The Rule Of Three

Are you good at math? Mr. Mickey will laugh when he reads this because he knows that my eyes cloud over, and my mind starts to wander whenever I see numbers. But I can be reasonably good at math when it matters most, such as getting dressed or balancing my checkbook.

If you visually break down my best looks, you will see a mathematical formula in place. I often wear three pieces and vary the hemlines; otherwise, there is a single break near the waistline. In design, two is not as pleasing to the human eye as three. Depending on where those two pieces intersect, you may be visually dividing your body in half, making you look shorter and broader. For example, a short top with a long jacket over straight-leg jeans makes me appear more balanced, slender, and tall. When I wear a short jacket, I must wear a longer soft flowing top under it.

I absolutely must cover most of my backside because I don’t have much of one. I never tuck in a shirt all the way around, and I have to be very careful about where a top or jacket ends on my body. Please note: Acknowledging your shape and dressing to highlight your best features isn’t criticizing. You have to know the truth about your shape to dress your best. I discuss my shape only to show you how I dress to conceal and create balance in my overall look.

This lovely jacket is an excellent example of what I should not ever wear. It fits me like a glove, it was on sale, and it is black. If you stop the analysis there, as I did when I got carried away and bought this one, you will make the same mistake. The fact that it ends just below my waistline, which is not much different than my backside in width and shape, makes this an abysmal choice for me. I need to wear a longer jacket or top, which does not show my middle part. It is a dressy jacket which should not be worn with a sporty longer top, so that means it has to go. If you have an hour-glass figure with a slim waistline and fuller hips, you will look fabulous in this jacket.

Now for more math. Three primary neutral colors make up my base wardrobe (black, white, and gray). Three accent colors complete it (red, royal blue, and denim blue). Wearing more than three colors at once can look cluttered and too busy. A top and pants or a skirt, along with a vest, jacket, or cardigan in your three neutral colors, is a great start. You can add other pieces in your best accent colors to create lots of looks while mixing and matching six colors that work well together. It matters not what season it is. This same formula will work year-round, but it’s hard to use the rule of three in the heat of summer, so that I will tackle that recipe in a future post.

  1. Hi Susan,
    I like the idea of having 3 base neutrals. However, cool colors are not very flattering on me. Do you have any suggestions for the 3 base neutrals in warm tones? I like black pants but not black around my face and hair. Thanks.

    1. Khaki, olive, coral, rust, brown or almost any color can have a more yellow or gold undertone than blue. Even navy can have a gold undertone. Imagine if you stirred yellow into any color of paint in small quantities, you could watch it take on a slight yellow cast.

  2. I am glad to hear that you will lace up your cleats and put on a jersey in order to tackle the topic of “three” in warm humid places like Florida. I constantly appreciate your sage advice on dressing well.

  3. I think you are too hard on yourself re. math. You obviously have a grasp of it to have become the successful business woman you are. I was going to argue with you about the jacket you show us today. The first couple of pictures with a side view make you look very lean. But I see what you mean in the last picture with the front view showing exactly where the jacket ends. But it is a lovely jacket and I know someone will snatch it up quickly. Have a great weekend.

  4. Thank you so much for the fashion math lesson. It makes sense, and I’m starting to use that equation when putting my outfits together. Your fashion tip about a shorter top and a longer jacket or vice versa was an eye opener. For years I’ve been pairing my tops with the length of my jacket – oh I thought I looked so chic. Also, thank you for explaining the basic colors to start our wardrobe – very informative. I hope you and Mr. Mickey enjoy a peaceful and blessed weekend.

  5. You look wonderful in this; so I didn’t see what you meant until I enlarged the photo enough to see where the jacket ends. Then I could see what you meant..a nice look verses a best look. BTW, great art on the wall & admired the rug behind you. Like your capsule color concept of threes as it makes putting outfits together much easier. I had noticed recently I hadn’t seen you in deep purple, which is a jewel tone that I thought might also be a flattering color, but not as classic as red or royal blue. So that makes color choice an important strategic move for reliably good looks & is something else I need to work on. Just balanced my checkbook yesterday; always feel better after that’s done. Had to get my DH’s readers instead of mine;I could swear the print on that statement has gotten smaller! Great post & Happy St Patrick’s Day. Wishing you & the ladies a great time at your upcoming event!

  6. It is funny but I have enough backside but don’t like short, waist length jackets because too much of that is on display when I wear slim jeans. Because I have a slim torso and arms, I like a tailored, fitted look for the top but look better when the jacket is longer and covers the butt.

    I hope your event tomorrow is as fabulous as I know it will be. Sorry but distance prevents me from attending. If you ever venture up to New York City, please let me know. I would love to meet you!

  7. I am built just like you, that jacket would most definitely be a no go for me! I’m always so self conscious about the attribute I don’t have. And always trying to hide the bust line I do have. I am 5’3″ and 115 lbs but in the wrong clothes I look like a short little toad! And at 60 years old I don’t want that! Ha ha
    Thanks for all your tips and advice!

  8. It is a beautiful jacket. Someone will enjoy it!
    I appreciate you taking the time to explain your choices. Even though I do not have the same figure or stature as you do, it gets me to thinking about how to enhance or detract from mine. Have a lovely day and relax and enjoy the company of your fans tomorrow!

  9. If you were going to fix this, how would you do it? I know you would need a 3rd piece, but where exactly would you put it? I cannot tell from the picture where the jacket ends. The reason I ask is that some of us get clothes as gifts and we need to fix the outfit. Thanks!

    1. The jacket is lovely but it isn’t right for my shape. It would need to be at least three inches longer to be flattering. Wearing the jacket with black palazzo pants looked best on my shape. I know what you mean about getting clothes as gifts that aren’t right for you. That has happened to me many times.

  10. Hi Susan, I have been following your blog for a while and thoroughly enjoy your tips on everything from how to dress, health and diet, and always little snippets of news about Mr. Mickey! I would like to point out, however, that it saddens me that all too often you tend to be very critical of your body, as you were in today’s post. In reality, you are a very beautiful woman. As a woman myself, I know it is very easy to be our own worst critic instead of working at accepting our body for what it is. There is nothing wrong with working at improving our figure, but I have found that the aging process, which we all go through, affects the body in ways that we have no control over. In parts of Western Europe, older women who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond are looked upon with great respect and many are admired for their beauty. Unfortunately our country is obsessed with the mainly the beauty of youth. I think if you would like to give tips to the rest of us about how to dress when dealing with problems areas, it can be done without criticizing yourself. Many of us look upon you as a role model for older women. I truly mean it when I say that you are a gorgeous woman. I am sure Mr. Mickey and the rest of your followers will agree with me!

    1. Thank you for your sweet comments, Mary Ann. I point out the issues with my shape so that I can explain how I dress to correct them. If I just showed you photos of me looking my best but didn’t explain the process of getting there, I wouldn’t be a very effective teacher. I use myself as an example because that is the only “model” I have at my disposal. At one time I tried using a mannequin and even shooting selfies without my head in the frame to explain my point, but those techniques were not well received by followers. We all have parts we would like to dress to conceal and others we would like to bring to attention, with my blog, I try to show you how to do both.

  11. I absolutely love the way you dress. My goal is to slowly change my choices to solids and to take your advice on dressing. You have been an inspiration to me. I do not personally know you but I am proud of you for what you have done in your life. Thanks so much for your blogs. I am so happy to have found you.

  12. I have so often thought I needed a multi colored blouse , I live in Texas so we don’t often need jackets , I am going to find more solids , because I do like your style , I want to get the covered perfectly tops , they seem to be a great layering piece.

  13. Dear Susan,

    As always I am gratefully impressed by your many God-given gifts of style and character. You inspire, teach and motivate me with a natural desire determined to look my best…and when I do, I FEEL and ACT my best. The amazing result is my thoughts are off myself and I experience a much more productive day. It’s an ok and wonderful thing to rise above our present circumstances, if only in a small way, being physically and mentally able to do so. The rewards are surprising and exciting! Your sharing rising out of homelessness invites an invitation to have you share more of that story. How amazing! We applaud for more if you are able.

    On a different note…can you perhaps have Mr. Mickey or whoever take a video of you showing the many different ways to wear scarves? They are impressive indeed.

    With thanks and gratitude,
    San Mateo, CA.

  14. Beautiful jacket, I think you look elegant in this outfit! Thanks for your advice and willingness to share!

  15. Very helpful tips to make me stand back and consider how flattering my outfit is vs. how well coordinated. Thank you!

  16. Hi Susan! I ran across your site watching YouTube fashion video’s! It’s great to see a mature woman rocking modern style, looking great and doing it with class! My girlfriends and I are also women of the sisterhood (I love that expression)! I’m a lucky gal, that I have great ladies in my life… last year I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and with love and support from family and friends, I’m proud to say I kicked cancer in the butt! It did present some interesting learning opportunities about fashion during cancer! At only 48, I know that many mature women have had their challenges… how to wear wigs, false eyelashes, makeup, and clothing after surgery. I had some tough times, but like you (you have a great attitude), our attitude towards embracing and loving ourselves, our situation, and projecting our best self is the most beautiful asset that we all can have for free! Sharing tips and tricks with our women of the sisterhood is a fantastic, fun way that we can all feel and project our best self! I learn from my mature friends, and I also have a 19 year old daughter that I learn new, young, fresh ideas from too! I filter all the ideas to what works for me and my own personal style! Keep up the great blogs and we’ll keep watching!

    Also, loved your beautiful MK bag, which you should keep and use!

    Hugs from the sisterhood!

  17. What is the best way to measure to figure our body shape? I feel like I’m more hour glsss with a big stomach.

  18. I see what your saying but the rest of you looks fantastic and no one will notice what you consider your unattractive parts.

  19. I love reading your blog!
    I am 73 years old, 5’2” and I weigh about 105 lbs.
    It is very hard buying clothes for my age and size and you have helped me tremendously.
    I have bought tops and jeans through your blog and have enjoyed each one of them.
    Thank you,

  20. I have to say that the only thing I have ever seen you demonstrate that was so not you, that I had to laugh, was the multi-colored, flow-y, top that flowed like lava over your girls leaving nothing to the imagination. Now if I wore that, my girls would behave, but my pudgy stomach would make me look pregnant. I am 5’0” and short waisted. I think you said, tall, thin, and long in the face was the person for the flow-y top. Anybody? LOL!

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.