Learning to dress fashionably in your later years isn’t as difficult as it may first seem. The key is picking up a few tips and tricks that simplify the process. You can turn every OOTD (outfit of the day) into a fashion statement!

The Rule of Thirds and the 3 Articles of Clothing Rule can both help. Because of their similar names, women often confuse these terms. Some people even use both rules interchangeably! This leaves some feeling confused about what the “Rule of 3 for clothing” really is.

We promise you that both rules are much simpler than you think. If you apply them both to your outfits, you’ll end up with an incredible look every time!

We’ve broken both rules down for you so you can confidently up your fashion game.

The Rule of 3 (Third Piece Rule) vs. The Rule of Thirds

The first step in putting together a complete, stylish look is understanding the differences between both rules. Once you can follow both of them independently, you can combine them to build flattering, effortless outfits.

What is the Rule of 3?

The rule of three is a guideline that suggests that great outfits include three essential parts. Each should have a top, a bottom, and an additional element that ties them together. This is why some stylists call it “the third piece rule.”

The category of “tops” usually includes blouses or shirts. The category of “bottoms” usually includes pants, shorts, or skirts.

Ultimately, the third element finishes off the outfit, creating the illusion of effort. Examples of “third pieces” that elevate otherwise simple outfits may include:


Outer Layers: Think vests, blazers, cardigans, denim jackets
Accessories: Think sunhats, scarves, or statement purses
Jewelry: Think statement pieces such as chunky necklaces or bangles


Be aware that most stylists do not consider shoes to be part of the fashion rule of three. That means your shoes can be as snazzy or as simple as you like without taking away from the other components.

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The rule of thirds begins with an exciting principle known as “the golden mean.” You might have heard this rule in contexts outside of fashion, such as photography, art, or even architecture! Designers have discovered that we can use this rule to style flattering outfits for all body types.

Think about what naturally happens when you look at a piece of artwork. Your eye automatically focuses on one aspect of the piece first, then travels around in a natural order. Artists can exploit this to create a narrative in their work. Likewise, you can create a flattering focus point by choosing pieces that draw the eye to your best features!

Ideally, you’ll achieve this by creating a visual break in your outfit. The top part of your outfit should account for 1/3rd of your look. The bottom half of your outfit should account for the remaining 2/3rds. Be sure to divide your outfit, not your body, into thirds.

What does the fashion rule of thirds accomplish? It creates the illusion of longer legs and gives your outfit more shape. It also draws the eye to your neck and waistline, which tend to be a woman’s smallest proportions. In that way, the rule of thirds for clothing is also slimming.

Applying the Third Piece Rule in Fashion

To apply the “3 articles of women’s clothing rule,” begin in your closet. Consider your favorite two-piece outfits. You may wish to lay them out on the bed or ground.

From there, consider which unique and interesting “third pieces” you might add to each one. It’s possible to use the same “third piece” to elevate multiple outfits. Start stocking up on a few highly versatile pieces, such as a great denim jacket or a statement necklace.

Applying the Rule of Thirds in Fashion

In contrast, applying the rule of thirds in fashion often begins at your favorite clothing store. When you step into the fitting room, pay careful attention to the proportions of your clothing.

Ensure that any tops you try on aren’t too long. If they are, figure out if you can tie them up or tuck them in. Shorter tops are gaining popularity and are flattering on many body types at any age. Cropped jackets are a great way to create a pleasing division of space without compromising personal style.

In terms of dresses or jumpsuits, pay attention to where the waistband falls.

Often, the key to making an outfit more flattering is choosing a longer bottom. Consider swapping a full-length pair of pants for your midi skirt or capris. See if adding length to your lower half creates a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio by adding length to your lower half.

Likewise, if your lower half seems too long, consider putting on a nude or neutral shoe to balance things out.

We realize this may be a tricky rule to follow in the Florida heat. You can also swap the proportions and wear your two-thirds on the top and your one-third on the bottom. For example, pair a longer, flowy top with a pair of shorts.

Shop Anthony's and Try These Rules for Yourself

The key to a breathtaking outfit is applying the rule of 3 for clothing, the rule of thirds, or both! Create a three-piece ensemble with gorgeous proportions that draw the eye to your best features.

What pieces do you need to make your fashion dreams a reality? You can find flattering tops, bottoms, and accessories in our collection. Shop our latest styles to discover the stylish, age-appropriate pieces that will transform how you feel about fashion.

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