4

Column dressing

Here, I am creating a column look using this grey sheath dress from Reiss, a pair of grey Spanx tights and boots from Seychelles.  Over the dress, this burgundy blazer from Anne Klein adds a level of trendy richness to the outfit.  If this isn’t enough for you, try adding one more color.  Yellow and burgundy is a combination that isn’t as expected, but works beautifully.  With just a pop of these yellow earrings from Kendra Scott the outfit looks more interesting, even when the yellow bag from Brighton isn’t carried.  Again, adding interest to column dressing isn’t about making the outfits more complicated and these small touches can go a long way.

Outfit #5

column dressing

Technically, I don’t think this outfit would be called a column because the topper isn’t a sweater or jacket, but I still wanted to touch on it because it isn’t uncommon to put a sweater, like this ivory v-neck fro Athleta, over a monochromatic base.  In the outfit on the left, consisting of this pair of olive jeans from Lord & Taylor, a Jones NY Tank and olive booties from Nordstrom, the outfit is neutral and a great foundation to pop any color of off.  If orange isn’t your thing, like how I accessorized the look on the right with this Modcloth necklace, orange bangles from Max & Chloe, and orange Michael Kors crossbody bag, you can add any pop shade you would like.  And this is the beauty of a neutral column outfit,  you get limitless accessorizing options because any colors can be added to look.

When putting together column outfits, don’t stop with just the base and the topper, think about that final step of what could be added to these looks to give them that little something extra.  By doing this you will not only get the great advantage of the simplicity that this type of dressing offers, but, by taking it these looks that last step, you’ll also look stylish at the same time.  Stylish and easy!  It’s a total win!