As you’ve probably guessed, I have been giving further instruction on my four formulas for putting an outfit together post from two weeks ago. On Monday, I further explored Road Map Styling, and last week I shared a huge in-depth post on Complementary Styling and color theory. A post on the fourth formula, Harmony Styling, will be coming next week.

I actually touched briefly on Focal Point Styling in my post about color theory and Complementary Styling but it was quick and lacked much depth. I decided giving this formula a bit more of a spotlight could only benefit.

What is Focal Point Styling?

Focal Point Styling means there is an element in each of the outfits that stand out and pulls the eye while the rest of the look takes more of a back seat. Focal points should never distract. While they stand out, they should still work with the outfit. The most common way to use Focal Point styling is through the shoes and quite often the outfit itself is neutral.

The Most Common Use of Focal Point Styling

I think the way most people will assume Focal Point Styling will be used is as a pop in a monochromatic look, for example, an all black outfit with a bold pair of shoes. While this would be Focal Point Styling, it’s just one way to use it. You can certainly find some real-life client examples in my initial post using this formula and for further clarification I put together five looks here to give you some more direction.

Focal Point Styling Outfit #1

colored shoes look fall

This is the most common way to use Focal Point Styling, with a pop color pair of shoes up against a neutral outfit. This strategy is definitely more usable in spring and summer when shoe choices tend to be more color driven vs. neutral based. Adding colored shoes to an outfit is very much my signature when styling clients. There was an instance where several of my clients were in the same room and it was pointed out that every single client was wearing colorful shoes. The joke is you know you are a client of mine if you have a closet full of colorful shoes.

It should also be noted again, when you work with a neutral base such as in this outfit, you can swap in any color shoes. In this look, I styled this grey sweater from Frame with a pair of black jeans and finished the look with a pendant from Cos and these burgundy boots from Botkier. This look shows that you don’t have to hit people over the head with a focal point element. While the burgundy boots stand out but don’t overpower.

Focal Point Outfit #2

striped top outfit

Speaking of focal points in an outfit not hitting you over the head, not everyone wants to wear bold shades as accents and this outfit shows that Focal Point Styling can work for any coloring. This outfit also shows that you are not limited to working with solids when creating a focal point. The last pointer, which I have mentioned on this blog before, when you are working with a print or pattern that is a singular color paired with white, like in this striped t-shirt from 1901 you can treat it like a solid. So essentially, you have an all navy look (I am counting these blue jeans as navy) that is far more compelling than just working with a monochromatic navy look.

And by now you know what it means when you work with neutrals as your base, it is completely up to you what you wear with it. Trade out this mint blazer by J. Crew for any color in the world and it would work. In this case, I just wanted to show a softer version of Focal Point Styling for those who prefer quiet and subtle shades. I finished this look with a pair of navy booties from Splendid.

Focal Point Styling Outfit #3

colored pants outfit fall

Here is an outfit example for someone who prefers warmer, more autumnal tones. Using focal points as accessories isn’t the only way to go and while I think colorful pants as the focal point will be the least likely way anyone will use this strategy, I wanted to be comprehensive. Again, you’re dealing with neutrals as the ground for the focal point to bounce off of yet there is still harmony in this outfit. And just the navy and white stripe t-shirt in the outfit above, this printed scarf from Ted Baker can be utilized as a solid. I styled these orange cords with an olive sweater and olive heeled Chelsea boots from Vince.

Focal Point Styling Outfit #4

monochromatic look

This is a classic example of Focal Point Styling which is a completely monochromatic look with a focal point pop. Situations like this where the outfit is all one color with an accent accessory, be it in a pair of shoes or a piece of jewelry is a true sense of everything of creating a stage for one item to shine. It’s a great solution for times when a column look of one color feels a bit too boring. I keep thinking of Emeril Lagasse when he shouts, “bam!” when he flavors with a final element. This necklace from Chicos is the bam! As for seasoning like Emeril, you could bam with a necklace in any color just as Emeril can choose to bam with parsley, cilantro, or whatever works best for the dish. This necklace plays off a black lightweight poncho (in real life requiring an under-piece, unless…ooh la la) a pair of basic black pants and black booties from Treasure & Bond.

Outfit #5

focal point styling

In the original post where I introduced these strategies, I showed a photo in Focal Point Styling where I styled a camel sweater, black tattersall (check pattern in thin stripes) pants and red shoes. Never in a million years would one reader think to put this combination together, she told me. I explained to her about base neutrals and how any color that can be worn with black can be worn with most other neutrals, how those tattersall pants can be treated like solids and how red and camel is one of my favorite color combinations.

This outfit is a play on that look this reader liked. Despite the pants being plaid, they are a plaid consisting of camel and grey, two neutral colors) and even though there are two neutral shades in the look, a focal point can still be created with the red. I styled this camel sweater from Vero Moda, plaid pants from Wit & Wisdom, and camel booties from AGL. The focal point is created with this red bag by Rag & Bone.

People tend to gravitate towards one or two styling formulas often based on their personality and personal style. For some people, a bold element in a look just isn’t their thing and for others it is what makes a look. I gravitate towards Focal Point and Harmony Styling, which I will be touching on next week. Until then…

Don’t Forget to Enter Your Outfit in the Styling Formula Contest

Read more about it at the end of this post and get your entry in to win a $50 gift card by November 15th.